This year, Casio launched a new app called Chordana Play, which is available for both Android and Apple iOS. Dr Chris Stanbury looks at what it offers both the beginner and established musician.
Thinking back to my earliest memories of Casio keyboards from the early nineties, they’ve always had some pretty interesting education features that can teach you how to play. Casio’s famous lighted keys system, where the keys light up to show you which notes to play was a major development in home keyboard playing, and they’re still as successful today as when they were introduced over twenty years ago.
Today, the idea of using a phone or tablet to learn has become much more mainstream, with lots of online courses, podcasts and apps to help you do anything from learn a new language to improve your cooking skills. However, the apps available to help you play the piano have been few and far between up till now. So, is Chordana the answer to using a smart device and a digital instrument together?
Firstly, Casio have made Chordana accessible to a wide range of their instruments. From a CTK-2500 electronic keyboard to the PX-870 Privia piano, it’s possible to connect many of their current products to the app and get started straight away. For the keyboards, this can be done with a 3.5mm audio cable (the type that you often use to connect your music player to a car stereo). Once you’ve connected up your smartphone or tablet, you can hear the sound of the app through the speakers of your keyboard and, if you have lighted keys, you’ll see the keys light up as you play any of the built-in songs.
There are 50 songs included in Chordana, ranging from favourite beginner’s pieces to popular classics such as Beethoven’s Fur Elise, all with a simulated orchestral accompaniment. Once you have selected a song, you can see the piano part as either traditional music notes, or what Casio calls ‘Piano Roll’. Piano Roll is proving very popular on YouTube, where there are thousands of piano tutorials using this same format.
However, one of the main advantages of Chordana Play over video tutorials is that, if you’ve connected it to a digital piano such as a new Privia model (via a USB cable), you’ll find that it is much more interactive. This means that you can slow down the performance, repeat difficult sections and even ask the app to wait until you find the rights notes before continuing. Overall, this is so much better than watching tutorials, as you’re directly involved from the start and will learn much quicker.
Chordana play isn’t just for beginners, however. Advanced players will appreciate the ability to load in any standard MIDI file. I’ve tried it with a range of repertoire, including electronic versions of Chopin, Beethoven and Debussy and was very impressed with how clear straightforward the score was presented. The ability to listen to Chordana playing one hand, whilst I played the other was very useful and helped me gain an overall insight into the music much more quickly that if I was playing alone.
Overall, Chordana promises to be a great addition to your home practice.
As a free download, it’s defintiely worth trying. For more information, see http://web.casio.com/app/en/play/function.html