Steinway & Sons, the venerable, famed makers of pianos, has gone where few companies of their generational stature dared to go, embracing technology and shrinking the size of a piano to the size of an iPad for their free Etude 2.0 app.
Popular video games like RockBand and Guitar Hero allowed kids with the love of music and the dream of instrumental prowess "play" their favorite songs without actually learning a thing and it's just one reason digital has been the death of music in the ears of many audiophiles and traditionalists.
Steinway & Sons hope Etude can be a tool merging traditional methods of teaching and learning piano while embracing the possibilities of the digital age and popularity of musician-as-video game concept.
It's not all sweet old ladies and metronomes anymore. One of the new components ofEtude 2.0 is the interactive sheet music, designed specifically for iPad that helps learners familiarize themselves with the concept of reading music, correct finger placement on the piano's keys, and tempo.
Video game fans will also see an interface called "Piano Roll Mode" that will be familiar to them if they've played those other games with one difference being at the end of the song, they might have learned something because these different modes and views both come with the ability to listen to the users' playback as well as a correct playing of the piece.
One of the things that allowed video games like Rock Band to become popular is the way the video game manufacturers navigated the viper den of copyright law and allowed fans to play familiar songs. Etude 2.0 has its own sheet music store with free and premium songs that range from classical standards to contemporary radio hits.
A little-known secret is piano was my first instrument, my first attempt at a career in music rather than a music writer. It was the first in a series of multiple musical failures wherein I learned I can neither play nor sing. I took two years of lessons with a very kind, quiet, older lady who was very patient with me as I struggled to master basic concepts. I wasn't horrific for a third grader; I found Middle C with relative ease. It turns out my hands were (mildly) better suited for QWERTY rather than a baby grand.
I'm not saying Etude 2.0 could have changed that all those years ago but my love of music and gadgets has me wondering what I might be able to do with a piano now. If God blesses me with another 59 years and takes me to age 97 like the legendary Pinetop Perkins, maybe there can be a second attempt at a first act in American life.