Synthesia – a case study

The keyboard trainer software Synthesia (not to be confused with Synesthesia (a neurological condition!) runs on a computer connected to a MIDI output of an electronic keyboard.  Music scores are displayed on the computer screen as (what I call) falling bombs onto a virtual keyboard at the bottom of the screen.  A bomb represents a note and when it lands on the virtual keyboard, the user plays the corresponding key on the real electronic keyboard.  The software verifies the accuracy of the playing.  It also controls the rate of the falling bombs so that the learner can start slow and then speed up as learning and muscle memory progress.  You can find YouTube videos that show how it works; just search YouTube with “synthesia piano” for example.  The forerunner of Synthesia, Piano Hero, was only recently (by my standards) invented in 2006.  Whereas the early incarnation of it was free, the renamed Synthesia app was popular enough that it is now being sold.  How well is unknown to me.  This app demonstrates just how quickly clever and fun ideas like this can catch fire on the internet.

Of course, Synthesia is not really sheet music notation, but it is a tool that supports learning to play music in a fun and intuitive fashion.  (Their URL even suggests it’s just a game:   However, it could perhaps suggest that a well-designed music notation app might also spread like a meme on the internet and even be profitable. 

Interestingly, a Klavar Facebook group has named itself "Synthesia on paper!".  That pretty much illustrates their similarity, it's just that one is static, the other dynamic.