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New light-up keyboard helps you play the piano like it's Guitar Hero


Many people try to learn an instrument at one point or another in their life, and for a lot of us, that instrument is the piano. But when you give up learning there’s no easy way back — not without paying for expensive lessons at least.


Music hardware startup Roli wants to change this with the launch of Lumi: a 24-key, light-up keyboard and companion app that teaches users how to play the piano from scratch, before transforming into a tool for jamming and even composition.

The keyboard and companion app is available to preorder on Kickstarter today with a base price of $249 and early-bird sales as cheap as $150. Shipping starts in October.

Roli founder Roland Lamb says the aim is to appeal to as wide a group of music-lovers as possible. With that in mind, he says, Lumi’s learning functions don’t start by teaching you the basics of sheet music. Instead, Lumi offers a Guitar Hero-style interface that coaxes you into playing your favorite songs by hitting the light-up keys in time with on-screen notes.

“Music education frequently starts with reading music [but] no good language learning program starts by teaching you to read before you can speak,” Lamb tells The Verge. “Guitar Hero has a lot of value because it’s fun and easy to use — you just follow the lights.”
By giving users an intuitive interface that lets them play before they can read, Lamb, says Lumi creates an easy on-ramp for beginners. After users progress past the Guitar Hero stage, the app makes things trickier by adding in first the names of notes, then a left-to-right interface, then chords and keys, and finally offering up regular sheet music.

This certainly seems like a good way to get beginners started, but an equally important part of the Lumi package is the library of songs.

In a demo version of the app, The Verge briefly tried out, the tracks available were nicely varied. They included music from pop titans like Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars, as well as jazz and classical standards from J.S. Bach to Herbie Hancock. Roli says the app will launch with a few hundred tracks, but that this library will be updated over time for no extra cost.

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