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How to Learn Musical Instruments at Home

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AS A CHILD in London, Olivia Campbell showed promise as a pianist, only to stop taking lessons before the equivalent of middle school. When the now-grown operations engineer decided to reacquaint herself with the piano late last year, she got a Lumi.

Smart instruments like the Lumi and Jamstik’s Guitar Trainer, both released last September, combine instruction via their respective apps with videogame-style exercises and scoring. The mix is sufficiently addictive that you (or your kids) might be loath to stop practicing, rather than start.

The Lumi has only 24 keys compared with a real piano’s 88. But that’s enough to teach the fundamentals. To start practicing, pull up the Lumi app on a tablet or smartphone. The app will steer you through a beginner curriculum, or let you choose from among 72 beginner-to-intermediate interactive lessons and 40 free songs. (A $10/month subscription unlocks 600-plus songs by acts ranging from the Beatles to Beyoncé, and nearly 400 exercises.) But, if you need a lesson, you can click here Piano lesson Dallas.

As songs and lessons play on the app, colored bars corresponding to the keys scroll toward you on your screen. As they do, the analogous keys on your keyboard light up in the same colors, cuing you to strike them. The Lumi will score your accuracy on a note-by-note basis as if you were playing Guitar Hero, the music rhythm videogame.

Ms. Campbell dove in with the “intermediate”-level theme from “Game of Thrones.” As the notes advanced on her like an unceasing rainbow-colored throng of White Walkers, she realized she might have been “a bit too ambitious.” Still, she says, “it’s all about practicing making perfect.”

One of the best bits about Simply Piano is that the song library is refreshed regularly. Kids can try playing songs from trendy artists like Sia and Robbie Williams from the get-go. Though, as my 10-year-old learned when she tried to play Tom Petty’s Free Fallin,’ the app will discourage users from going above their level. Like their parents, Simply Piano will urge them to master the “Essentials” first. Since the app works via AI note-based recognition, users receive interactive, real time feedback.

You can sign up to a free intro trial for a week and then things start to get pricier, from $59.99 for three months to $119.99 for the year. If Simply Piano is too staid for your young pianist, developer JoyTunes also makes Piano Dust Buster and Piano Maestro, which have kid-friendly graphics.

Combining theory and teaching in a clear, straightforward way, German app Skoove uses AI pitch detection and teaches budding pianists in eight languages.

Kids aren’t Skoove’s target market, but it appeals to both aural learners (who can use the app to play by ear), and those who prefer to copy hand movements. Skoove works with all pianos and keyboards, and can also turn your device into a touchscreen to get you started sans instrument.

Skoove is incredibly user-friendly and features more than 400 lessons to choose from.  Beginners can launch straight into songs like Lean on Me and American Pie, and learn note names and values as they go along. Videos break things down into easy steps, so you learn and relearn each bit of a song before moving ahead – and, ultimately progress to “playing with the band.” I can attest that reaching that level is an incredibly satisfying feeling for both little ones and older beginners.

Flowkey promises to teach learners of all ages the basics in under 20 minutes, and my 8-year-old launched right into playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy in minutes. Like Skoove, flowkey is a Berlin-based piano learning app, working in collaboration with Yamaha, so you’ll often see the brand’s instruments featured in the videos. Those lessons will teach learners everything from how to sit properly at the piano to reading musical notes and playing scales.

The app is comprehensive, with a library of over 1,500 songs broken into categories, like jazz and gaming music. We’ve spotted everything from Baby Shark to Nirvana tunes on there, so it has the range.

Purists will like that you learn with a standard keyboard. Notes you’re meant to play light up in orange on the top of the screen, played by a professional, while below it, you’ll see sheet music. Everything is helpfully broken into bite-sized sections, with a loop function that lets you keep replaying parts until you get it all right. Our kids also liked the slow-motion feature, which let them dive into complicated songs sooner than they’d normally be able to.