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.
The Learning Pack is this cool extra thing you can get for the desktop version that adds even more to Synthesia.
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.
Search for your favorite song name or author and add the word MIDI to the search.
Synthesia can play any song that uses the MIDI file format. This forum post is a good starting point to find thousands of MIDI songs.
Otherwise, if you're looking for something specific, you're almost always a quick Google search away. There are usually lots of versions of the same song to choose from and they're all usually free.
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.
If you are having trouble with speed, using the "Synthesia Configuration" tool to reduce the video resolution the game uses will often help. In Windows, sometimes switching to the OpenGL renderer (in the same tool) can help, too.
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.
Otherwise, if your iPad includes a Retina display, you are in for a treat.
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:
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.
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.
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!
The desktop and iPad versions of Synthesia must be unlocked separately.
Having a Learning Pack key work everywhere was always the goal. Unfortunately Apple has a rule that prevents it. Before they allow an app to be listed in the App Store, the only way an app can allow additional features to be made available for a price is if that app uses Apple's in-app purchase system. Allowing an unlock based on something you purchased at the Synthesia website would circumvent Apple's in-app purchase system, so it wouldn't be allowed.
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.
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.
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.