Piano app gets one playing

Gizmo ZONE : The new Skoove app promises to make your musical dreams come true

Piano app gets one playing

I’ve long fancied the idea of astonishing my friends by whipping a cloth off a keyboard and playing a glorious rendition of festive tunes à la Downton Abbey Christmas special. But apart from prodding the odd key, I’ve never been near a piano.

Enter Skoove, the app that promises to “make your musical dreams come true”. The current beta version of the app is free (it’ll cost between £3.50 and £7.50 a month when commercially released), which is a boon considering an electric keyboard costs around 60 quid.

Unlike an analogue piano book that perches neatly on the music stand, this guide has to be hooked up to my computer. Cue a precarious attempt to balance my ancient laptop behind a cumbersome keyboard on my tiny coffee table. I had envisaged propping up an iPad on the music stand, but as the app doesn’t yet work with mobile devices, it was cables galore.

Once wired up, however, I was off. The screen shows the score for each song, together with a representation of a keyboard and a disembodied pair of hands hovering above it. They deftly play the tune, then it’s up to you to follow step by step, learning the keys for each hand before putting the two together to play in time with the hands.

While learning the keys, the digital guide moves on to the next note only when you’ve got the previous one right. Irritatingly, however, I have to keep taking my hands off the piano to click “OK” on endless notification messages. Which isn’t really OK, though the company says this is its “top of our priority to-do list” to fix.

Once you feel confident, you’re ready to play in time with the hovering hands which, I suspect, are connected to an instructor wondering quite how he’s ended up with this gig instead of a rousing recital at the Boston Symphony Hall. Slowly, slowly, I play Our House by Madness with my right hand. I can take it only at funeral pace (more like Our Hearse) but, hey, I get the hang of it. Hurrah! Then it’s time to work out what the left hand should be doing — which is where it all goes wrong. Having played the clarinet for umpteen years I can read the treble clef just fine, but everything goes a bit “through the looking glass” when it comes to the bass clef.

It’s a kindly instructor, but Skoove needs to dangle a few more carrots if I’m going to stick with it.

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