Rockband-like instrument makes learning piano a cinch!

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

piano projector
Playing an incorrect note lights up the key red, while playing a correct one lights up the key to match the color of the instructions.

When the video game Rock Band 3 came out, it became an instant hit among gamers. The idea was pretty simple: play along with popular songs on simplified instruments, such as a guitar with 5 frets (those squares that divide the notes) instead of typical 22, or using a mini keyboard. All players had to do was match notes on their instruments to the ones scrolling down a screen. Basically, it was a way for kids to enjoy making music without actually knowing how to play an instrument.

Well, researchers from the University of Ulm in Germany were inspired by how Rock Band 3 could turn any noob into a basic pianist, so they made the Projected Instrument Augmentation system (PIANO) to take that to the next level.

PIANO uses a full keyboard with 88 keys, only it has a huge screen attached to the top of it. Just like how the notes on Rock Band scroll down for players to strike, the screen projects notes for budding musicians to follow along and play. PIANO may be fun, but it’s definitely more than a game! I say that because the system comes with different settings. In one setting, a person can slow the notes down on the screen and make it easier to follow along, while another setting divides musical compositions into smaller, manageable chunks. Also, PIANO can catch any mistakes and correct them as a person is playing!

“We had quite a few novices use it who were very sceptical at first, but then were really impressed by how quickly they could play relatively well,” says Florian Schaub, who presented the system last month at the UbiComp conference in Zurich, Switzerland. However, some individuals believe that there’s a difference between playing an instrument and being a real musician.

“This may improve technical skill but that, for me, is about all it would do,” says Lucy Smith, a piano tutor and music teacher in London. “It does not allow for an individual’s interpretation of the music. If everyone learned piano using this technology, we would not need countless CDs of famous pianists playing the same pieces of music, because they would all sound the same.”

Whatever your opinion is, I believe that PIANO is a great way to put a digital twist on a classic instrument!

Featured image courtesy of Exumirim on Wikimedia. Image of keyboard projection courtesy of New Scientist on YouTube.