Ben Ye knew what could happen as he watched his son chafe and grow bored during private piano lessons. But to keep his son’s interest in music, Ye felt he’d have to do the seemingly impossible: build a new kind of piano and reinvent the way it is taught.
Ye did both and what started as an effort to keep alive an interest in music for his son became available this week in the United States. The ONE Smart Piano, the first Apple MFi-certified smart piano, combines a full-sized piano and a dedicated iOS app that can show a beginner how to play a favorite song in as little as 10 minutes or less.
Equipped with 88 hammer-weighted keys and three foot pedals, the ONE Smart Piano strays from its brethren with 61 backlit keys that work in concert with the app to teach piano in three different ways, LED-guided sheet music, piano games or video lessons. The piano has a plug for an iPad or iPhone.
Ye’s company, The ONE Music Group, introduced The ONE Smart Piano and its sibling The ONE Light keyboard in his home country, China, where it became the best-selling digital piano there last year. The ONE Smart Piano is a wooden upright, available in classic white or matte black, retails for $1,499 on the company website. The ONE Light portable keyboard sells for $299.
Brand new, a traditional piano can range in price from $3,000 to $100,000 with a digital piano starting at around $2,000. Then there is the cost of lessons. A half-hour lesson can start at $15 but in some markets cost $40 or more.
Sandy Diao, head of growth at The ONE Music Group, told Cult of Mac challenges like Ye had with his son are universal as the company begins to bring the digital pianos to market.
The piano’s app comes with more than 2,600 pieces of sheet music, both classical and contemporary, and users can purchase additional sheet music as they learn. Ye wanted a way for his son and others to learn piano with music they liked.
The LEDs light the way for the fingers and the app records accuracy and other measurable information. As a user grows, the app enables the player to work on sections of the music with fingering exercises and breakdowns of what each hand should do. The pace is set by you and the lighting prompts will wait for a player to catch up.
“People shouldn’t have the impression that the piano requires dexterity or some hyper-ized skill set,” Diao said. “We’re helping people feel more comfortable learning the piano and our message is, ‘learn your favorite pop song.’ ”
The piano and app is not designed to replace the teacher, Diao said. It could make a teacher’s job easier if the student is more engaged in learning as a result of The ONE system, she said.
Ye’s solution managed to keep his son at the piano, Diao said, and he is working on software to help teachers in classrooms. They are also working on a kit that can fit that existing piano you paid a lot for and is currently gathering dust. Android users can also plug into The ONE Smart and ONE Light keyboard.