Keyboard and iOS app teach tickling the ivories - FOX 8, WVUE,, weather, app, news, saints

Keyboard and iOS app teach tickling the ivories

Because of the tremendous popularity of iOS-powered devices, the market is flooded with accessory hardware designed for the Apple iPad, iPad 2, iPhone 4/4S, or iPod touch. One of the more interesting items, particularly if you've ever wanted to learn to play the piano, is Piano Apprentice by ION Audio.

Piano Apprentice is a portable, lighted-keyboard learning system that transforms any of the aforementioned iOS devices into a personal piano instructor, based on a free download from the App Store. The system is designed to create a multimedia music-learning experience taught by Emmy award-winning piano instructor, Scott Houston (a.k.a.,“The Piano Guy”).

Houston appears on the screen demonstrating how to play while the keys on the device light up in time with the music. Also helpful is the fact that Houston's hands are on-screen right above the keyboard, showing you where to place your digits. 

The system can even teach you how to read sheet music. The keyboard itself can play in any octave and is touch-sensitive, meaning it responds to gentle or firm depression with appropriate loudness.

The device is lightweight, battery-powered (4-AAs, included), but if you get tired of buying batteries, there's also a jack for a 6VDC 1A adapter (surprisingly, not included).

The unit has built-in stereo speakers and a volume control, but oddly, no headphone jack is provided to avoid disturbing others.

Like the total app-control toys from Brookstone, shown on the Fox 8 Morning News a couple of weeks ago, the Piano Apprentice only works if an iOS-powered device is connected. Otherwise, pressing the keys only causes them to illuminate, but there is no sound.

Furthermore, I was disappointed with the video instruction. You can't adjust how quickly the keys are depressed, and having to use the iOS device's touchscreen to re-play/pause the video, particularly when used with an iPhone or iPod touch, impairs your concentration. If the keyboard put video playback controls close at hand, it would be a vast improvement.

Also, the Piano Apprentice app only comes with four tunes, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," "The Birthday Song," "Ode to Joy," and "Greensleeves." A 3-packs of additional tunes can be purchased from the App Store for 99 cents each, so be advised that building a impressive repertoire could be expensive.

On the plus side, the ION Piano Apprentice is durably-constructed and nice-looking. The unit lists for $99.99, but substantial discounts are widely available. For more information, visit
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