Roli is best known for its squishy, multitouch, pressure-sensitive music keyboards and controllers. Those are great. But the new Roli Lumi goes in a different direction. It’s a small portable keyboard with light-up keys. And not the kind of light-up keys you might see in a movie set during the 1970s disco scene: These light up keys help you learn to play the piano.
Piano lessons will never be the same.
The Lumi is a regular 24-key keyboard, with keys that move, instead of squishing, when you hit them. The keys aren’t full-size, but neither are they miniature. And they deliver 92% of the “plunge distance” of a regular piano keyboard. The keys also have polyphonic aftertouch. But that’s where the similarities with a typical keyboard end.
Every one of the Lumi’s 24 keys lights up. That includes the black keys. The lights are bright enough to see in daylight, and are used with companion software to guide the player.
Just as with Guitar Hero, you can play a game where you follow the keys on-screen in an iPad app. You also can have the Lumi teach you to play from a built-in library of songs.
This part is actually pretty neat. You can progress from the simple, using color-coded notes, through to actual music notation, all the while getting help from the light-up keys.
Stay in key
Even nicer is a feature that illuminates only the notes that are in key — ones that match the currently playing song. This way you can improvise, and if you stick to the lit keys, you’ll never sound bad.
This last feature is also nice for musicians who can already play. I play guitar, and I’m fine with music theory when it comes to my own instrument. But when I play keys into GarageBand, for example, I have to work out which notes are in the key I’m playing in.
With the Lumi, I could set it to light up all the notes in B-flat harmonic minor, for example, to speed things along.
Another nice touch is shared with other Roli devices: You can snap several Lumis together using their magnetic connections, and they become a bigger keyboard. You can even hook up Roli Blocks in the same way. The Lumi connects via Bluetooth or USB-C.
Roli Lumi will cost $250 when it goes on sale. If you’re impatient, you may be able to find it for less on Roli’s Lumi Kickstarter.