China Exclusive: Virtual music maestro

( Xinhua ) Updated: 2015-06-02 16:49:33

At the age of 27, Zhao Yutian achieved his childhood dream - to play the piano. He could not read the score, but with the help of his iPad and the lights on his keyboard, his fingers danced to Chopin's Nocturne.

Zhao's family could not afford a piano when he was a boy. Although "with no more worries about food and clothes" nowadays, the Internet entrepreneur no longer has the time to learn to play the piano from the very beginning either. Now, he has the smart piano and he can learn to play a tune within a few days, if not hours.

Many other Chinese have their musical inclinations stifled as children, when they were subjected to complicated music theory, persistent finger training, and practicing scales, melodies and rhythms.

Wang Zhengsheng, 39, describes such music students as "ascetic monks". Wearing jeans, a blue T-shirt, and a pair of black semi-rimless glasses, the innovator says he believes that a smart piano integrated with mobile Internet can lower the barrier to musical skills.

In October last year, Wang's company, Qule Technology created a smart piano, which features a line of striking LED lights on the keyboard. When a player connects the piano with a smart phone or other terminal to install a piano music application, which contains thousands of scores for a user to choose from, the LED will shine synchronously with the tune.

"Users do not have to look at the scores," says Wang. "They just follow the order of the lights above the keyboard."

A user can also speed up or slow down the tempo on the app, and the music will continue playing until he or she presses the right key.

Wang and his team believe that the positions of the keys and how long one should press the keys are enough for a beginner to learn an easy piano piece.

He named the smart piano "GEEK" - "Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were both geeks," he says - which sounds like "jike", the Chinese word for "instant".

He hopes the smart piano will help music wannabes play quickly. He spent only three months learning Castle in the Sky, by Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi. "More talented people take less time," he says.

Piano tuition in China took off with the reform and the opening up of the country more than three decades ago. In 1980, China manufactured more than 10,000 pianos a year, and production has stabilized at 350,000 since 2003.

At the end of the 1980s, pianos were still viewed as a luxury item, but "tiger moms" would invest their savings in one so their children could master "the king of musical instruments". Internationally renowned Chinese pianists Lang Lang and Li Yundi grew up in this period.

Piano tutor Chen Xuejia, 32, started learning the instrument at the age of 8 in Dalian, northeast China's Liaoning Province. It was his parents' decision rather than his own. "I was very obedient," Chen says. In junior high school, he almost gave it up, "because I thought, as a boy, I should be good at sports."

Learning was tough. Chen had one lesson a week and practiced every day for three to six hours.

Previous Page 1 2 Next Page

Editor's Picks
Hot words

Most Popular