By Todd Bernhard on Thu, 08/02/2012
I never had a piano lesson, even though we had a piano in the house, growing up. That piano collected dust and was more useful as a piece of furniture to display picture frames on. I always wished I had more initiative and learned to play.
But today, thanks to the magic that is the Piano Apprentice from ION Audio, I actually learned how to play the melody from The Entertainer! And it just took about 30 minutes! The Piano Apprentice is a creative combination of a physical piano keyboard, and a free app with several lessons included, and tight integration between the software and hardware.
The video lessons include a friendly instructor, somewhat reminiscent of Steve Jobs himself. You can learn by watching his fingers on a keyboard, as well as by watching the physical keys light up as their note is played. If you can read music, or want to learn, you can also read the musical notes.
There is a 30 pin connector which links the Piano Apprentice with your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, which can be propped up using the built in stand, so the app is positioned just above the keyboard. The wired connection probably provides better latency than Bluetooth would, and it's neat to see the keys light up exactly in tune with the video being played.
A bunch of songs, in different genres, are included, and in app purchases promise expansion like holiday songs and more. The keyboard includes a dial for volume and up and down buttons for octave. Batteries are included and an AC adapter is an option. There's no reason you couldn't use the apprentice as a stand for your iPad, to watch videos, etc.
If I had any recommendations, it would be great to have the whole key light up, not just the part towards the edge, which is often obstructed by your fingers, at rest. It might also be nice to have a different color LED light up to indicate the next note, so you can anticipate the next key to press.
It's exciting to think a device that sells for under $70 can have you playing piano in under an hour. You might have to pay that much for a private lesson, but with the Piano Apprentice, you get hours and hours of video lessons and an intelligent piano as well!