Follow the light: One piano learning system coming to the US

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The One Smart Piano includes two headphone jacks for private practice

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These days, there seems to be a smartphone or tablet app for just about everything you might want to do, be it detecting cosmic rays, getting language help or learning to play an instrument. The One piano learning system also has an iOS/Android app at its heart, but students learn to play on a real piano with the help of synced LED lights. Already a best seller in China, the One Music Group is looking for similar success in the American marketplace and has opened an office in San Francisco to bring its One piano and learning app to Stateside students.

"Our goal is to help people play their first song in just a few minutes," said Ben Ye, Global CEO and co-founder of the One Music Group. "Our sheet music inventory is huge, so that people can learn with the songs they love and have fun as they practice."

The One Learning System is offered in two flavors – a portable digital keyboard and a full upright piano. A One system student would need to cable up an iOS or Android smart device to the keyboard or piano and launch the free One Smart Piano app. A choice of three different learning methods is then offered.

The LED-guided sheet music option gives access to over a thousand free songs from across numerous genres, with 100 additional tunes per month available for a monthly subscription of 99 US cents. With this flavor, students are offered the tried and tested follow-me method of learning, where blue and red LEDs light the way for the user to play along.

Video lessons from Joseph Hoffman (of the Hoffman Method) are also available, which guide would-be (fake) ivory ticklers through the fundamentals of piano playing, with the LED lights bringing the tutorial into the real world and allowing student to follow the virtual teacher.

Finally, there's a gaming element in a similar vein to Rocksmith for guitar players, where points are scored by hitting the right notes at the right time as scrolling bars tumble down the screen of the smart device and the LEDs light up on the instrument. Solo or two-player modes are available.

When a student becomes familiar enough with a ditty to go it alone, the lights can be disabled and the song played without the aid of the learning system.

The keyboard for students and musicians on the move is called the One Light, which is a non-weighted digital keyboard with 61 LED backlit keys that sync with the learning app. It offers 128 note polyphony, 417 timbres, 16 folk instruments, nine percussion sets, 603 drum sounds and 256 general MIDI (GM) tones.

The 36 x 13 x 4 in (91 x 33 x 10 cm), 11 lb (5 kg) One Light is powered by six AA-sized batteries, boasts a built-in sustain feature, a single headphone jack, a plug for an external foot pedal and aux in and out ports. There's a microphone input too, for sing along and play antics. It has integrated speakers that allow students to hear what they're playing, but also caters for throwing out sounds from third-party apps like Apple Music and Spotify.

The portable practice machine can also be used as a MIDI instrument over USB for tools like Garageband, and carries a suggested retail price of US$299.

Those on the look out for something more traditional, and a bit more of a permanent fixture in the home, can plump for the One Smart Piano, which made its first US appearance at NAMM back in January. It's reported to be the world's first and only upright, Apple MFi-certified piano and features a strip of LEDs that syncs with the 88 hammer-weighted keys with a synthetic ivory feel. It also sports soft, sostenuto and sustain foot pedals.

This 54 x 19 x 34 in (137 x 48 x 86 cm), 115 lb (52 kg) model boasts 128 note polyphony, too, but comes with 128 GM tones and six drum sets. The digital upright has built-in speakers, two headphone jacks, USB MIDI in and out and is reported to include the ability to record compositions. It comes in matte (not piano) black or white and is expected to retail for $1,499.

The One Music Group says that the primary aim of the recently-launched Indiegogo effort is to raise awareness about the company and its smart learning systems. Monies raised through the already funded campaign are to be used to offset shipping costs and keep the price of admission into the One learning world as low as possible.

As of writing, backers can pledge for a One Light at $199 or a One Smart Piano for $799. Selfless, charitable types can also opt to stump up a bit extra and help put the music system into classrooms in the buy One, give One perk. If all goes as planned, the first pianos are expected to be delivered in September.

You can see the Indiegogo pitch video below.

If you already have a piano that's gathering dust in the corner, unloved and untouched, and really want to try LED-guided learning but don't fancy having to buy another instrument, Ken Ihara's PianoMaestro might be more up your street. The strip of LED lights can be placed on your existing piano at the back of the keys, and then hooked up to a computer running the learning system's software. It's available now for $139.

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