What can an amateur realistically learn by using Synthesia

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orban
Posts: 4

Post by orban »

Hello,

I have used this software in the past just for fun, I only used my computer keyboard and I enjoyed it. Now I have rediscovered my passion for classical piano music and again, I am eager to use Synthesia.

This time, I want to buy a keyboard(Yamaha YPT320 61-Key Portable Keyboard - probably) just for this but I am afraid it will be a bad impulse purchase.

I would like to learn to play the piano a bit, I don't have high expectations but I would want to be able to play some generic songs, yet I don't have much time to dedicate to this. Can I realistically learn to play a bit of piano by using Synthesia in my free time(~8 hours a week) for a couple of months?

Generally, do people learn anything by using this software, or do they quit quickly?
Nicholas
Posts: 13171

Post by Nicholas »

I like to think of Synthesia as a catalyst. This question specifically:
orban wrote:Can I realistically learn to play a bit of piano by using X in my free time(~8 hours a week) for a couple of months?
With that kind of time and no tools at all(!) you could learn a fair bit just plucking notes and learning to play by ear at a piano.

Learning any instrument is actually really difficult. Any of those sites that are like "buy my DVDs and the knowledge will magically be transplanted into your head in the time it takes you to watch them" (my paraphrasing ;) ) are oversimplifying. It takes passion and effort to continue doing anything until you're good at it.

So, back to the catalyst thing: something Synthesia does really well that DVDs/books can't and that other software isn't quite as good at yet is feedback. It's not quite like having a teacher but it does an alright job. On top of a really accessible sight-reading environment, you can track your increasing progress very easily. So, if anything is going to help keep you motivated, Synthesia is a pretty good candidate.

If you search around here a bit, there are a handful of really cool success stories. People have shared their "after just one month" type progress and I'm always very impressed. Still, I would caution going into any new project without realistic expectations. Piano is hard. Synthesia can absolutely make some of that work more fun and can definitely remove a good portion of the learning curve on the low end... but piano is still hard.
orban
Posts: 4

Post by orban »

Thank you for your answer Nicholas.
sheraz
Posts: 30

Post by sheraz »

orban,
I am also a beginner and trying to learn piano. I spoke with many people before I started, searched internet to find out the best approach I could take to learn. Anybody I spoke with said to me that I'd need to spend at least an hour a day. Some said even more. I was hesitant to start because I didn't know if I could commit that much time. But honestly, as I practiced, I realized that I really like piano and time wasn't a constrain anymore. My point is that don't worry about the time factor for now. Just give it shot. If you like it, you'll be able to make up time for it automatically. As Nicholas said "It takes passion and efforts". I"d say all it needs is passion. If you have passion, effort becomes more like fun.

After searching all over the internet, I realized that using Synthesia is best way to go. I have my laptop plugged in with my keyboard all the time. Once I go home from work (I get home around 8ish), I practice as much as I can :) . One tool that Synthesia is missing is the feature to teach how to read node. I emailed Nicholas about this feature as well. For the time being, I'm using PrestoKeys http://www.prestokeys.com/ . I bought it so that I can use it with my keyboard. It did help a lot to memorize the nodes very quickly. It a few days I was able to play nodes as I read them in Synthetia(only right hand though). Currently I'm working on my left hand. This is my 2nd week since I started and I'm very excited about my progress.

Hope my answer helped. Let me know if you need any help.
orban
Posts: 4

Post by orban »

I am inspired by your posts, it's a pleasant community here, I think I will give this a go.

I have another question, it's regarding the keyboard and I don't think I should open a new thread in the hardware section of the forums just for this. I am short on money and I am thinking of buying this keyboard, Yamaha YPT210. It's the cheapest, it has good reviews and it looks fine with me but I would appreciate an opinion from someone else. Unfortunately, because I live in the Netherlands, I think it's unpractical to order from the US amazon.
Nicholas
Posts: 13171

Post by Nicholas »

The YPT210 should be plenty of keyboard to get started with. It just has MIDI ports (no USB) so you'll have to pick up an adapter for it too. (Try to avoid the really cheap no-brand $5 adapters if you can. They're super notorious for having compatibility problems.)
Electrode
Posts: 195

Post by Electrode »

I am currently teaching an absolute beginner student on the YPT-210 that they have at their house, so I have a decent amount of experience with it and its features. It is more than adequate for absolute beginners, although has no touch sensitivity whatsoever. (This could be a big down-side depending on how quickly you progress to repertoire that requires some level of interpretation, rather than just "bashing out the notes".)

Advantages are that it has songs built in that you can learn (the lesson modes function in a similar way to Synthesia), and it has a display that shows you the equivalent sheet music notes for the keys you are playing (thus teaching you the basics of note recognition), as well as a Synthesia-style keyboard display at the bottom of the screen (which helps with keyboard geography - knowing your way around the keyboard, basically).

It's great for those beginning baby steps, but as I said, the lack of touch sensitivity will necessitate an upgrade in future. How quickly that upgrade happens is totally up to your progress, and how serious you become. (How serious you are at the start is absolutely no indication of how serious you are a few months in! Piano is a long-term investment, in time, equipment and energy!) If you'd rather go for something that is more "future proof" (something that will respond better to your increasing ability), then I'd steer clear of the YPT-210, to be honest. Something in the Yamaha PSR range might be better for you in that case.

Casio have also upped their game recently, with keyboards that have 61 full-size semi-weighted piano-style keys for about GBP £99. (Check out the CTK-1150.) Again, though, I must warn you that the Casio does not have touch sensitivity either. None of the cheap keyboards do, because the sensor components are expensive and push up the price. Touch sensitive keyboards start appearing at around the GBP £150 mark over here. (I'm in the UK, so you'll have to do some currency conversion to find the equivalent Euro values.)
orban
Posts: 4

Post by orban »

Electrode wrote:I am currently teaching an absolute beginner student on the YPT-210 that they have at their house, so I have a decent amount of experience with it and its features. It is more than adequate for absolute beginners, although has no touch sensitivity whatsoever. (This could be a big down-side depending on how quickly you progress to repertoire that requires some level of interpretation, rather than just "bashing out the notes".)

Advantages are that it has songs built in that you can learn (the lesson modes function in a similar way to Synthesia), and it has a display that shows you the equivalent sheet music notes for the keys you are playing (thus teaching you the basics of note recognition), as well as a Synthesia-style keyboard display at the bottom of the screen (which helps with keyboard geography - knowing your way around the keyboard, basically).

It's great for those beginning baby steps, but as I said, the lack of touch sensitivity will necessitate an upgrade in future. How quickly that upgrade happens is totally up to your progress, and how serious you become. (How serious you are at the start is absolutely no indication of how serious you are a few months in! Piano is a long-term investment, in time, equipment and energy!) If you'd rather go for something that is more "future proof" (something that will respond better to your increasing ability), then I'd steer clear of the YPT-210, to be honest. Something in the Yamaha PSR range might be better for you in that case.

Casio have also upped their game recently, with keyboards that have 61 full-size semi-weighted piano-style keys for about GBP £99. (Check out the CTK-1150.) Again, though, I must warn you that the Casio does not have touch sensitivity either. None of the cheap keyboards do, because the sensor components are expensive and push up the price. Touch sensitive keyboards start appearing at around the GBP £150 mark over here. (I'm in the UK, so you'll have to do some currency conversion to find the equivalent Euro values.)
I had purchased the YPT-210 Friday and practiced on it in the weekend and today. Up until now, which is not much, I am happy with it, especially since it cost only 99 euros(+30 euros for the midi adapter). I hope I get to that stage where this keyboard will not be enough for me.
Moods
Posts: 12

Post by Moods »

I come late to the party, but for the record, you can have an entry-level digital piano with built-in midi for a price that is not terribly higher than that of this type of keyboard.
Although it depends on the region you live in...
Here in Japan I bought my Privia P-130, which is an instrument I am pretty confident will not need an upgrade for quite a while even with 10 years of piano behind me, for the equivalent 250 euro.
I know it's close to double the price, but it's still cheaper than buying a 150e keyboard and then replacing it with a 250e one a year later !
lolwat
Posts: 2

Post by lolwat »

Synthesia is my God. Everything about the program rocks.
I have gone from literally not being able to play a single note on a piano to mastering Ludovico Einaudi's "Nuvole Bianche" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTkzyyv0DuA) in 4 weeks @ 2 Hours a day. I quit video games and with that spare time saved I replaced it with Synthesia - a different type of "game" that has real benefits on my life.
sheraz
Posts: 30

Post by sheraz »

Synthesia is my God. Everything about the program rocks.
I have gone from literally not being able to play a single note on a piano to mastering Ludovico Einaudi's
Is this the only part you mastered? Are you able to read music easily for other melodies? Can you play a melody that you haven't played before in the first try you read it?

I'm also a beginner and have spent 2 weeks so far. I also practice 2 hours a day and more on the weekend. So far I have been able to read music to a good level.
I started with the lessons that came with Synthesia. Since they have level of difficulty, it makes it very easy to follow which one to go with first. The best part about these lessons is that they have great approach. First you learn only right hand. Then a little bit of left hand. Then they are combined. It's been 2 weeks and I think the progress has been very good. But here is something you should try. Get that melody on a music sheet and see if you can play without Synthesia.
lolwat
Posts: 2

Post by lolwat »

sheraz wrote: Is this the only part you mastered? Are you able to read music easily for other melodies? Can you play a melody that you haven't played before in the first try you read it?

I'm also a beginner and have spent 2 weeks so far. I also practice 2 hours a day and more on the weekend. So far I have been able to read music to a good level.
I started with the lessons that came with Synthesia. Since they have level of difficulty, it makes it very easy to follow which one to go with first. The best part about these lessons is that they have great approach. First you learn only right hand. Then a little bit of left hand. Then they are combined. It's been 2 weeks and I think the progress has been very good. But here is something you should try. Get that melody on a music sheet and see if you can play without Synthesia.
Nuvole Bianche was the first ever song I learnt and I can play it now completely through memorization (ie. Dont need synthesia or sheet music). While I realise traditionally people learn music theory first before progressing to increasingly difficult songs, I knew I wouldn't have the motivation to do this so I jumped right into something slightly harder and a song that I really wanted to play. As well as this I have also practiced my scales posted by Electrode in the other thread.

In learning it and having the sheet music option active I can now read sheet music to some degree, but for songs like Nuvole Bianche I am still nowhere near fast enough with my reading to play it fluidly. I know the piano puritans will insist learning to read sheet music well is essential, but for now I'm just enjoying being able to play songs I like and I guess being able to read music well will come later. Besides, why learn to read sheet music if I can learn with Synthesia then have the piece memorised in my head. I really think that Synthesia and programs like it are the future. Pretty soon people will forget how to even write with a pen and paper. :D

With Synthesia I cannot play new melodies on my first try, but it only takes a couple of minutes because I find that since starting with a hardish song I have a reasonable "touch" and spatial sense of keys on the piano.
Pianotehead
Posts: 325

Post by Pianotehead »

lolwat, I agree with you at least up to a point. I tend to use Synthesia more than not, because I can play the songs faster than from a paper sheet. Then I use the falling notes more than the sheet, because that is the fastest way. Don't like to go much down in scores, they are not that good anyway!

Still I have been trying to play more from the paper and sometimes sheet only in the program, by covering almost the bar display with the sheet. Now the sheet display has become so much better, it is more possible. I think I even prefer the moving digital sheet than the paper, because with the paper I keep missing where I was. Of course that's because I keep looking at the keyboard (which I shouldn't do!)

That's another thing Synthesia has helped me with, then I don't look as much away from the sheet (or falling notes.) The human eye notices moving objects rather than stationary ones, and the colored section being played or the bars, are always moving.
mateusqp
Posts: 10

Post by mateusqp »

Sorry for the bump, but this may be interesting...

I started playing piano 1 year and 8 months ago, and against lots of advices I started with difficult pieces...

I learned Prelude, Clair de Lune and Passepied from Suite Bergamasque (Debussy), and some other pieces... So I took some lessons with a pianist from arts institute in my university (I'm an applied maths graduate), he said I had serious problems with technique/posture in my playing and I could hear also that I messed up some parts in the pieces...

After 3 months I quit his lessons and started learning Reflets dans l'eau from Images (Debussy) against his concern to learn simple pieces, but this time I tried every bar really slowly and focusing on technique, I got better results, and did the same for Jeux D'eau (Ravel), and I think I got even better, and now I'm currently learning Ravel's toccata wich is a beast and I think I'm doing good... But my results still far from Professional pianists I think...

I've been playing for 5~6 hours/day ... And also got reproved in some math courses because I started living in arts institute...

As an amateur I wouldn't suggest you anything but to get professional advices, my history is just a curiosity I would like to share...
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jimhenry
Posts: 1904

Post by jimhenry »

mateusqp wrote:But my results still far from Professional pianists I think...
I'm pretty sure you are correct.
mateusqp wrote:I've been playing for 5~6 hours/day ... And also got reproved in some math courses because I started living in arts institute...
Please take this advice very seriously from someone who made a similar mistake many, many years ago. Your time in school is very short even if it doesn't seem like it now. If you are an Applied Math major, spend every waking hour getting good at Applied Math. Take advantage of every opportunity in your school to become the best at what you have chosen as your profession.

You are not going to become a professional musician with your approach or starting at your age. Even very good musicians have a hard time making a living at it. Leave music as an avocation, something you do for love not money. It's OK to spend a few hours a week on it to clear your mind of the stress of studying Applied Math. But don't let music get in the way of doing everything you must do to excel at Applied Math. Getting reproved is nothing to scoff at. People are telling you that you aren't making good use of precious time and opportunities.

You are going to have many years that you will be kicking yourself for squandering the time that you could have spent preparing yourself for a successful career. Applied Mathematicians who can also play piano really well don't do as well as Applied Mathematicians who are really good at math.
Jim Henry
Author of the Miditzer, a free virtual theatre pipe organ
http://www.Miditzer.org/
QNX
Posts: 1

Post by QNX »

The same way he could regret about studying whole time and not bumping his hobbies. :mrgreen:

You think classical pieces are hard and could teach you basic techniques?
They are boring, hand positions and finger movements are old-styled (yea, don't flame me),

Take anime songs transcriptions, especially from asians, jazz improvisations, hip-hop patterns, beats and orchestra style sheet music.
Those will teach you anything you need, although it's not the easiest way :lol:
Calis007
Posts: 10

Post by Calis007 »

What can you learn realistically in general? Well, as someone said (and I believe that he is right):
To reach the entry level where professionalism starts, you need to invest about 10.000 hours.

That's 40 hours per week for 5 years (work) or 20 hours for 10 years (passion while working in a different job) or 10 hours for 20 years (weekends).
Just the amount of experience that you will have after learning and then doing your job for some years.
Then you have seen most of the problems that exist, you can get many things done without even thinking, you know most of the pitfalls and how to avoid the worst ;)
This is when you start to get really good at what you do.

It doesn't mean 10.000 hours will bring you to that level automatically.
You still have to try hard to get better, to find better solutions, to improve your performance.
It just means WITHOUT 10.000 hours you probably wont make it there.

Synthesia will definitly make some of these hours more fun and less boring.
dronepiper
Posts: 1

Post by dronepiper »

Look at the music industry of today. There are plenty of artists who only know basic chords releasing popular material (some no chords at all).

If you want to be a well-paid professional orchestra pianist then it may be too late, but to write some beautiful songs or play with others then the only limit is how much and how well you practice.

That being said; Synthesia seems like a highly effective way to learn material and have a fun time doing it (I have just started using it).
You should listen to that teacher about posture and technique though, it is REALLY important for obvious reasons to have correct posture and hand placement.

Whatever you do, don't neglect your major. If you are so absorbed that it is causing you to fail, then you should take a piano class along with math (if you can afford it). That way you will have the guidance of other musicians and an excuse to practice alot without hurting your gpa! :D
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