A major trend that has developed in the MI industry over the past number of years has been the emergence of products that make learning an instrument easier for, and more accessible to, would-be musicians of all ages. In that vein, McCarthy Music Corp.’s (mccarthypiano.com) first offering, the Illuminating Piano, looks to do for piano what several other companies have attempted to do for guitar and other instruments. “I started this company because I wanted to learn to play piano,” said McCarthy Music Corp. President Kevin McCarthy. That initial impulse led to a two-year creative process that resulted in the Illuminating Piano. “It’s a 61-key USB MIDI controller that connects wirelessly via Bluetooth or over USB to our multiplatform software,” explained McCarthy.
The Illuminating Piano works in conjunction with the company’s custom software for an educational experience that calls to mind a piano-centric version of Guitar Hero. This software is available as a free app for iOS or Windows; simply download the app and connect a tablet or PC to the Illuminating Piano, select the musical score you want to learn and play along as the notes scroll across your display. The software features four modes for users of varying skill levels.
“In Listen mode, the software plays the song for you. You can see on the keyboard how it’s supposed to be played because the keys are illuminated as the musical score progresses,” said McCarthy. In Assist mode, users can choose between Right Hand Assist and Left Hand Assist; the software will then play one hand, allowing users to focus on learning the other half of the song. Select mode focuses on individual measures, so users can practice only certain parts of a song. Play the right note, and the key will flash green. Play the wrong note, and the key will flash red, while a red error indicator pops up on the display.
“Perform mode, which we also like to call Keep Up mode, is where the software plays the song with the correct tempo, and you’re supposed to keep up with it,” said McCarthy. “It’s got real-time scoring and feedback. There’s this little heat map at the top of our software that will show you how well you’ve done throughout the piece.” Thousands of musical scores are available for purchase through the software due to the company’s partnership with Hal Leonard. Each individual Illuminating Piano can support multiple users. Purchased scores, performance data and user preferences are all stored in the McCarthy Music Cloud, which can be accessed from any Illuminating Piano.
The system isn’t geared only toward those who want to learn to play piano on their own, either. According to McCarthy, the Illuminating Piano is ideal for music teachers. “We’ve seen a lot of interest from piano instructors,” he affirmed. “Half a dozen teachers have talked to us about wanting to build a full studio with these.”
Check out more standouts from NAMM 2015’s freshman class at the links below: