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Video game uses piano keyboard as controller

Technology for kids keeps popping up in novel ways. One of the newest, I Can Play Piano, is a keyboard instrument that kids use to play a video game. Not only do they have fun, but by playing the game, they learn to read music.

Fisher-Price's I Can Play Piano comes packaged with a three-octave keyboard that plugs into the audio/video input jacks of your television. The keys on the keyboard are all color-coded. At the top of the keyboard is a place to insert game cartridges. This smart toy comes with one cartridge containing eight songs that can be played in four different song modes. In addition to the songs, kids can play two other games that teach the location of the keys. Additional song/game cartridges are available separately for $15 each.

Kids start by exploring the two non-song games, which teach placement of keys. In one, kids play a game involving colored balls. To make them move, kids must push the corresponding colored key on the keyboard. In the other introductory game, kids can make colored cars speed up on a racetrack by pushing the corresponding colored key on the keyboard.

In the song modes, I Can Play Piano uses the innovative "Piano Wizard" method (developed by Allegro Multimedia Inc.) of teaching children how to play the piano. Similar to Dance Dance Revolution in console gaming, music is represented on the screen as moving images. Initially, the images are colored to match the keys on the keyboard. They scroll up from the bottom of the screen and pass over a line drawn across the top of the screen. If kids push on the matching colored key as the image is passing over the line, they will hear themselves playing music. The game allows kids to slow down or speed up the tempo of the song, and they can play with one or both hands on the keyboard.

As kids progress through the song modes, the images change from scrolling up to scrolling sideways. They then morph into colored musical notes, and eventually into side-scrolling black notes. By working through four modes of play, kids learn to identify the keys of the keyboard, associate the keys with notes, and eventually learn to read music.

The songs included in the "Piano Favorites" cartridge vary from children's favorites like Row, Row, Row Your Boat to classical music, including Beethoven's Fur Elise. By purchasing the additional cartridges, kids can play songs from the Dora the Explorer, Scooby Doo and Nicktoons television series. They can also learn to play pop hits, Christmas favorites and other songs.

As compared with the PC version of "Piano Wizard," the software upon which this product is based, I Can Play Piano is a better way for little kids to learn. Its interface is easier to navigate, its instructions are better, and the two non-song-based games make learning the keyboard a breeze.

Source: USAToday.com


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