ColorPiano for Chrome will help you learn to play the piano – for free!

Ever wished you could learn to play the piano but don’t have the time or patience or money to go out and get lessons (not to mention the fact that even a baby piano can take up a lot of room)? ColorPiano may be able to come to your rescue, at least in part.

It will help you learn to play the piano, with very little in the way of previous experience, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg. It will also act as a great MIDI player for any of those great MIDI files you have laying around.

Most of us have thought, at one point or another, about learning to play a musical instrument, but it turns into a pipe dream when it becomes clear how much time, energy and money it can cost to get those lessons.

An alternative in the age of cyber-works we now live in is to try and learn on your own, and if you have the drive and/or talent you can do so with the right tools. ColorPiano is a great tool for just that purpose, and it installs as a Chrome extension so you will have it handy anytime you open a browser window.

Colorpiano Screenshot1

ColorPiano has two major functions. The first is that it emulates a piano. Simple, right? Well it’s a bit more complicated than just an emulation program, it simulates the usage of two hands by allowing you to set up auto chords, different signature keys and other step functions of music and piano pieces in specific. For example, clicking on a key on the piano will play that key, but if you hold SHIFT and press that same key you will get a chord played, based on the chord settings you’ve chosen in the configuration menu. It’s a neat concept and helps to get the ideas of how piano is played into your head without having an actual piano or even a physical MIDI device in front of you. Essentially, it will help you learn the theory behind playing piano, even if it doesn’t give you the practice of actually having a piano under your hands. Bear in mind that if you do own a MIDI piano, ColorPiano will let you use it.

Colorpiano Screenshot2Colorpiano Screenshot3

In addition to being a piano simulator, it is also a MIDI player of great performance. You can search through the fairly robust database of MIDI songs in classical genre that they have (everything from Handel to Mozart to nearly any other composer you might think of) on file or you can drag and drop a MIDI file from your computer into the screen and it will load that song instantly. You can also control the speed at which the song is playing, so if you’re learning it for the first time you can slow it down to get it right as many times as you need to. The thing that really struck me as cool about ColorPiano (and the reason for its name) is that each note played will be represented by a color bar of various length and intensity, based on the key provided at the top. This helps you to learn piano music visually as well as with your hands and ears, which is a great way of adding the third dimension to the education process. The only downside I found was that for some of the more complex and modern sound MIDI files (like Mariah Carey songs, for instance) it tends to get kind of loud and dischordant, since it doesn’t differentiate between different volumes for different key presses. That being said, I still found it to be a great educational tool and a lot of fun as well so give it a try and see what you can make of it. Until next time, my friends.

  • Get Color Piano here.

B.C. Tietjens

B.C. Tietjens

Born and raised overseas in a military family, B.C. Tietjens visited and lived in many places all over the world. He has worked on a number of publications and enjoys writing for different audiences, on such diverse subjects as relationships, technology, prestidigitation, self-improvement, entertaining children, and biographical stories. He currently writes primarily for Freewaregenius and enjoys the heck out of it.
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  • No offense but this will not help you learn to play the piano. Even in the article you point out it will only let you learn the theory but even then it wont teach you much. The hardest part of learning the piano has always been training your fingers not learning where the notes are.

    • Eva

      Exactly. Also: While the colour bars might help someone to “reproduce” a piano piece more or less accurately by pressing the marked keys as if it was a computer game (I’ve seen games of that kind before), they will not help you to learn music “visually”. You will not be able to use what you “learned” to play any piece in customary music notation, because the system is completely different (except perhaps modern music in graphical notation, but even for that the graphics I see below the keyboard would need to be turned by 90 degrees). And a normal piano doesn’t change key colours to tell you what to press.

      This may be a fun toy, and one might make a case for it being a musical instrument of its own… but it will indeed not help you to learn play the piano. Before tools like this, there have been self-study books and so on… but in the end, I’m sorry to say that the only way to really learn to play an instrument are real-life lessons by an actual person, with the cost and work that entails. Even dedicated self-studiers using a real instrument may get used to bad habits that only a teacher will spot.

  • B.C.Tietjens

    Really? I have a piano teacher right next to me at the moment who seems to think it would be a major help in learning to play, and so do the two students that tested it with me before I wrote the article. I have to ask, how many instruments do you play and how many have you taught? Because these people that are actually qualified in the realm of teaching and learning piano seem to disagree with you. Try to remember that just because you have an opinion, that doesn’t make it fact and it doesn’t apply to absolutely everyone else.

    • These days I don’t play anything but at school I was taught acoustic guitar, violin, piano and steel drum. As an adult I took up the electric bass guitar for a while.

  • Eva

    If you mean me, I play four instruments and teach two, and I have the appropriate degrees. From the article, I got the impression that the tool was supposed to be *replace* lessons – I don’t dispute that it might be an addition in order to practise certain things, but I don’t think any instrument teacher who takes pride in their own work would accept it as an alternative to what they do, to playing on a real instrument, or to learning how music pieces that haven’t been prepared for it are typically written down.

  • B.C.Tietjens

    Good! Then you undoubtedly read the parts that say it will ‘help you learn’ and how it can be expansively useful beyond just teaching music theory IF you have a MIDI piano. While it may not be a complete alternative to having an actual teacher, it is far more than just an amusing toy and I’m sorry you somehow had the impression that it could replace other teaching methods. I didn’t think I had said that it would. In any case, it is something that can be useful and can, in fact, help you to learn. The most valuable bit of advice ever given to me by my mother (may she rest in peace) is that one must think outside one’s own experiences to discover the true value in something. Don’t you think that saying ” it will indeed not help you to learn play the piano.” is a rather narrow view? When learning something as complex and difficult as a musical instrument (and the piano in particular) does it not help to have more resources than less? I value your opinion as a professional, but as I have already stated, I have other professionals here that have differing opinions on the subject and they seem to think that this actually can be a helpful tool in learning to play the piano as well as learning to visualize music. Hence, the color connections to each note. That’s something that no teacher could reproduce without a program like this, or some other wild innovation and isn’t innovation what we’re really talking about here? Remember that when the first airfoil was put onto a car many engineers said there was no way it could improve gas mileage but that didn’t turn out to be correct either. Also, Eva, I have slightly modified the title of the post to give a clearer notion of its intent, as a result of your valuable feedback. Thanks for reading and for the comments, friends!

  • Piano and other physical instruments are obsolete. They were increasingly better solutions to creating sound than their predecessors, but are surpassed by keyboard and synthesizer. Personally I can’t wait for the Leap device to come out and see the musical potential of creating music just by waving hands in the air, the much more infinite variety possible with that than moving your hands all around a piano or spending years learning how to hold down strings on a guitar as you pluck with the other hand.

    • Keyboard and synthesizers cannot reproduce the warmth and resonance you get from a real piano.

  • B.C. Tietjens

    Steve, admittedly that is an exciting idea, but I believe that musicians will always cherish the hard work and classic artistry that goes with learning a physical instrument like a piano or a guitar. Embracing new tech is always a great thing but, especially where art is concerned, history and tradition are also muy importante. I personally hope that both types of music-making methods will stick around and continue to enrich our lives. Thanks for your comments!

  • Bert