Picking up a new instrument is never easy. Which is why Roli’s LUMI created such a buzz when it hit Kickstarter last year. Now on sale at last, it makes learning piano light work.
First thing you’ll likely notice is what a looker LUMI is. Power it up and a rainbow of lights glissandos its way up the keys. While playing songs and taking lessons each natural note is coded with the colour of the spectrum, lighting up to indicate which should be played when.
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Aside from this riot of colour, it’s a very streamlined, lightweight device: barring a power button and USB-C port, the only real adornment are plug-and-play connectors on either end allowing you to hook it up to Roli Blocks devices or connect multiple LUMIs together. And to get the full experience, you’re definitely going to want to stretch to two – each two-octave device is only really suitable for one hand at a time.
When you fire up the associated app on your phone or tablet, pairing a single or even several LUMIs over Bluetooth is a dream. We did have some issues on a subsequent session though, forcing us to plug them in to a laptop and check for firmware upgrades.
Both sections of the app offer a beautifully modular approach to learning. Broken down into individual lessons and challenges, the Learn section comprises interactive videos and scrolling Guitar-Hero-esque sections for picking up technique. Meanwhile, the Play section not only offers songs for all skill levels but allows you to change the speed of playback and switch between playing with the right hand, the left or both, helping you slowly build up the challenge.
Playing the LUMI is a joy – it’s very responsive, with no perceptible delay between pressing keys and hearing the notes. The only slight niggle is that, as the keys don’t travel all that far, it’s easy to accidentally trigger notes twice.
The app also still has some slight teething problems. Occasionally we completed a chapter of lessons, only to return later to find our progress had been forgotten. There are also a few oversights: while you can slow things down and easily skip backwards and forwards in the Play section of the app, you’re unable to do either in individual lessons, forcing you to sit through introductory videos again.
Ultimately, these minor issues still don’t take the shine off LUMI. It’s by far the most effective music-learning system we’ve seen so far.