Easy Piano Hands-On

We tickle the plastic keys to Canada's national anthem in Easy Piano.


Easy Piano

Nothing in life is easy, especially when it comes to learning a musical instrument. In place of weekly lessons in the home of your neighborhood piano teacher, Easy Piano on the Nintendo DS teaches you the basics of sight-reading music and comes bundled with a few games to keep your attention. Your chances of becoming a virtuoso after completing the game's 10 lessons are slim, but repetition and the desire to expand to a full-sized keyboard after you're through with Easy Piano could lead to a longer-lasting musical career.

Learn how to read music, one clef at a time.
Learn how to read music, one clef at a time.

Easy Piano comes with a small keyboard attachment that plugs into the Game Boy Advance slot on the DS. Even though you have only one octave to work with in the base clef or treble clef, you can still play tunes like "Happy Birthday" and "The Star-Spangled Banner"--as well as Canada's national anthem. You can use the touch screen as well, but because the screen can't detect more than one input, it'll be easier to use the attachment. The lessons are broken up into segments that go over things like notes, timing, rests, and other basics so that you can learn to read music. Once you're done, there are 15 activities, or minigames, that reinforce what you've just learned.

Activities range from simple games like filling in the gap on the clef so that the sliding notes don't fall off, to clapping or blowing into the microphone to the beat. The more interactive games have you moving the right notes into a corresponding basket or pressing the right key on the keyboard to zap the notes as they fly across the upper screen. When you're through with all of that, you can play any of the game's 40 pieces, from Madonna's "Material Girl" to Pachelbel's "Canon," to show off your skills. There's a female avatar onscreen that you can dress up and put on a virtual stage as you tickle the plastic keys. Two difficulty settings, beginner and virtuoso, are available, and the game plays like every other rhythm game, where it's about timing and how long you hold the key.

To make musical masterpieces on your own, the game comes with a composition mode that lets you drag and drop notes onto the staff or add notes by using the virtual keyboard. It will play back what you've created, and you can switch instruments as well to change up the tune. You can save up to three compositions that are 36 bars in length. The layout isn't always intuitive, because there's a lot to fit on such a small screen, but tutorials are available for every aspect of the game, so you can always review them if need be. It doesn't look like Easy Piano will replace traditional music and theory lessons, but it sure beats long practice sessions at the piano.

Easy Piano is available only on the Nintendo DS and DS Lite and is set to be released on March 30 for $39.99.

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