Following lights on a guitar or piano can be an effective way to help students learn to play at their own pace, at times that suit them and in the comfort of their own home. For its latest digital pianos, Yamaha has merged powerful app-based learning with a game-like follow-me above key lighting system that allows users to quickly learn and play favorite songs stored on a tablet.
The CSP-150 and CSP-170 digital upright pianos are the first in Yamaha's Clavinova series where most of the feature set is accessed via a tablet, courtesy of the Smart Pianist app. In addition to selecting voices, firing up a backing band and controlling parameters, the app features an Audio-to-Score mode. This can scan songs in a user's iTunes library on an iPad, analyze the chord structure and then produce piano score that's translated into follow-me Stream Lights above each key on the keyboard.
This effectively turns learning into Rock Band-like gaming, where the player follows visual cues to play a familiar tune and the system lights up upcoming key positions so that users can ready themselves for a timely key strike when the last of four cascading LEDs lights up. Exactly how complex the accompaniment is can be adjusted by the user, from simple play-alongs to more intense arpeggios, meaning that players can start off simple and advance as playing skills improve. The app is currently iOS only, but Yamaha is promising Android support for early 2018.
One big advantage over traditional piano lessons is that users get to play songs they know, rather than those chosen by a teacher, which should make learning more relevant, enjoyable and, hopefully, quicker.
"The CSP appeals to a new generation of casual players who want to learn the songs they already own and love, using the smart device they already own and love," said Yamaha. "As they become more and more inspired, confident and proficient, they may even take the experience to the ultimate level – formal lessons from a piano teacher."
And if you pair your iPad with a Bluetooth speaker system, or plug headphones into the CSP, you could play along with your favorite artists, too. The Smart Pianist app comes with 100 popular tunes cooked in, by artists like Adele, Sting, Elton John and Coldplay, together with over 300 piano lessons. Additional content can be purchased from Yamaha MusicSoft.
When it's not gamifying the learning experience, the Clavinova rocks the house as a fully capable digital piano, and includes the sampled sounds of two concert grands – the CFX and Bösendorfer Imperial – as well as hundreds of other instrument voices. Virtual Resonance Modeling is present, too, which recreates the feel and tone of an acoustic piano.
Learning systems like this appear to be a good way to keep students engaged, but as we discovered ourselves when trying out the One Piano system, being able to knock out tunes at a family gathering or playing keys in a garage band will still require a good deal of commitment and hard graft. But at least you'll have a good-looking and great-sounding upright to gather around should you plump for either of the new CSP models.
The new Clavinovas will be available from next month. The CSP-150 carries a suggested retail price of US$3,999, while the CSP-170 comes in at $5,399. The main differences between the models are keyboard mechanisms, amplifiers and speakers.
The promo video below outlines much of what's on offer.
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