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 February 2008

Editors' Choice Music

eMedia Learn to Play Keyboard Pack

Reviewed by Terry Kibiloski


The eMedia Learn to Play Keyboard Pack (Retail $149.95), which includes a USB MIDI Keyboard and Win/Mac CD-ROM, is an incredible teaching tool that uses sound teaching methodology to provide you with serious keyboard/piano lessons. This product is so good that we recommend you use it to learn about music and the keyboard before you go to a piano teacher. Having gone through piano lessons at a very young age, with a dear old piano teacher named Mrs. McIntyre, I have first hand knowledge of the tedium and the painfully slow speed of traditional piano lessons. With this product, Irma Irene Justicia, M.A., who has taught at the renowned Juilliard School of Music, guides you with videos and over 300 step-by-step lessons that provide incredible detail and depth at whatever pace you need to learn.

The eMedia Piano and Keyboard Method begins with the basics such as hand position, rhythm and playing on black keys, and moves on to music notation, sight reading, scales, and up to songs like Billy Joelís Piano Man and Elton Johnís Candle in the Wind. Songs and exercises are enhanced by live recorded audio, variable-speed MIDI keyboard tracks and colorful MIDI accompaniments. Interactive review and ear training screens help reinforce new concepts and develop your ear. With the included electronic MIDI keyboard, you get specific feedback on playing mistakes, including wrong notes and rhythms.

The eMedia Learn to Play Keyboard Pack is an ideal affordable solution for anyone who has thoughts about learning piano or keyboard. This bundle combines the acclaimed eMedia Piano & Keyboard Method software with a robust, high quality, full-size, touch-sensitive, 49-key, MIDI keyboard that you play through your computer speakers. This specially-designed MIDI keyboard features pitch bend and modulation controllers, MIDI out port, USB port and a sustain-pedal input jack. You simply connect the keyboard to your PC or Macintosh computer's USB port using the included USB cable. The small footprint of the keyboard makes it ideal for use on your computer desk.


 As you progress through the 316 lessons, using music from classics to popular modern hits, you can have an interactive keyboard show you which keys should be pressed, and which fingers to use on each hand. Music tracking highlights the notes being played on the screen, making it simple to follow along. If you have a friend who is learning the guitar, you can even have the guitar chords displayed so your friend can play along.


As professional piano instructor Irma Irene Justicia guides you with over 70 videos with demonstrations of techniques, you will find that many of the videos include split-screen displays with close-ups for a clearer perspective. High-quality multi-track recorded audio is included for every song and exercise. Audio playback options include piano only, voice only, and full audio, including both piano and voice. A great feature for beginners is the variable-speed MIDI, which slows down the audio to any tempo, while the animated keyboard shows song fingering as the music plays. This allows you to play along and learn at the pace best suited to your skill level. MIDI playback options let you select left or right hand only, or a tick metronome track to guide you. Colorful variable-speed MIDI accompaniments are also available and can be fun to use.

 Using the electronic MIDI-compatible keyboard, you get specific feedback on note and rhythm mistakes made while playing to help you get it right the next time. Clicking on an individual feedback balloon brings up a keyboard showing you exactly what mistake was made and what should have been played. Also, an overall percentage score summarizes how well you did on the song.


 With the click of a button, you can get suggestions as to which "voice" to use on your MIDI keyboard to get the best sound for the song you are playing.


In between lessons, interactive review and ear training screens help reinforce new concepts and develop your ear.


The on-board metronome lets you set your own tempo and work on your speed, rhythm and timing. It provides a visual cue and/or audio tick, plus a full range of tempi, from largo to presto.


If you want to record your play via your computerís microphone, a built-in recorder feature makes this incredibly easy. This lets you compare your recordings with the instructor's version, fine tune your skills and share your recordings with friends and family.

The eMedia Learn to Play Keyboard Pack will work on virtually any computer system purchased in the past few years. Specific requirements are shown below.


  • Windows 98/NT/2000/Me/XP

  • CD-ROM drive, sound card, 256+ color display

  • 32 MB of free RAM, 31 MB of free disk space


  • Power PC (or faster)

  • Mac OS 9.0+ or Mac OS X 10.2+

  • CD-ROM drive, 256+ color display

  • 32 MB of free RAM, 31 MB of free disk space 

There is also an educatorís edition available. The eMedia Piano & Keyboard Method Educational Edition includes all the features and content of the consumer version of Piano & Keyboard Method. The Educational Edition of eMedia Piano & Keyboard Method tracks the progress of up to 250 users per computer and includes a printed Teacherís Guide. The Educational Edition can also be installed on a network. Discounted multi-station lab packs and site licenses are also available.

For more information about this product, click on the image below.

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