Music lessons can get expensive, so a new piano is trying to offer them itself. A young company called The One is launching a campaign on Indiegogo this morning to bring its smart keyboards to the US. The first, The One Smart Piano, is an digital piano with 88 weighted keys; the other, The One Light Keyboard, is 61-key MIDI keyboard. Both keyboards integrate directly with an iPhone or an iPad — although the iPad's large screen works best — to teach you songs and present music lessons through a free app. The app has specific music lessons, but it also allows you to play learning games and download sheet music, for free if it's in the public domain or for about a dollar if it's from a modern artist.
The app waits for you to play the right notes
Both of The One's keyboards teach piano using light-up keys, which you can already find on existing MIDI keyboards and piano accessories. (There's also plenty of debate around how effective they are as a teaching tool.) But The One takes the concept a bit further. Rather than just running through songs, its keyboards are able to stop at each note and wait for you to play it correctly. They're also able to simultaneously highlight the note that you're supposed to play on the keyboard and on the iPad. Theoretically, you could eventually learn to pair the key with the written note, so that you actually understand the sheet music and not just the motions needed to make it through a song. That said, a person who briefly tried the Light Keyboard and is an experienced piano player told me that it once lit up the wrong key, which could be a huge issue for new learners who wouldn't be aware of the error. It's unclear if this was an error with the specific sheet music they were playing or an issue with the piano itself.
The One says that it's sold over 20,000 units of the Smart Piano in China since launching there last year. This will be the company's first expansion into a new region, and it's introducing the less expensive Light Keyboard at the same time. Both devices are said to already be in production, which would seemingly make this a less risky crowdfunding project. The reason for taking the crowdfunding approach over direct sales, The One says, is so that it can ship the products over in bulk to keep its costs down. The Smart Piano weighs 115 pounds; the keyboard is obviously much lighter. The products will regularly sell for $1,499 and $299, although they're available for early campaign backers at $799 and $199.
Update: The One has issued a corrected figure on its sales in China. It has sold 20,000 units, not 700,000.