on 5 March 2011
I started teaching my 5 year old daughter piano using the Faber My First Piano Adventure books a few months ago, and I saw this and thought it would be a fun addition to our lessons. We just used it for the first time yesterday, but she REALLY likes it so far and could play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" just after using it this one day. We hooked it up to our new Casio Celviano digital piano and as she played, it would give her a score and tell her what she did wrong (played a note too late, played the wrong first note, etc.). At first this disappointed her because she wanted to score 100% but I encouraged her that that was the point of the score...so she will learn from her mistakes and get better scores as she practices more and makes progress. I also explained how great it is that this scores her on her rhythm so someday she could play with other instruments or accompany singers or choirs if she wants to because there are a lot of people who can play the right notes but if you can't play in the right timing, then you can't play with other people. My daughter liked the software, including the talking piano, the instructional videos, and listening to the audio samples. I also like that you can print the screen so I could print "Mary Had a Little Lamb" so she can practice even when I'm not right there with the computer. My daughter is in kindergarten and is learning to read pretty well, but even if she was older I wouldn't turn any kid loose with learning to play piano. They could learn too many bad habits with their posture, hand positions, fingering, etc. (things the software can't score) if there's not an adult sitting with them to correct them, and those habits would be hard to break in the future and could prevent them from really excelling at piano in years to come. So, I did sit with my daughter during it, but I was planning to do that since I'm her teacher and it was our lesson yesterday. I would recommend this software as it brought a new level of fun to learning.
Far better suited to those with electronic keyboards rather than acoustic pianos, this oddly-named product is American and therefore refers to note values in terms of 'whole notes, quarter notes etc' rather than the crotchets, minims and so on used in British music teaching (and exams). This might be a fun way to encourage a young child in preparation for (or as a complement to) music lessons, but it's certainly no real substitute for an actual teacher. Perhaps spend the money on a couple of trial lessons instead...
I feel a chump for ordering this. I thought it was a product to turn your keyboard into a musical instrument for 5 year olds. IT IS NOT - it is a training aid for those with a piano or keyboard with midi interface. Therefore I am not able to review this other than comment on the install process.
The install is a pain if you have a current version of Quicktime already installed. This install process bombs out near the end saying you cannot install this software with a new version of Quicktime., Hence you have to de-install your current version and then re-run the My Piano install(which installs QuickTime 7.6.0). Of course the first time you watch some video that requires Quicktime, the QT software goes to Apple for an update. n.b. MyPiano does work with the latest QT version once it has installed.
Overall cant comment on the product itself other than the voice is annoying American accent as always on software programs - ok in the US but why dont they change it for UK!
on 17 April 2010
Most of the exercises involve a child using a keyboard and mouse. My intention in buying this type of software is that my son learn to play a piano, not use a mouse. The product descriptions on the manufacturers website are misleading in this respect.
The exercises could easily have been written requiring piano key input, so unless you want your child to gain a theoretical knowledge of music only, then it's a waste of money until this is fixed.
this review is for eMedia My Piano software v1.0a (Mac)
The box and the listing both states osx 10.3 and later (and windows xp/vista/win 7 too), however *inside* the box it then tells you on a little slip of paper 10.6 (snow leopard) and later will need rossetta - this is *not* installed by default. Luckily I happened to have it already installed on my set up as I also use an older g5 (ppc) mac, however unless you decided to customise your install when you set up your Mac you will not have it. Its not the end of the world and you can install it if you have the original install media or i think you can download it from Apple, but this should be in the listing and on the box, not a hidden unwelcome surprise!
The install other then the above surprise was very easy as most Apple installs are; the usual drag and drop into the Applications folder.
Another annoying niggle (for me) is in order to play any of the videos you have to insert the cd, I tried looking but found no option to play it locally if I copied the files over manually to the hard drive. Having five young boisterous nephews and neices and my own destructive little angel I can tell you computer cd's and dvd's dont last long and need to be kept under tight control - its would have been a nice touch to offer a choice to be able to copy it locally. Maybe the windows version offers it, but the Apple one doesn't have any obvious option. Most people have the space free on their local hard drive so should be allowed the luxury.
Another annoyance for me is the size of the videos - I have a 19" screen for my Mac, which is fairly normal these days (my windows set up is on a 24") so i have a lot of screen estate, so why does the application take a little bit of space and the tiny video always positions itself on top of the application! grrrr! I kept having to move the video to the side - and no option to make the video bigger. Okay I say tiny, its not too bad - its about three quarters the size of a you tube video, but on a standard monitor this does make it look tiny. Quality wise its very good, which surprised me why there was no option to make it bigger?
Lessons are not too bad and are easy for kids to listen to. Although you can use the menu bar to skip to different lessons or songs, its not very intuitive jumping to different lessons - its a small niggle, but its annoying having to drag your mouse all the way to the top of the screen to the menu bar - should have had a shortcut on the main application window, or even a keyboard shortcut, but i guess that's just my personal taste, you'll notice this more, the bigger your screen is. Also the main application window has narration which has no pause, so you have to use the menu bar to play it back or use the forward or back button to go to the next page and then again to return it to the lesson you were on to replay the narration. The music/videos that play off the main application window via shortcut buttons does have a pause , fwd etc.
You can play with a keyboard, but my small electronic Yamaha keyboard I bought from the car boot sale for this purpose doesn't have as many black keys as the examples so if you don't have a full set keyboard a little confusion arises. The program doesn't have a printed manual and I couldn't find any help on connecting a keyboard to the Mac - I'm fairly new to the Mac, regular Mac users prob know how to connect a keyboard - you need a keyboard with a MIDI connection, but I couldn't find this documented in the help, and i couldn't find any usb keyboards although i didn't look too hard. Even on my windows pc's only my very old motherboards/sound cards have midi ports, I suppose you might be able to find a midi to usb convertor, but it seems like too much extra work and that's also assuming the software drivers for these cables work, does it work in windows or mac? etc too many variables for me as a music newbie.
The program comes with an "animated keyboard" this is a picture of the keyboard showing the keys that was meant to be pressed in the lesson. On the Mac it didn't seem to matter which keys were clicked - it looks like it was either not interactive or maybe only one or two lessons are? Annoyingly the box teases you with the promise of interactive feedback, "when you use a keyboard connected to your computer", but nowhere does it help you or specify how you are supposed to do this. I'm sure the musically inclined are laughing at me, but I've never connected a keyboard to pc/mac so don't know how to, or which make of keyboard to buy that is supported with the program.
The program has a record function so you could record you keyboard either using your microphone or if your keyboard has a phono/line out as mines did. It also provides a metronome to help with beats/tempo.
As most of the songs were nursery rhymes or sung by a person, "that doesn't sound very cool" as one child put it, the older of my kids lost interest, but the younger audience seemed to appreciate it. Its not so much the American accent just how they were singing it - sort of "old school style" as i was told, guess I'm just too old too! - I suppose musically inclined teachers and students might appreciate it.
With all the above niggles I couldn't help but feel the program felt a little bit dated - looking at the version and company I see why - its written using Macromedia which was bought out by Adobe a long time ago and they are still on version one (in the Mac version) with a lot of their reviews on their site stating 2008.
Don't let that detract you from the program for one that was written so long ago, its not too bad on the Mac, however I'm not convinced I can stretch it to more than three stars - I can see this program creating havoc on a windows install with Quick time issues, because the program was written a long time ago, so I'm not even going to let it get near my windows pc (ironic seeing that the original author was an ex Microsoft employee). I was surprised to find out in america they have different bundles of the software, i.e. ones that are supplied with a keyboard (with I assume all the usb converters and drivers) as well. If you are 'musically serious' it may be worth looking at these instead, although I couldn't find any on Amazon.
If you already have a midi keyboard you can connect to your pc/mac that is supported by this program then this may be worth looking at, sadly for me this program doesn't cut the mustard, so unless I come across a cheap midi keyboard that is supported by this program, it probably wont get used very much. I've would have given this a three and a half stars because of the easy Mac install and potential promise if I can find a compatible keyboard, but as I can only give full stars this only gets a three with the accumulated niggles.
In common with others, I thought this would be a simple 'load and play' tool that in our case would allow our young daughter to pick up the basics of piano playing before moving on to live classes.
First major issue was that a piano or interface device was required. Ooops.
Then we found that the content was a little difficult to navigate easily e.g. videos having to be restarted from the beginning instead of paused and we had to keep the cd in the pc to get the videos. So not really suitable for our daughter in terms of leaving her alone as there was a good deal of 'why isn't it working?' questions which were easily solved but in the end caused a degree of frustration with junior such that she wasn't really that desperate to continue using it. Off to live lessons we went but I suspect that we will return to this at some point as a supplemental trainer.
Minor point is that the product is American (nothing wrong with that) and the accent naturally reflects that.........down to your personal choice as to whether that is an influencing factor depending on who will be using the product. A lot of software nowadays gives options for different accents, would have been good if this did as well.
We used in on a Windows 7 PC and cannot therefore comment on any Mac issues.
All in all, a great idea for an application but let down by the lack of information on hardware requirements and how it actually works in practice and also, if our 7 year old daughter is typical, by a degree of difficulty in unsupervised use by young children. I would therefore struggle to recommend this wholeheartedly unless you are already equipped with the hardware to make best use of it and are fully aware of how the tuition works.
My daughter has started learning the piano, so I thought this would be an ideal companion piece to her learning. My Piano is set out to provide lessons on the theory and practice at reading music and playing simple tunes.
However, getting the Piano Keyboard connected (it's not that much use without one) is a pain, the videos were poor quality and small and the example musical pieces were a little too old fashioned for my kids to stay interested. Add in the fact that it doesn't seem to follow any sort of syllabus and it just doesn't add up to a very good package for learning.