A Video Game Approach to Piano Learning

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With a myriad of keys and different notes and rhythms for each hand a lot of people are discouraged from learning to play the piano. And, although there’s a lot of learning techniques that can help, progress can still be very slow. However a new innovation could change all that and make learning the piano into a fun game.


Combining the classical piano and many a popular music game, the Projected Instrument Augmentation system, or P.I.A.N.O. was born. The P.I.A.N.O. was invented by pianists Katja Rogers and Amrei Rohlig with assistance from their colleagues at the University of Ulm in Germany. Using a fairly simple design, the P.I.A.N.O. is essentially an electric piano with a projector screen attached to it. Colorful blocks representing the upcoming notes are projected onto the screen, moving towards the appropriate key, while a block of light illuminates the next key to be played to make the process that much more intuitive.

piano 3

You probably recognize this technique as similar to the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games – where the colored blocks represent the correlating keys on the guitar controller. However, unlike those games the P.I.A.N.O. is geared towards teaching you how to play a real instrument, so the visuals data is designed to not only represent the correct notes, but also note duration, articulation, and ornaments


The system features 3 different modes: Listen, Practice, and Play. In the Listen mode, the player can listen to a certain musical piece, and see the entire flow of notes across the screen. The Practice mode lets the player practice the musical piece at their own speed, only moving on to the next note when the correct key has been pressed for the correct duration. Finally the Play mode plays the song at its normal speed without waiting for the student to hit the right keys. Instead a red light provides immediate feedback when keys are missed, or when notes are played incorrectly, and at the end of the song, the system tallies the results.

Visionaries + Movers

Matthias Weing + Amrei Rohlig + Katja Rogers + Jan Gugenheimer + Florian Schaub + Bastian Könings + Enrico Rukzio + Michael Weber

Photos via: Ulm University

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