Break It: Keyboard

Part of an electric keyboard

Part of an electric keyboard

In collaboration with Melissa James

Electronic keyboard, Digital keyboard, Portable keyboard or Home Keyboard


The many names of our device exemplify its many utilities. Many of you may recognize the mechanical keys of this piece from the piano. But what was once expensive and not portable is now affordable and handheld. The keyboard has many advantages over the piano while including the best qualities of it. Like the piano, it is versatile and ubiquitous. It can be used to compose and rehearse. The added features incorporate recently developed technology in electric circuit.

On the inside is

The user interface software chip – allows you to select other tones and effects.

The Keyboard Matrix Circuit, reduces the amount of wiring

The Rhythm Generator and Chord Accompaniment – plays back pre-programmed songs

The Sound Generator Chip

What we see on the outside is

The Musical Integration Digital Interface (MIDI).


To compare prices, a keyboard can go for as low as $200, a new and tuned upright piano goes for $900 and up. In a price-sensitive world with an unquenchable desire for all-purpose devices, the context for the keyboard makes it a desirable device.


Upon the disassembly of a keyboard, it was made apparent that there is more than meets the eye. The outside of the keyboard leads us to believe the complexity of its parts would be greater than they actually were. While this is still a technological piece of equipment, the parts inside were very few, containing only a small circuit. We ended up removing a large number of screws from the keyboard, which outnumbered any other component. The inside of the keyboard was also full of dirt, hair and lubrication for the keys, really making us think about what becomes trapped inside of our devices. The surprising discovery for us was the simplicity of the keys. The large keys, when pressed, close a circuit on the inside of the keyboard. These buttons are simply rubber and fun to play with. When pressed, connect to a circuit board thus triggering the sound. The simplicity of the buttons led us to the conversation about the choice of user interface. We noted that the keys were deliberately chosen. We speculate that it is due to familiarity. The keyboard is an interesting update of a piano, the instrument has been digitized while still maintaining a recognizable aesthetic that helps market the instrument as being a relative of the piano. The keys are a practical aesthetic choice on behalf of the creators, both for marketing benefits and practicality, though they could still function in another form. Through the disassembly of a keyboard, we were able to see first hand the thought process of the design and assembly as well as learning some technical aspects in regards to digital instruments.