Synthesia
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Synthesia?

Synthesia is a game that can help you learn how to play the piano using falling notes.

Synthesia lowers the barrier to entry for beginners. You can get started immediately without knowing how to read sheet music. Playing songs right away provides great motivation to stick with the piano where you can learn traditional sheet music notation over time as you go along, should you choose to.

Synthesia is also great for more experienced players. It's a nice platform for quickly sight-reading a new piece, and nearly any song can be found in the MIDI format that Synthesia understands. Synthesia is also a nice companion tool for daily practice to complement piano lessons. The scoring and progression systems help keep track of personal growth on each piece.

How does it work?

How Synthesia Works

Watch the notes fall and follow along.  Or, connect a piano and join in the fun.

Synthesia reads MIDI files and generates the falling note (and sheet music) display from it.

If you connect a music keyboard (using USB or MIDI adapter) then Synthesia reads from it and scores your playing.

Don't have a digital piano? Check out some that we recommend.

Where can I find more songs?

Check out the Synthesia Music Store for the highest quality MIDI songs.

Finding high-quality songs in MIDI format can be really challenging. So we decided to help solve the problem by creating full MIDI arrangements of your favorite songs.

Our goal is to give you the highest quality MIDI version of each song, at a super reasonable price. All songs are fully licensed by the original publisher for digital download. We add new songs every week, so check back regularly!

What are the system requirements?

On the desktop: a Windows PC or Mac made in the last 5 years.

The only requirement is some form of hardware accelerated graphics, which virtually every computer now has.

To use online features like the online recital scoreboards, you'll need an active Internet connection.

Linux users can run Synthesia under Wine. Tips for getting things up and running can be found at WineHQ.

On iPad: anything will do.

Synthesia for iPad was designed to work on every iPad. The first-generation iPad is a little underpowered compared to the rest, but it will still work. iOS 5.0 or greater is required.

If your iPad includes a Retina display, you are in for a treat.

On Android: a 6" or larger screen running Android 3.1 or later.

For now Synthesia is best experienced on a tablet-sized device. The larger the screen the better. Some very old tablets may not run as smooth as newer devices.

The built-in Windows synth is slow and doesn't sound great.

Use your keyboard's synth or a free software driver.

If your keyboard has an on-board synth, that's usually your best bet. It will be the fastest and usually sounds pretty nice. Otherwise, one great (and free!) alternative is using a software MIDI driver and a "Sound Font" to go with it.

CoolSoft has made an easy to use MIDI synth called VirtualMIDISynth. Here's how to get it up and running in Synthesia:

  1. Download VirtualMIDISynth from the CoolSoft site.
  2. Download one of the recommended SoundFonts from the same page.
  3. Install VirtualMIDISynth, then extract/install the SountFont someplace convenient.
  4. Run the "Configure VirtualMIDISynth" start menu program, click the plus icon, find the .SF2 SoundFont file, then click OK.
  5. On the "Advanced options" tab, lower the "Additional output buffer" setting as low as you can. Zero is fastest, but you might have to determine what's best for your system experimentally.

Once you've done that, you'll see a new output device on the Keyboard Setup screen in Synthesia named "CoolSoft VirtualMIDISynth". It should be much faster and sound better than the built-in Windows synth.

How can I make the songs I create compatible with Synthesia?

Every MIDI song is compatible, but there are a few guidelines to make them even better.

In general, Synthesia works with any MIDI file. Though, whether you're putting together lessons for students or you want to share a song you wrote with other Synthesia users, there are a few easy steps you can follow to get the most out of Synthesia's extended features.

Here is a short guide on how to Create Great Content for Synthesia.

I'm running into problems with Synthesia. What can I do?

Tell us about it in the forums or email.

The goal is that Synthesia just works for every single user. If you find something out of the ordinary, please report it!

Head over to the bug reports section of the forum and make a post. Everyone there is friendly. In an emergency, email us directly.

I already have a desktop unlock key, can I use it with the iPad or Android version?

The desktop and tablet versions of Synthesia must be unlocked separately.

One of Apple's policies is the reason. Before they will list an app in the App Store, any for-pay features must use Apple's in-app purchase system, exclusively. Allowing an unlock purchased at the Synthesia website would break that rule.

To compensate for requiring more than one purchase, the unlock in Synthesia for iPad is priced much lower than the desktop version. Hopefully that makes an unfortunate situation a little better.

Google Play doesn't have the same rule on the Android side, but for now we're keeping the unlock system the same on all tablets. That way things are consistent and less confusing for everyone.

Can you give a brief history of the project?

Synthesia continues to evolve into the best practice tool for beginners and experienced players alike.

Dec-2006: The project is introduced as "Piano Hero". It doesn't support musical keyboards at this point and the site runs on donations.

Feb-2007: Mac version requests prompt a donation drive for a development Mac. A couple of articles help accomplish the goal on the first day!

Apr-2007: Activision requests the name be changed to avoid confusion with Guitar Hero. A name contest is held. Synthesia wins.

May-2007: The Mac version is released and the project renamed to Synthesia at the same time.

2008: Requests for sheet music prompt the creation of the Learning Pack: an optional paid upgrade that will include educational features and grow over time. Learning Pack sales replace the donation-based model.

2009: Synthesia continues to grow rapidly and add new features to both the free download and Learning Pack.

2010: In addition to regular releases, Synthesia is featured on the UK television show Strictly Come Dancing.

2011: Synthesia becomes the most popular way to produce piano tutorial videos online.

Apr-2012: Features are added to help educators use Synthesia as a teaching platform and create content more easily.

Dec-2012: Synthesia makes its debut on the iPad.

2013: Synthesia goes international! Six display languages are added including Spanish, French, German, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, and Traditional Chinese.

2013: The Music Store launches, providing the highest quality MIDI versions of popular songs anywhere.

2014: Track splitting, dozens of major feature improvements across the board, new languages, and a unified unlock model across all platforms makes Synthesia 10 the best release to date.

2014: Synthesia is released for Android tablets. Synthesia is now available on more devices than it's not.