The Seaboard Grand offered a pretty impressive take on expressive keyboard playing when it was revealed back in 2013. Instead of separate black and white keys, the Grand's whole spongy surface was available as the playing area. Now Roli has come about face with the Lumi learning platform, with solid keys that light up to teach the next Jordan Rudess how to play.
We've seen many follow-the-light music learning devices over the years – for piano keyboards, guitars, and even the ukulele – and the Lumi follows along similar lines. The hardware is used in conjunction with an app that runs through lessons, tunes and scales while lighting up the playing area for students to follow.
"When I was a kid, I found the secret of the black keys because they happened to be easy to visually differentiate from the white keys," said Roli's Roland Lamb. "With Lumi, by beautifully illuminating each key with rich colors, we can help beginners, learners, and even seasoned musicians to see and explore music in new ways.
"At a personal level, I guess, I created Lumi to share that initial inspiration I felt as a child, that emotional connection which set me on my own musical journey. To discover the spaces between the notes, first you have to begin to understand the notes themselves. And to want to understand the notes, you have to love them – the instrument must touch you."
The first part of the Lumi platform – which is currently raising production funds on Kickstarter – is the Lumi Keys. This 24-key playing area can magnetically-connect to other Keys to make bigger keyboards or be used as a stand-alone learning tool. It can also connect to the Seaboard Blocks system. Roli says that it features the "brightest RGB illuminated keys ever made."
The keys are sized to fit the average human hand and can plunge 92 percent the distance of a grand piano key, with the company noting that the experience is very similar to playing an actual piano – but in a form factor that can be thrown in a backpack (it weighs in at just 600 g/1.3 lb and has 11 x 5.5 x 1 in/282 x 141 x 27 mm dimensions). Battery life per charge is reckoned to be around 6 hours.
The Lumi Keys wirelessly link up to the Lumi app running on a tablet. Students pick a song from the multi-genre library (additional songs will be added every month), select the way they want the lesson to be displayed onscreen (from scrolling blocks dropping down the screen to a virtual representation of the Keys to traditional sheet music) and then follow the light prompts to play along.
You can start slow and get up to speed at your own pace, or dive into lessons on scales, chords and playing techniques. The emphasis is on taking some of the hard work out of learning an instrument by injecting elements of fun into the process.
Kickstarter pledges for the Lumi platform start at £188 (about US$238) and, if all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in October. The video below has more.
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