ANTWERPEN - At the last World Congress in Springfield, Illinois, a carillon keyboard was set up at the congress hotel for critical judgement. It was not a European standard, but it looked like it and it felt like it. It was not an American standard, but it looked like it and it felt like it! Carillonneurs were discussing everything except the measurements: they hardly noticed the changes! Could this be the standard of the future? The designer, Richard Strauss, American engineer, keyboard designer and wonderful carillon player, does not want it to be described as such. "My goal was only to make a better keyboard."

Liesbeth Janssens   ________________________________________

The advantages of the American keyboard have been combined with the advantages of the European standard. The manual is identical to the European: compact, but with slightly flattened keys. The pedals are built towards the American model: ergonomically justified. The American manual/pedal axis has been kept, because the European one is only based on tradition. The distance between manual and pedal is closer to the American standard, allowing enough space for the legs.

Berea, Kentucky, is the first carillon that has this new keyboard connected to its bells. Europe should follow soon. Who wants to be the European pioneer city? Who wants an invasion of carillonneurs eager to play on a keyboard that meets the ergonomic and musical needs of every player in the world?

Although Richard Strauss couldn't send a written presentation for this issue, he answered some of the most important questions I asked him. Here they are, and if you want his view on the existing standards, please check the article (by Richard Strauss) in the 1998 WCF bulletin, page 10.

Richard Strauss: "It is more correct to say the top of the key is shaped to a larger radius. All the Taylor keyboards I have seen in the US have it from 1928 on, but they made it different each time. I use it also. Verdin has used it since Kansas in 1997. The shape I use is better than some others I have seen."


  Characteristics Strauss 2000 N Euro 1983 GCNA 1970/81
  Manual key centers 46 mm 46 mm 2" (50,8 mm)
  Pedal key centers 85 mm 85 mm 3.5" (88,9 mm)
  Manual / pedal axis D / B C / C D / B
  Pedal radiation Yes No Yes
  Pedal concavity 71 mm No 2.875" (73 mm)

"The pedal spacing is 85 mm, same as N Euro. The radiation and concavity are similar to GCNA standard, but the GCNA got its pedal radiation and concavity from me in 1981 and made it standard at the Rochester MN congress."

"This distance for Berea is slightly greater than GCNA, but the total vertical distance from a manual natural in up position to a pedal natural in down position is less than GCNA, and less than 1983 N Euro. So there is more leg room for tall players, but short players do not have to reach as far. This is possible only because of the relationship between manual key fall, pedal key fall, and the pedal transmission. It is not possible to do this if all the key fulcrums and key frames are in vertical alignment, as they are in 1983 N Euro."

"The total vertical distance - from manual sharp in up position to pedal natural in down position is less than either of the two standards, or my 1983 design. Again, more leg room for taller players, and less vertical reach for short players. That is why I believe both tall and short players will find my new design easier to play."

"I researched all these issues before making my 1983 design for San Antonio. My keyboards for Berkeley also use this 1983 design. On the practical side, I based the 1983 design on the best keyboards I knew. On the theoretical side, confirmation of the ergonomics came from the book Anthropometry for Designers, from which I showed excerpts and illustrations at the Springfield WCF Congress. Also, on the theoretical side, I researched 'Strength of Materials' formulae to make a stronger pedal transmission. Simply, bigger diameter bars give more direct response. Direct pedal response was always lacking in heavy US carillons. The reduced key fall and pedal fall is possible only because transmission response is much more direct today in all countries by all builders. It's too bad if some carillons are in very high belfries and inaudible on the ground (Riverside Church NYC), but a good keyboard design cannot be based on the worst case."

"If high carillons need 'extra' key fall, build those keyboards accordingly. The musical future of the carillon is not in beating listeners over the head with louder and louder playing. The future is to draw listeners in with more refined playing and literature. Loud, crashing musical noise is available everywhere. The carillon can not compete with that."

"As I said in Springfield, my goal for Berea was only to build a better keyboard. I believe I have done that by using the best elements I could find, some from N Euro and some from GCNA. Now the 'child' can do things that neither 'parent' can. At least that is how it felt playing this keyboard on the Berea carillon. If enough players accept the Berea design, it would become a de facto standard. Later, it might be officially recognised. All that takes time. If people are interested in the design, I will do what I can to help them, but I have no desire to force it on anyone as a standard."

If people are interested, they should go to Berea and see if they like it or not. That is a better way to decide than worrying, guessing, arguing, and so forth. What does fish taste like? Have a bite and find out!"