I would like to introduce you to a new “toy” that could help your child learn to play the piano, compose their own songs, learn note names and more WITHOUT having to purchase a 500-pound piano! Little Tikes (R) has created the iTikes Piano, a small keyboard that can be played with or without a Apple mobile digital device.
The iTikes Piano offers two ways for kids to learn music skills. The keyboard can be used without a device to play in four different modes, and kids can control the volume and tempo:
- Free play – Allows kids to play the piano without background music.
- Solo – Accompaniment plays as kids play; melody joins in.
- Playback – Pick a song to hear it play with accompaniment. The keys light up so the child can learn the tune.
- Stepper – Music (melody and accompaniment) will play regardless of what keys are played on the keyboard. If the child stops playing, the music stops, too. (The piano will play four songs: “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain”, “Six Little Ducks”, “Yankee Doodle” and “Polly Wolly Doodle”.)
You can also download a free app that will help kids play the piano and various music games while learning note names, musical staff and pitch training. It requires an iPhone® 3GS, iPhone® 4/4S, iTouch® 4, iPad® 1, iPad® 2, or the new iPad® to play.
The app offers 10 different music games:
Play on the keyboard and the animation on the screen moves as if he is playing.
Notes appear on the staff in the form of pinatas. Play the correct note and hit the pinata.
Randomly play notes to paint a splatter painting on the canvas.
Randomly play notes to set off fireworks in the sky.
Guess the Note
Ear training basics. The orchestra plays a note and you have to figure out which one it is. Not as easy as you might think.
Note by note learning of 8 different songs
Notes appear on the staff. Shoot them by playing the correct note on the keyboard.
An introduction to notation and how it coordinates with the keys on the keyboard
Introduces flats and sharps
Introduces the concept that although two notes may have the same name, they are actually higher or lower on the staff and the keyboard
I found the apps to be interesting and fun. Some of them are very difficult and some of them are very easy. I would change several things about how the notation is shown on the screen and how concepts are introduced, but overall this is a fun way for you or your kids to learn about music notation and ear training. My kids loved playing the games, especially the Canvas and Fireworks. My oldest child, 11, picked up on the Shooting Gallery and Play Along games quickly and was doing well.
Not being a tech-geek, I was amazed at how the piano and iPhone communicated wirelessly. Sometimes the communication was poor, but overall, it was fascinating to think about just laying a device on the piano and having them interact. It would light up notes to play or see as they were explaining different concepts. It could “hear” the notes I was playing on the piano and tell me if they were correct or incorrect. Amazing!
Things I would change about this product:
- Include an electrical cord… It requires batteries, but has no plug-in cord. As much as it is going to be played at my house, it should have a plug-in because it is going to use a LOT of batteries!
- Improve the sound quality… The tone quality is really canned, or tinny. In this price range, the tonal quality could be of a much higher quality.
- Fix the volume dial… The volume dial works backwards from every other dial. Instead of turning clockwise to get louder, it works counter-clockwise.
- Include a headphone jack… While I LOVE to hear my children playing, I love it more when they play quietly so as not to wake sleeping babies! And, if we were to bring this in the car (which we would), playing it without headphones is a big no-no!
Things I liked about this piano:
- Frustration-free packaging! The most difficult thing about getting it out of the box was figuring out what all the parts were and whether or not I needed them! There was only one cable tie and it was used to hold in the three iPod holders. If you have an iPad, you won’t even need to cut the cable tie.
- The associated app is free! The app can be easily downloaded and includes pitch training exercises, sight-reading music games, and lessons on musical note names and sound. It is nice that you don’t have to pay extra for it!
- Batteries! It runs on batteries, meaning it is not dependent on a wall plug. That makes it easy to take along in the car, etc.
- Size! It is large enough for a full two octaves, but small enough to fit into a larger backpack. Perfect for taking along!
- Harmony! I have played some keyboards geared towards kids that would only allow one note to sound at a time. This one will play ALL the keys at once, if you sit on it. (I don’t recommend that!) The harmony feature allows kids to learn about the relationship between two or more notes sounded simultaneously. That can be important as they advance in their musical training.
- Without the app – It does lots of cool things without the app. For those who do not have the correct device to use the app, this piano still has lots of features that will get you or your child started on learning!
- Automatic off feature – After a certain period of inactivity, it turns itself off. That is some thinkin’!
Setting this up and playing it are so much easier than hauling a 500-pound piano up the stairs or through the door. Plus, it takes up less space! If your child is interested in learning to play the piano, this is a terrific place to start. And, I suspect that it isn’t just kids who could benefit from this tool. Adults can use it to learn, too! It is almost like having a music teacher that fits in your backpack and is available anytime!
From the company: “Little Tikes® extends their classic brand of toy play into a revolutionary level of learning with the launch of iTikes™, a dynamic line of pre-school toys that can be enhanced through the advanced technology of Apple mobile digital devices. Designed to be enjoyed on their own and with extended capability through exclusively designed free iTikes™ Apps, iTikes™ inspires the love of learning and creates a world of discovery using smart technology and rich, engaging content. iTikes™ products are suitable for kids three years old and up.”
BUY! The iTikes Piano is available from Little Tikes for $49.99.
Also available from iTikes:
iTikes™ Canvas: The iTikes™ Canvas transforms the iPad into a fun and easy to use drawing pad. Without the App the toy comes with a classic magnetic doodle board. With the App the play is expanded. Draw with the conductive pen, play interactive learning games, and press the shapes on the sides to magically stamp images on to your work of art. Price: $39.99; Compatible with iPad, iPad 2 and the New iPad.
iTikes™ Map: The iTikes™ Map and companion App are jam-packed with content. By itself the map comes with a smart-pen that recognizes the images on the map. Through the eyes of the device camera and the technology of Augmented Reality, the map virtually turns into a lifelike playground. Price: $59.99; Compatible with all iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, 4s and iPod touch 3 and 4.
iTikes™ Microscope: There’s more to the world than meets the eye, and the iTikes Microscope allows your child to discover the microscopic world around them like no other microscope can. Works with an iPhone® 3GS, iPhone® 4/4S, iTouch® 4 or iPad® 1, iPad® 2 and the new iPad® to expand learning. Price: $89.99
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