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Let Concert Hands teach you to play piano

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August 25, 2009

The Concert Hands track and wrist guides in front of a piano, waiting for you to start lea...

The Concert Hands track and wrist guides in front of a piano, waiting for you to start learning

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Have you ever dreamed of playing piano but the thought of committing yourself to years of grueling lessons fills you with dread? Then you just might be interested in the Concert Hands system, where your hands are gently guided back and forth along a track positioned just in front of the keys, and pulses prompt your fingers as each note is displayed on a screen in front of you. According to the developers, the technology will have you playing fluently in a few short days.

Easy-to-use Windows-based software converts a song file into usable signals which are sent to the unit's controller box. The controller box then distributes these signals between the left and right wrist pilots and individual finger sleeves. When the music starts the wrist pilots guide the user's hands to the correct positions along the keyboard via pulley systems driven by two motors. When a note needs to be played, the appropriate one of ten finger sleeves receives a pulse to lightly indicate the action to the user, who follows the progress of the song using the software.

Over time, and with sufficient prompting from the system, the user will develop enough muscle memory, confidence and ability to enable them to play a piece without any help. The developer (Rubato Productions of West Palm Beach, Florida) reckons that users will be playing fluently within days compared to the months or even years when following more traditional teaching methods. Tests have been conducted by the company on a number of wannabe musicians of varying ages with very positive results. And no, the system does not give its user an electric shock when bum notes are played!

What you get for your money

The Concert Hands system is available in two editions, the full product and a cut-down mobile version. The full product costs USD$9995 and buyers will get:
  • Left hand and right hand wrist pilots
  • A six-foot hand guidance track with two motors that travel left and right along the track
  • Adjustable aluminum track stand
  • Left Hand Wrist Controller/Five Finger Signal Sleeves
  • Right Hand Wrist Controller/Five Finger Signal Sleeves
  • 120V AC Power Supply
  • Controller Board
  • Concert Hands Software Program compatible with Windows XP/Vista (and Windows on Mac)
  • PDF Users Manual and ten song files
The full system fits both 88 and 76 key pianos and electronic keyboards. The mobile product weighs in at a slightly lighter USD$4995 and for that you'll get:
  • Left Hand Wrist Controller/Five Finger Signal Sleeves
  • Right Hand Wrist Controller/Five Finger Signal Sleeves
  • 120V AC Power Supply
  • Controller Board
  • Concert Hands Software Program compatible with Windows XP/Vista (and Windows on Mac)
  • PDF Users Manual and ten song files

Custom files of your favorite songs can also be provided. Each system is built to order with US-made components and takes between four and eight weeks for delivery, giving you more than enough time to acquire the rest of the equipment needed to run the system. Sadly, neither version comes with a piano or keyboard so you'll need to provide your own. Likewise you'll also need to find a PC running Windows XP or Vista or a Mac running Windows or a laptop, with at least a 400MHz Pentium processor and 128MB of disk space.

Future developments

When Gizmag asked if future designs might hide all of the ugly wiring of the finger sleeves in some sort of comfortable-fit lightweight glove, the company confirmed that the current finger sleeve design will continue as is for now but future redesigns might be possible. This will likely depend on user reception and feedback.

Future incarnations of the technology in other musical instruments are being planned for the near future. This sort of thing will likely work well for the guitar and for wind instruments like the saxophone.

Personally, I think this application of haptic technology has real potential and if company projections are accurate, could make this fast-track learning approach a rewarding and enjoyable experience for anyone lucky enough to be able to afford it. But there's the rub - it's an expensive product, especially when you add the cost of an instrument and PC/Mac/laptop to the system.

That said, the developers report a lot of interest in the product, so maybe weighing up the initial expense against the claimed ease of use and success in learning to play will make it worth the initial outlay.

Rubato Productions has a demo unit set up in West Palm Beach, Florida. If you want to see for yourself how effective the system is, contact the company to arrange an appointment (and be sure to let us know what you think via the comments).

Have a look at the video overview of the product below and let us know what you think:

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
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