Do light up keyboards help learning piano?
September 2, 2011 2:46 PM   Subscribe

I am considering buying an electronic keyboard. I have some basic skills I'd like to improve, would one of the kind that light the keys up as you play along be helpful? Or is it just a gimmick?
posted by zingzangzung to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Personally, I think it's just gimmick. If you really want to learn, you need to work on muscle memory, not visual.

I'd start looking at weighted, hammer-action keyboards. those are going to give you more of the real piano feel.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 2:49 PM on September 2, 2011

My vote is that they are a gimmick.

Keyboards that light up will teach you to play songs - but they will not teach you how to play the keyboard/piano. They will not help you learn to read music, to know what fingers go where, or why the notes you're pressing sound the way they do together, etc.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:51 PM on September 2, 2011

I think if you're learning the right way, your eyes are on the music, not the keyboard. As a compromise, I'd look at the latest and greatest midi software which shows keyboard diagrams and gives you some graphic feedback which you can "wean yourself off" of.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:54 PM on September 2, 2011

I am not a keyboardist, but I have heard that the whole light-up keys thing is comparable to "hunt and peck" typing and does not in any way teach proper technique.
posted by Bachsir at 3:05 PM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you want to go that route, check out Synthesia, which does an on-screen keyboard and a 'keyboard hero' type game. Personally I think it's useful to do practice like this to build muscle memory, even if you aren't great at reading music.
posted by tmcw at 3:07 PM on September 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not sure 'gimmick' is the right word. It's a method of learning a song or two by rote, best suited for complete beginners who just want to be able to feel they can play something. I don't know if it's intended to translate into real skills, but having some feeling of accomplishment can help push some learners into further exploration.
posted by sageleaf at 3:23 PM on September 2, 2011

Best answer: I was going to come here to suggest Synthesia, but tmcw beat me to it. Get a good keyboard, and hook it up to Synthesia for the muscle memory aspect.
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:24 PM on September 2, 2011

It's a gimmick. The only way to learn is to learn to read music and, if you can, play a piano.
posted by joannemullen at 3:26 PM on September 2, 2011

Yup it's a gimmick alright. Not only that, it's likely that any keyboard that comes with it is likely not to be a high quality keyboard. So if you're looking for good quality sound and key action, well, this is a bad sign.

The second best way to develop skills is to learn to read music, and then to practice with a metronome. The best way is to get a good piano/keyboard teacher and take regular weekly lessons.

Disclosure: I tried to go it alone and learn by myself years ago, it didn't work. I flapped around a bit, learned the name and placement of notes, picked out a few tunes and then I planked out. A friend convinced me to sign up with a teacher she knew. The teacher got me playing really easy children's songs. Now years later, i can sightread and play easy piano music, i understand chords, i can improvise in an unsophisticated though pleasant way. Best of all, my appreciation of music has gone way up, I hear things I didn't hear before. I could now actually appreciate those two joes - Bach and Beethoven.
posted by storybored at 6:20 PM on September 2, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Opinion seems to be tending towards gimmick. I will look at keyboards without lights. Best answers go to the Synthesia suggestions, as it gives me something similar to try. Hopefully (budget is limited), the keyboards without light will be slightly better quality than those with at similar price.
posted by zingzangzung at 1:22 PM on September 3, 2011

It looks like everyone has pretty much gone "gimmick" on lighted keys, so also when you look for a keyboard, check into ones with weighted keys. Unlike the keyboards of yore, having weighted keys makes it feel like you're playing a real piano and gives you more control over how each note is played since it's not a binary on/off.
posted by bookdragoness at 11:32 AM on September 5, 2011

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