When it comes to learning to play the piano there can be no doubt that lessons from a private, real life piano teacher is best. For many families a private piano teacher is simply not an option due to financial and time constraints. Recently several companies have come out with interactive ways to learn to play instruments at home in a more traditional manner. Allegro Rainbow's Piano Wizard is one of these home based piano lesson packages and has several very positive features that make it stand out from the crowd. This review will examine the pros and cons of the hardware and software included in the Premiere version of the Piano Wizard system.
What's In The Piano Wizard's Box?
Included with the Piano Wizard software is a very solid and impressive MIDI keyboard. Impressive is the word used because in many companies will skimp on the quality of equipment in order to provide the lowest possible price to the consumer. The Piano Wizard Premiere comes with the M-Audio Keystation 49e. While not a high end MIDI device, it is still a very sturdy and well designed piano keyboard built to stand up to the rigors of repeated lessons and practice. The 49 key pressure sensitive keyboard includes a pitch bend and modulation wheel for special effects. While there is no speaker built into the 49e, the Piano Wizard software allows the user to play through your computer's speakers and power the keyboard as well all through the USB port of your computer. The Piano Wizard Premiere package also comes with a USB cable and software CD-ROM. The software works on both PC and Mac based computers.
Does The Piano Wizard Really Work As A Way To Learn To Play Piano on Your Computer?
Yes and no... In a setup similar to the now popular Guitar Hero video game, beginning pianists follow along with color coded notes that scroll up the computer screen. Colored stickers are provided to allow students to match the notes on the piano with the notes on the screen. If this was all that the system provided then it would not be worth the purchase price. However, Allegro Rainbow has gone much farther, taking the Piano Wizard away from being just a toy and giving it features that can truly give a new pianist a good start toward playing real music while still offering a challenge to more advanced players.
Does The Piano Wizard Teach Real Music Notation?
Once the user is comfortable with the software and is able to play a few songs the screen can be altered to display realistic, traditional music notation. The vertical scrolling action can be flipped horizontally to allow the notes to be displayed in traditional notation similar to what you would see in a normal paper based piano lesson book. The icons representing notes can be switched to traditional note heads with stems on a real musical staff when the student is ready.
Are There Any Downsides To Using The Piano Wizard System?
Piano purists will likely take issue with the slightly stiff action of the keys of the M-Audio 49-e as well as the lack of weighted response. In addition, the Piano Wizard Premiere software lacks any real individualized or intelligent instruction methods. In other words it does not offer ideas on how to improve, rather it simply encourages repetition until the user gets it correct. These issues aside, the Piano Wizard is a very good place to start when considering the purchase of a home based "learn to play piano " system.