Developer: Orient Maple
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 2.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★☆☆☆
iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★☆☆
User Interface Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆

A number of music apps featuring piano-style keyboards have appeared for the iPhone and iPod touch. All wrestle with the problem of how to squeeze a large range of piano keys onto a tiny screen. Amazing Piano by OrientMaple tries to crack this nut by providing the user with an onscreen QWERTY keyboard. Press a letter key and a corresponding piano note plays.

The app has two modes. In practice mode, you pick one of Amazing Piano’s 27 built in songs. these include the usual suspects, like “Edelweiss” and “Song of Joy, ” and each can be played at three tempos—slow, medium and fast. Once you’ve selected a song and a tempo, letters scroll through a target in the middle of the screen one by one. As each does, press the key for that letter on the QWERTY keyboard and a note of the melody plays. Free mode, as its name implies, let’s the user “noodle around” on the keyboard.

Amazing Piano’s approach allows a person unfamiliar with a piano keyboard to play music just by knowing the English language alphabet. While it’s an interesting feature, it doesn’t seem very useful. Actually, it introduces an unnecessary level of complexity. This becomes clear when you compare Amazing Piano with a similar app, Junpei Wada’s FingerPiano. It too let’s a novice play songs on piano but in a more straightforward manner by using scrolling guides. This means, with FingerPiano, you don’t even need to know the English language alphabet to play.

The piano sounds that Amazing Piano produces are lifelike enough in that they’ve apparently been sampled from an actual acoustic instrument. However, they sound as if they were recorded at a fairly low resolution. Consequently, there is a harsh grittiness to them that can become irritating.

Amazing Piano suffers from several other significant weakness as well. First, it takes two fingers to play a sharp or flat note (a black key on a piano-style keyboard); you have to press and hold the equivalent of the shift key on the app’s QWERTY keyboard as you then press a letter key. This is a true hassle. Second, you can’t play notes directly on Amazing Piano’s onscreen piano-style keyboard. Third, you can’t pause a song you’re trying to play.

I honestly can’t think of a single reason why anyone would bother to buy Amazing Piano, especially when a similar but significantly better app like FingerPiano is available for a dollar more.

Posted in: iPhone Apps and Games, Music, Reviews

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