I've always had a mild interest in learning to play the piano, but I could never motivate myself enough to learn sheet music, then map the proper notes to the proper keys at the proper tempo.

However I came across a youtube video of Patrik Pietschmann playing the piano with what looks like the Synthesia program added in the video to match the keys on the keyboard.

My question is, are there any keyboards you can buy that would make this possible in real life?

Like have a large screen attached to the keyboard that spans the width of all the keys and have the notes fall in their proper timing? Or at least enough to cover a few octaves.

If this isn't commercially available has anyone ever setup such a system before using a tv or something similar?

I think if I had a system like that I wouldn't make excuses anymore for not learning the piano!

  • 1
    Don't know if you know this, but the video is actually the other way around of what you're trying to accomplish. He's recording the piece he's playing with midi in the bottom video, and loading that midi in synthesia afterwards to record the screen and matches it up with his piano in video editing software. That being said, he does have some fancy yellow LED light strip on his piano that lights up when the keys are pressed, which is evident from the ambient light on his fingers and surrounding keys. – Rick van Osta Aug 24 '18 at 10:47

I'm aware of a similar solution to the same problem: keyboards, which can illuminate their keys, so you know where to press. Unfortunately the keys will typically not satisfy advanced requirements (weighted, hammer mechanics, etc.)

Smartpiano seems to be also in that direction, lacking just the real size screen, which I would not consider as too important. The Hi-Lite of the same company looks really close.

  • Thank you smart piano looks interesting. Now it's just a matter of air-playing my ipad to my tv and lining the whole mess together :D – YAHsaves Aug 24 '18 at 14:55

I hope I understand your question correctly...

What I think happens in the videos is kind of a split-screen trick - the upper half shows the screen capture from Synthesia (running on some PC), the lower half shows the piano keyboard with a camera mounted straight above it. Probably the screen and the piano are not the same size in real life.

What I think you're asking is: can you put a screen behind your keyboard that displays Synthesia in life-size, so you can put your hand at the same place and know what key to press.

The keyboard part is straightforward: any digital piano with a MIDI or USB output should do. Acceptable quality starts somewhere north of 300$.

The screen part is trickier: you could shell out a thousand bucks for one of those panorama Gamer PC screens, or (depending what kind of PC you're using) you could connect two regular monitors side-by-side to your PC, and then adjust the relative positioning of the screen content. No guarantee you'll be able to get a 100% accurate size match, though.

I don't think you need that, though: seeing the Synthesia keyboard in a smaller display - on a regular screen - should, with a little practice (and you'll need practice anyway) be good enough to tell you what notes to play.

Finally, I hope that if you start this way, you eventually move on and learn to read sheet music. It's not that hard, and will open up a much larger world than relying on midi files.

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    No need for the expensive gamer PC wide screens, you could also use a TV instead. Saves you alot of money. – Rick van Osta Aug 24 '18 at 10:41

Simply put, no.

The question you should be asking–to which the answer I'd guess is no–is does this app, Synthesia, provide the scaling options that would facilitate this?

In other words, let's say you find a screen that is as wide as a full piano keyboard but not so tall that it becomes awkward to fit behind your keyboard. It's not just as wide as a keyboard, but it's exactly as wide as your keyboard. Let's say that it's the perfect size (TV's and monitors don't typically come in that size if there were one single size.).

Now, you would need Synthesia to scale its interface perfectly so that the pixels aligned with your physical keys. I'm not familiar with Synthesia specifically, but I'd almost guarantee that it doesn't have that feature. First of all because it's hard to do given that the app doesn't know the physical size of your keyboard or monitor. You'd need to provide that information to it. Second because it's a weird feature that almost nobody would use so the developer probably wouldn't spend the time on it.

In other words, it's certainly possible but you'd probably have to settle for an awkwardly tall tv/monitor (or pay extra to have a custom one made) and write your own software to display the notes. If you like to tinker it sounds like a fun project.

  • Scaling is not something I'd be too concerned about. I can always put Synthesia in a virtual machine window and just scale the window, but yes you bring up a valid point that it would be really clunky/awkward. Would love to see it working though! – YAHsaves Aug 24 '18 at 14:53
  • By scaling, I mean how you are you going to get the lanes/keys on the screen to line up correctly with the physical keys? Just because you scale the window or whatever is containing the entire program that doesn't mean things will line up correctly inside, which is the entire point. – user37496 Aug 24 '18 at 17:00
  • Hmmmm I guess I figured that because the program is already showing a virtual piano, scaling it to fit a real one with the same number of keys would work. But yeah I don't know how perfect it would be. – YAHsaves Aug 24 '18 at 21:02

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