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LED-Guided Piano Instruction

LEDpianoGuide

[Kay Choe] can’t play the piano. Rather, he couldn’t, until he converted his keyboard to include LED-guided instruction. [Kay] is a microbial engineering graduate student, and the last thing a grad student can afford is private music lessons. With $70 in components and a cell phone, however, he may have found a temporary alternative.

The build works like a slimmed-down, real-world Guitar Hero, lighting up each note in turn. We’ve seen a project like this before, with the LEDs mounted above the keys. [Kay]‘s design, however, is much easier to interpret. He embedded the LEDs directly into the keys, including ones above each black key to indicate the sharps/flats. An Android app takes a MIDI file of your choice and parses the data, sending the resulting bits into an IOIO board via USB OTG. A collection of shift registers then drives the LEDs.

For a complete novice, [Kay] seems to benefit from these lights. We are unsure whether the LEDs give any indication of which note to anticipate, however, as it seems he is pressing the keys after each one lights up. Take a look at his video demonstration below and help us speculate as to what the red lights signify. If you’re an electronics savant who wants to make music without practicing a day in your life, we recommend that you check out [Vladimir's] Robot Guitar.

Comments

  1. Benjamin says:

    I have a piano keyboard at home with this functionality built in. But honestly: After buying a scorebook with “simple tones”, ie: the songs being set in a easy-to-play-along way, I have found that the lights distract from learning to play.

  2. Sven says:

    Just think how much piano practice he could have gotten in the time it took to build this LED contraption :P

  3. Raivis R. says:

    Yamaha EZ series has this feature (and way more). Other than that, nice build.

  4. Tom says:

    Well, that’s all neat and dandy, except;

    1) Those LEDs aren’t embedded into the keys in any way, shape, or form.

    2) Speaking of LED’s, although he might have used a shift register in his linked example, that video above clearly shows something not-too-dissimilar from the HL1606 LED strips that can be found all over the place. This, although technically, is a glorified, tricked out shift register, isn’t what’s listed above!

    Still, nice concept, hope he pushes on with it to make something a bit more polished!

  5. lol says:

    My 15 year old yamaha keyboard has led learning…
    Could snaged one off ebay for the price of the leds lol

    • potatoman412 says:

      Yeah I am not normally one to poo poo a build but I highly agree with you. The LCD screen on it already showed keys to play and songs anyway. I guess good on him for figuring it out and getting it built. Always happy to see some Android OTG in use.. I am a bad keyboardist as well. I build, modify, and repair keys all day but really stink at playing. My sis got the piano lessons and I got a work permit at 15. Who needs learnin lol?

  6. Kev says:

    The red LEDs represent a repeated key stroke. It is easiest to tell during the Greensleeves song.

  7. Richard says:

    This is a great build. However, it is exactly how you should NOT learn to play the piano… It teaches you to look at your hands and the keys, rather than at the music sheet. Once you teach yourself that, it is nearly impossible to learn to read music as the behaviour to follow the leds is programmed in. It will help someone learn to play some songs though.

  8. Jim says:

    Casio PT-87 ;-)

  9. In case anybody else wants to build something like this, things like this are literally the worst possible way to “learn to play” anything.

  10. StevenD says:

    It seems the red LED lights up on a key that’s already being pressed and needs to be released and pressed again. It’s for if the key has to be played multiple times in a row. The blue LED lights when a key has to be pressed and stays lit as long as the key should be held down. Without the color change there’d be no way to indicate that it should be released and pressed again. That’s what I think it happening anyway.

  11. robomonkey says:

    As long as the midi file puts up the sheet music and follows along so he knows how the notes on the page correlate to the notes on the keyboard, then he’s learning to play piano…Until then, he’s memorizing…not the same thing at all.

    Anybody know of a hack I can use to tie into a Yamaha keyboard and get the microscopic LCD display to show up on a larger monitor?? I haven’t found one yet.

  12. Zee says:
  13. vonskippy says:

    Lets hope he op’s to learn his sex techniques the old fashion way (or has a very understanding partner).

    As to learning the piano, unless the LED’s can hold a ruler, and give him a good slap when he messes up, it’s probably not all that great at teaching.

  14. supershwa says:

    This has been around for decades. I remember a small Casio or Yamaha keyboard I had in the 80s that had this feature.

    Neat project, but it doesn’t help with fingering — it makes the user dependent on staring at the keys, using that “hunt and peck” method. Notice when he’s playing Fur Elise: he plays the bass and treble parts with both hands.

    If you’re already “hunting/pecking” keys, you might as well learn how to read sheet music and rest your hands on “home keys”.

  15. echodelta says:

    Decades, It’s entering it’s second century. Meade Lux Lewis and two other greats of Boogie Woggie piano playing learned by watching the keys move on the player the taxi office installed to keep the drivers in the office not at the ice cream parlor down the street. This was in the 20′s, dispatch was by phone not radio.
    Goes to say even the greats did it ‘wrong’. I can’t read either but wish I was exposed to the Yamaha screen in a bigger format much earlier. Sight can only do so much, ultimately it’s heard and thus can be played in the dark.

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