Product Review: Page (1) of 2 - 07/31/06

Piano Wizard Premier

Edutainment tool to learn to play the piano

By John Virata

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When my youngest son was six, he expressed an interest to play the piano, so I got him a CD-ROM game called Piano Discovery. Combined with a Casio MIDI keyboard, he followed along and learned some songs. He enjoyed playing along with the computer but wanted more, so several years later, he got a dedicated piano teacher.

Today, there are a few applications that help you to learn how to play the piano, and keep interest at the same time. Children today might have shorter attention spans thanks to technology, and programs, especially edutainment programs have to be creative to keep those minds from losing interest.

Piano Wizard from Allegro Rainbow is software classified in the "edutainment" category. Essentially it combines game play with piano keyboard elements that help users to learn how to play the piano. Rated E for Everyone by the ESRB, Piano Wizard combines a PC video game with a digital piano that helps users to learn to play.


What's in the box
In the Allegro Rainbow Piano Wizard Premier box, you get the Piano Wizard software, a quick setup poster, an M-Audio 49 key MIDI keyboard/USB controller, and a driver CD for the keyboard. You also get color coded keyboard stickers that you place on the keys, as well as Ableton Live version 4.

Setup
Setup involves hooking a MIDI keyboard to your computer, installing the appropriate drivers and installing the Piano Wizard software. This particular bundle included the keyboard, USB cable and drivers on CD so it wasn't much of an issue. In addition to a well written set up poster, there are videos on the CDs that will walk you through the setup process.

The Game
For children, the game features a color coordinated keyboard at the top of the window. The colors on the keys coordinate with the colored stickers that you place on your own keyboard. This helps to recognize the keys as you play. When you launch a game, you have a choice of color, finger number and note name. Colors are the easiest for young fingers, while finger number and note name are good as advancement in the game takes place. Adults can learn to play in this fashion or they can choose a more traditional look that features a measure, staff, and bass and treble clef with notes. In this review, I took a look at the beginner module. There is an advanced module that activates when you register, which offers more advanced play for those who have gone through the beginner lessons, or just want to experience more advanced music.

Songs, Jam, Lessons. You can specify note names, finger numbers, or color when playing. The keys at the top can also be relocated to the left side.

Songs Jams or Lessons
Piano Wizard enables you to play songs, which includes a variety of songs in different categories including children's songs, folk songs, holiday songs, folks songs, hymns, and easy classics. After you choose a category, the next screen gives you a list of songs in that category. Click on a song and you follow along. The interface has the keyboard at the top of the screen, and it sends up your choice of creatures depending on the background. Sample backgrounds include oceanscape, outer space, with outerspace creatures, nature scapes, with nature creatures, and prehistoric, with prehistoric creatures. When the creature hits a area of the keyboard and you play the key at the correct time, it morphs or fly's away, letting you know that you hit the key at the right time. That is the visual aspect of the game.  

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Related Keywords:piano wizard, edutainment tool, music software, piano playing software,

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