Product: Piano Wizard
Price: $139.95 (software and midi cable); $199.95 with M-Audio 49e MIDI piano keyboard
Rating: Very Good – 8.0
Pros: Instant musical gratification, bright engaging colors, fun to use, visual learning, full piano functionality in a compact keyboard, great selection of songs for young and old
Cons: Takes a little trial and error to get comfortable with all of the features available, hard drive hogging files, mediocre graphics
Overall: A fun and affordable way to get even the youngest kids playing the piano and creating music. The easy color coded learning makes getting comfortable with the basics less tedious for stubborn adults too.
Product – Piano Wizard is a software system that works in conjunction with a midi keyboard that you can purchase with the software or use any piano keyboard that can plug into your computer. Despite all the software, it is the color stickers that you place on the keys that is really the whole key (pardon the pun) to the learning experience here. The early steps of learning to play are made simple by color coding the notes on the screen with the corresponding color coded keyboard keys. Colorful graphic backdrops like grazing dinosaurs, though static (and at time cheesy) make the learning more interesting. For children that are not compelled to play by the interactive lesson style, Piano Wizard offers lessons cleverly disguised as games that get kids learning while they have fun playing.
Set Up – If you have Windows XP or the latest Mac OS, set up of the keyboard is a breeze. Simple plug and play. Installing the software is a no-brainer via the provided wizard, but if you plan on using this with young children, try setting it up during their nap time. They most likely wonâ€™t have the patience for the download time.
Personal Experience – I have a two year old who, like most children, loves any excuse to make noise â€“ pleasant or otherwise. He immediately took to the Piano Wizard as it brought together many of his favorite activities at once, the aforementioned noisemaking, computer play, colors and games, music and playtime with mommy and daddy. What is so nice about the Piano Wizard is the ability for it to grow with your child, with beginners, intermediate, transition and advanced levels. It has many different elements that will keep them from getting bored as they grow up and discover new skills and abilities. From the toddler years of colors and noise, to the early school years of â€œLook what I can doâ€ and even through those harsh preteen yearsâ€¦ though they are more likely to tell their friends about there newly acquired skills, rather than their lame parents. Better yet, if you took piano as a kid and miss tickling the keys as I do, or always wanted to try, this is a great baby step into making music.
Features – Piano Wizard comes with a good library of songs to choose from, and is seemingly always adding to their online library with songs from Hermanâ€™s Hermit to Coldplay, at prices cheaper than most sheet music will run you.
My only disappointment was that I had expected that the beginnerâ€™s stages to feature a play-along theme, but was sad to find the tune accompaniment was only visual. For the smallest of children, a karaoke style play along or an â€œIâ€™ll play it then you play it backâ€ styles are best for engaging them in play.
All in all – my son is hooked. After he got his first taste of the Piano Wizard, he dragged us back to the computer day after day instructing us to turn it on and play along with him. He was an instant addict. And it works out well for us too. We can only watch Spongebob Squarepants so many times in one day… really.
Good for Grown-ups too – The Piano Wizard makes it easy for an adult (or quasi-adult) to learn just as well, though it probably wonâ€™t buy you any cool points if your buddies catch you pecking away at Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on your color coded keyboard. Although, later on when you woo that lady youâ€™ve had your eye on with the latest Franz Ferdinand tune, whoâ€™ll have the last laugh then?