First Look: The ONE Smart Piano

Posted:
in iPad edited August 2015
Aspiring musicians looking to learn to play piano should check out The ONE, a unique digital piano that uses iPad to offset the learning curve associated with mastering the instrument.




Traditionally, learning to play the piano requires paid lessons from a professional teacher. This is still a solid means of learning, but digital music lessons have increasingly become the norm.

Over the years, we have tried innovative teaching tools like Ion's Piano Apprentice, a system using LEDs on a 25-key keyboard to indicate where a student should place their fingers. The system was unrefined, however, and the apps it worked with weren't amazing at instruction.

Enter The ONE.


The ONE lights up LEDs behind the keys, not in the keys themselves.


The ONE Smart Piano's latest keyboard and accompanying lessons go further than its predecessors, both in hardware and software. The ONE ships in two versions, a full-size 88-key version with weighted keys that are velocity sensitive, and The ONE Light, a 61-key keyboard with non-weighted keys.




Unlike the old Piano Apprentice product that sold for $69, The ONE Smart Piano models are serious instruments, and well-made.

Lessons are downloadable in a dedicated iOS app. A typical lesson consists of a video with an instructor playing the piece, showing the structure of it, teaching fingering with LEDs on The ONE lighting up to aid the student, and then turning off the LEDs so that the student can play unassisted, much like a student would with a live teacher.

We set my 10-year-old daughter loose with the iPad and The ONE. The iPad connects via a lightning cable, although MicroUSB cables were included for Android use. Within a few minutes, the girl who had never played piano beyond banging 12 keys at the same time in cacophony was playing "Hot Cross Buns." While not impressive to many people, the important thing here was, she learned from the lessons in the iPad, and was encouraged by her success to play the next six lessons without waiting.

"I love the ginormous ONE. It's easier to practice on the big one. The small one is more portable, but the weighted keys feel more like a piano," she said. "The Light keys make a plastic sound when you're playing."




The USB cable is an unusual choice: It's a USB 3.0 connector we haven't seen before at the host end and lightning at the other. For The ONE Light, the cable is a desktop USB 3.0-B connector and lighting at the other end. We're not sure why they chose to use the OTG (on-the-go) cable arrangement rather than using the USB A connector, which would enable cables from all manufacturers.

Both pianos are essentially MIDI controllers, but they don't have MIDI connectors. The user manual mentions that they both have the 128 General MIDI patches internally. The ONE has no means of accessing these sounds from the keyboard. When attempting to use them with Garageband on iOS we were able to play different sounds (strings, for example) but the notes were accompanied by the internal Grand Piano sound which we could not turn off. This is a software choice, and the software is under development. The ONE Light does make some of these patches available through the Tone button.


The ONE Light has a Tone button, Sustain button, and lights up the keys themselves.


The apps provided by The ONE are The ONE Smart Piano. The ONE application allows you to choose between Video Tutorials, LED-guided practice, and KARA Game.

Video Tutorials in our early experience take the form of lessons described above: A teacher plays, breaks down what he played, with LEDs on the keyboard showing the student where to place fingers, and then giving the student a chance to get it right.

Lessons aren't just about songs for early learners. Crucially, they also instruct in posture and hand position.

The LED-guided practice is a much more traditional kind of piano practice. The app displays sheet music, highlighting the note on the staff display, displaying the LEDs at the keyboard (left hand notes get blue LED, right hand notes are indicated with red LED) and a female voice calls out numbers to aid with fingering. The staff note highlighting and LEDs at the keyboard won't change until the student has played them. Staff music was available for in-app purchase for 99 cents.

The KARA Game is sort of similar to Guitar Hero or Rockband, for keyboard. The game appears to handle single-player or two-players sitting on the bench playing. At time of this writing, duet gameplay was not enabled in the beta version of the app we used. Single player was actually quite fun.



Conclusion

What are the downsides to The ONE? It's not clear that it can be used as a MIDI controller separately from the piano sounds. We experimented with Garageband and it was able to play other sound patches - while simultaneously playing the piano patch.

It seems like it's clear that it uses MIDI so we're not sure why that isn't a present option, perhaps with AudioBus support in iOS, which would make it a performance tool as well. It seems like performance is part of the intention, given that The ONE Light has Aux In, Aux Out, and Microphone In connectors.




It also wasn't possible to change the sound patch (Tone) of the full size The ONE - that tone feature is only available on the 61-key model.

Despite these very minor shortcomings, The ONE is a very good learning tool, and we regret that we have to return it at the end of this review.

Where to buy

During The ONE Smart Piano's Indiegogo campaign, which has four days left as of this writing, The ONE is priced at $849 with a retail price of $1500, while The ONE Light is available for $229.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 48
    solipsismysolipsismy Posts: 5,099member
    The discounted prices are very tempting. I might just jump onboard for the 88-key piano.
  • Reply 2 of 48
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member

    I bought my daughter a Casio Priva PX-330 and pay for lessons with a human being.

  • Reply 3 of 48
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 715editor
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

     

    I bought my daughter a Casio Priva PX-330 and pay for lessons with a human being.




    I think one of the benefits of a system like this, is that it could be used in conjunction with a human teacher.

     

    One option might be, working on the same sheet music with LED-guided practice as with the human teacher. Another might be the practicing of scales and arpeggios with the app. 

     

    One of the biggest downfalls of weekly lessons with a human is that there's all the days between lessons, and unless the teacher also teaches good practice habits, it's easy for a student to fall out of practice, or not practice at all.

     

    The video tutorials and LED-guided practice make it easier to develop a consistent practice habit, especially if they're in sync with what the human teacher wishes to teach.

  • Reply 4 of 48
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 715editor
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismY View Post



    The discounted prices are very tempting. I might just jump onboard for the 88-key piano.



    Assembling it was very easy. It really is very good.

  • Reply 5 of 48
    serkolserkol Posts: 39member

    If you don't care for lights over the keys, buy a digital piano from trusted and respected manufactures. You can connect a digital piano to all iPad and Mac and Windows apps with a USB cable.

     

    The most critical part in digital piano is keyboard. It should replicate the feel of the real piano's keyboard as much as possible.

    I used Casio Privia and Kawai CA63 digital pianos with my 2 kids (they are now 11 and 9 y.o.). With the help of some Mac and iOS software they have learned piano to grade 4 Royal Conservatory level.

     

    Casio's keyboard is quite good, while Kawai's is excellent. Another aspect - the quality of the piano sound that the piano plays through it's speakers, and the quality of the speakers. Kawai is again excellent here. How good is ONE keyboard? Is it better than digital pianos from companies that make them for tens of years, like Yamaha, Kawai, Casio, Roland? I doubt this.

     

    Lighted keys age gimmick. Kids need to learn notes and where they are on the piano. There are many software titles for iOS, Mac and Windows that teach kids notes, scales and music, being connected to a digital piano. The software checks that the kids hit the correct keys at the correct time.

     

    Digital pianos come with several sounds, like harpsichord, strings, human voice, organ and so on. When used with the software that I bought for my kids, nothing prevents me from switching from piano to a different instrument. Some software (like Synthesia) can play the accompaniment as whatever instrument was recorded in the MIDI file. Some software (like Musiah) plays sounds through computer, but you can turn off the computer sound and turn on your digital piano sound.

  • Reply 6 of 48
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 574member
    A helpful learning tool for sure. What it can't teach you is posture, finger positioning, dynamics, foot pedals, or theory. Humans are still vital to teaching music.
  • Reply 7 of 48
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,764member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by vmarks View Post

     



    I think one of the benefits of a system like this, is that it could be used in conjunction with a human teacher.

     

    One option might be, working on the same sheet music with LED-guided practice as with the human teacher. Another might be the practicing of scales and arpeggios with the app. 

     

    One of the biggest downfalls of weekly lessons with a human is that there's all the days between lessons, and unless the teacher also teaches good practice habits, it's easy for a student to fall out of practice, or not practice at all.

     

    The video tutorials and LED-guided practice make it easier to develop a consistent practice habit, especially if they're in sync with what the human teacher wishes to teach.


     

    That's a tautology. If you get a shit teacher who doesn't teach how to practise, you have a shit teacher. A good teacher will have material to support how s/he teaches, and will adapt to how the student best learns. A system like this one cannot do this, and as a teacher, I would HATE to have to teach around what this system supplies. It may be effective for some, but in most cases, it is not going to be conducive to how the student will best learn.

  • Reply 8 of 48
    quinneyquinney Posts: 2,525member
    Aspiring musicians looking to learn to play piano should check out The ONE, a unique digital piano that uses iPad to offset the learning curve associated with mastering the instrument.

    That's a good way of (unintentionally) explaining what this is. The learning curve associated with mastering the instrument will be offset by the amount of time a person wastes pressing keys when LEDs light up, like some lab animal in a B. F. Skinner experiment. Once the student realizes this rote technique is not giving them any understanding, they can start the learning curve of actually studying music, if they really have the desire. Or, if that is not immediately gratifying enough, there are plenty of paint-by-numbers kits available to help people "master" artistic painting.
  • Reply 9 of 48
    Is this a kb only? From the site it looks like a full-size upright with pedals.


    [VIDEO]
    [/VIDEO]
  • Reply 10 of 48
    Though, there is really no substitute for the real thing ...

    [IMG ALT=""]http://forums.appleinsider.com/content/type/61/id/61261/width/500/height/1000[/IMG]
  • Reply 11 of 48
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,294member
    hexclock wrote: »
    A helpful learning tool for sure. What it can't teach you is posture, finger positioning, dynamics, foot pedals, or theory. Humans are still vital to teaching music.

    An add on pack could include sticky electrical pads (think Tens machine) to deliver small shocks to the player in places that help correct some of these matters. ;)

    To truly emulate my piano teacher it would need a robotic armed with a ruler to strike your hands when you play the wrong note too.
  • Reply 12 of 48
    hexclock wrote: »
    A helpful learning tool for sure. What it can't teach you is posture, finger positioning, dynamics, foot pedals, or theory. Humans are still vital to teaching music.

    An add on pack could include sticky electrical pads (think Tens machine) to deliver small shocks to the player in places that help correct some of these matters. ;)

    When my late wife injured her back in the 1980s, she wore a Hardy Tens pack that was on a belt around the waist -- with stimulators attached to several places on her back.

    The pack had controls that she could adjust for the amount and frequency of the shock stimulus ...

    It got to the point where she could mask the pain -- to the point where the stimulation was quite nice ...

    She called it the pleasure box!
  • Reply 13 of 48
    Nice tech!
  • Reply 14 of 48
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 574member
    An add on pack could include sticky electrical pads (think Tens machine) to deliver small shocks to the player in places that help correct some of these matters. ;)

    To truly emulate my piano teacher it would need a robotic armed with a ruler to strike your hands when you play the wrong note too.

    How about miniaturized Taptic Engine modules embedded in the keys? Apple Midi Controller? I'd buy one.
  • Reply 15 of 48
    dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 12,520member
    solipsismy wrote: »
    The discounted prices are very tempting. I might just jump onboard for the 88-key piano.

    I'm not a member of any organized religion -- but, growing up in Minneapolis in the 1940s I attended Lutheran Sunday school. Part of every class was a fun session singing hymns ...

    What still sticks with me today (and sends a shiver up my spine) is Sunday School style piano accompaniment. You have to hear it -- kind of a mixture of Gospel, Blues and Ragtime.

    Paraphrasing Garrison Keillor: Our accompanist was a spinster lady and she would be exhausted after a Sunday School session -- an hour of sweet release, I guess.


    Anyway, will you be able to play like this?


    [VIDEO]



    The above, was mostly melody ... The following includes some melody -- but the choruses are mainly chord progressions and bass with treble runs:


    [VIDEO]


    The pianist would sing, gesticulate and play -- with her hands often rising 6-12" above the keyboard. It was something to see as well as hear ... something to experience, actually!
     
  • Reply 16 of 48
    pscooter63pscooter63 Posts: 929member

    Random thoughts:

     

    The ledge in front of the music rack of the 88-noter, the one that's designed to hold the bottom of the tablet in place, appears to be too steep for printed music page turning (even though the music rack is wide enough).  I've played cheap uprights that had crude, unsculpted wood strips like this.  It's actually an impediment to proficient playing, in that if you are in a hurry to turn while playing, you will shred the lower edge of your music.

     

    The problem with marketing this device as a learning tool, is that there may be additional hardware investments needed.  For example, it's not clear whether a music bench is included with the 88.

     

    If you're buying the portable, you'll likely need a stand AND a bench.

     

    Is a sustain pedal included with the portable version?  The student will need one if s/he makes it past their first couple of months.

     

    I must agree with earlier posts that suggest that there are many wiser choices already out there.

     

    [Edited to reduce redundancy.]

  • Reply 17 of 48
    bugsnwbugsnw Posts: 717member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post





    I'm not a member of any organized religion -- but, growing up in Minneapolis in the 1940s I attended Lutheran Sunday school. Part of every class was a fun session singing hymns ...



    What still sticks with me today (and sends a shiver up my spine) is Sunday School style piano accompaniment. You have to hear it -- kind of a mixture of Gospel, Blues and Ragtime.



    Paraphrasing Garrison Keillor: Our accompanist was a spinster lady and she would be exhausted after a Sunday School session -- an hour of sweet release, I guess.





    Anyway, will you be able to play like this?











    The above, was mostly melody ... The following includes some melody -- but the choruses are mainly chord progressions and bass with treble runs:

     

    That is a Clavinova that he's playing, from Yamaha. I think I have that exact model and it's a gas. I've been playing since I was 5 (by ear) and this thing taught me all kinds of neat tricks. I don't like the lights above the keyboard as much as the 2-dimensional piano keyboard that shows what key is being hit. For someone that already plays, learning little things that artists do with their music is a godsend. The Beatles used something called a Sus4 in Yesterday and I never really payed attention to that fact. (Don't quote me on that - I don't read music or really understand it.) You see patterns and little things that artists do and that's a very hard thing to learn on your own or just by listening.

     

    Someone said earlier to buy something with a piano-like keyboard and I concur. I have a rough time playing those 'toy' pianos with only a couple octaves. The plastic, thinner keys and absence of any attempt at a real piano feel make them difficult to enjoy. Even better, rather than buy a junky digital piano, buy a used real piano and buy an easy song book that uses lead sheets.

     

    This is for those that just want to sound good playing the piano, not those that want to play classical some day.

  • Reply 18 of 48
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,294member
    When my late wife injured her back in the 1980s, she wore a Hardy Tens pack that was on a belt around the waist -- with stimulators attached to several places on her back.

    The pack had controls that she could adjust for the amount and frequency of the shock stimulus ...

    It got to the point where she could mask the pain -- to the point where the stimulation was quite nice ...

    She called it the pleasure box!

    Yep brilliant device and it is pleasurable for sure not just as it makes the pain go away for a while but in of itself it is an amazing sensation. I still have mine from a back injury decades ago and even today if I get a muscle lock up (which seems to happen every few years due some daft reason like reaching for something in the back seat of a car or stepping off a curb I didn't see) it is the perfect answer, that and some good Scotch. :)
  • Reply 19 of 48
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,294member
    hexclock wrote: »
    How about miniaturized Taptic Engine modules embedded in the keys? Apple Midi Controller? I'd buy one.

    I've seem to recall reading about a system that was embedded in gloves to somehow tell you if your are right or wrong, can't remember how it worked. Luckily I play guitar and don't even have to look, my fingers somehow know where to go, beats me how, but they do. I am sure it's the same for pianists but I just can't get the hang of a piano beyond 12 bar blues lol.
  • Reply 20 of 48
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 715editor
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by serkol View Post

     

    If you don't care for lights over the keys, buy a digital piano from trusted and respected manufactures. You can connect a digital piano to all iPad and Mac and Windows apps with a USB cable.

     

    The most critical part in digital piano is keyboard. It should replicate the feel of the real piano's keyboard as much as possible.

    I used Casio Privia and Kawai CA63 digital pianos with my 2 kids (they are now 11 and 9 y.o.). With the help of some Mac and iOS software they have learned piano to grade 4 Royal Conservatory level.

     

    Casio's keyboard is quite good, while Kawai's is excellent. Another aspect - the quality of the piano sound that the piano plays through it's speakers, and the quality of the speakers. Kawai is again excellent here. How good is ONE keyboard? Is it better than digital pianos from companies that make them for tens of years, like Yamaha, Kawai, Casio, Roland? I doubt this.

     

    Lighted keys age gimmick. Kids need to learn notes and where they are on the piano. There are many software titles for iOS, Mac and Windows that teach kids notes, scales and music, being connected to a digital piano. The software checks that the kids hit the correct keys at the correct time.

     

    Digital pianos come with several sounds, like harpsichord, strings, human voice, organ and so on. When used with the software that I bought for my kids, nothing prevents me from switching from piano to a different instrument. Some software (like Synthesia) can play the accompaniment as whatever instrument was recorded in the MIDI file. Some software (like Musiah) plays sounds through computer, but you can turn off the computer sound and turn on your digital piano sound.


     

     

     



    The weighted keys feel very similar to the action on other digital pianos. This should not be surprising. It's not a new technology.

     

    The LEDs behind the keys only come on when the iOS app addresses them. It's not a gimmick to help teach where the notes are when learning staff. 

     

    I suspect that turning their not-turning-off the piano sound while using MIDI from an app is a bug.

     

    Could you name your top list of iOS and Mac apps? I'd like to try them.

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