LUMI Keys Keyboard is Flashy and Fun, but Sometimes Misses a Note – Review Geek


Rating:
6/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $299

LUMI Keys against sheet music background
Suzanne Humphries

Learning to play a musical instrument proficiently is something that’s on pretty much everyone’s to-do list, yet it’s something few people actually accomplish. Why? Because the learning process can be difficult, lengthy, and at times even boring. But ROLI, the company behind LUMI Keys, is trying to fix that with its bright and colorful app-driven keyboard.

Here’s What We Like

  • Bright colors are fun and exciting
  • App is beautiful and has a high production value
  • Teaches technique and music theory basics

And What We Don’t

  • Pricy, especially with the software subscription
  • Song difficulty settings are all over the place
  • Sometimes loads incorrect song

When LUMI Keys was first pitched by my team, I jumped at the opportunity to test it. I am a pianist. I’ve studied piano at university and taught piano lessons to students of all ages for years. Because I love the piano, I was curious to see what LUMI Keys offered, how it could make piano lessons more approachable and exciting, and how it could benefit the world of music education overall.

Over the many years I’ve taught lessons, I’ve seen child and adult students alike eagerly start lessons, then get frustrated when they aren’t proficient (or playing alongside a professional symphony) in two or three months. Becoming a good pianist (let alone a great one) is something that takes years of regular practice and serious study, so it’s understandable when students start to feel frustrated or bored during the learning process.

But LUMI Keys offers a way to “be more musical in minutes,” as it says on its website. It also wants students to have fun while learning. And if it offers a successful way to shorten the learning process and help students make a solid connection with the skills needed to understand and play the instrument proficiently, that’s big news.

But does LUMI Keys actually work? And is it worth the investment?

What is LUMI Keys and Who is It For?

LUMI Keys is a small keyboard that works alongside the lessons and song library in its companion mobile app. It’s branding itself as “the easiest way to learn the piano” and the fun way to unlock your musical potential. It is aimed at beginner pianists and casual enthusiasts.

The Bluetooth-enabled keyboard offers to gamify piano lessons and use colorful lights and familiar tunes to make the instrument easy enough for anyone to learn. Instead of focusing on sheet music and musical notation, LUMI uses its colors both on the keyboard and the Guitar Hero-style app interface to connect notes to your fingers. Approaching playing this way is, indeed, easier, and helps you get a feel for how you are supposed to interact with a piano.

It also eliminates one of the most nerve-racking part of the lesson experience: the teacher. There are lessons from real piano coaches inside the app, but the ability to watch and rewatch them at your leisure (rather than listening to some daunting stranger talk at you every week), is great for both anxious learnings and for reinforcing concepts as needed. Lessons cover basics like posture and how to play a C Major scale, and progress up to reading music notation and learning the fundamentals of music theory.

LUMI’s lightweight small size makes it perfect for playing (and storing) anywhere. You can pick it up and move it to other rooms in your house, unlike a digital keyboard or grand piano, or even take it with you to work, school, or on a vacation. It also has tiny DNA connectors on each side, allowing you to connect multiple LUMI Keys together to form a larger keyboard. It requires a smartphone or tablet (and the companion app for iOS or Android) in order to use it, however.

The LUMI Keys bundle is only up as a pre-order at the moment and not yet available for direct purchase. It runs a truly steep $299 but also includes a case, a $50 voucher for LU

MI Complete (which is access to all of LUMI’s lessons and songs), and free shipping.

The Setup

LUMI Keys powered off against sheet music background
Suzanne Humphries

If LUMI Keys is aiming to make learning piano easy, setting it up should be easy too, right? Luckily, it is. When you first open the box, there’s a cardboard flap with a QR code on it inviting you to download the LUMI app. Beneath that is the LUMI keyboard, as well as its USB-A to USB-C charging cable and warranty card.

When you open the app and turn on the keyboard, you’ll see the keyboard flash a bright rainbow then pulse blue, which is the prompt to pair it with the app via Bluetooth (clever) and connect any additional LUMI keyboards you have. Once it’s paired, you’re off to the races.

From the home page of the app, you’ll work your way through the “Getting Started” section. This offers a few short videos to help you get familiarized with the device and the app. It’ll also show you where to place the keyboard when you’re using it and a few basics about posture.

Once you’re all set up, you can tap on the Learn tab to jump into the dozens of lessons or tap on the Play tab to start playing some songs. If you’re brand new to piano, I recommend sticking with the Learn tab, as it takes you through some beginner-friendly lessons that work with just a few notes at a time (think “Mary Had a Little Lamb”). This is the same type of stuff you’d be playing during a traditional piano lesson with a teacher.

The Keyboard

LUMI Keys keyboard at an angle on wooden table
Suzanne Humphries

Probably the first thing you’ll notice about LUMI Keys is how pretty it is. The super-bright rainbow of keys is inviting, but after a while the brightness begins to feel overpowering (especially for those with light sensitivity). The lack of brightness controls either on the device or in the app is a definite miss here.

While the colorful lights certainly make the keys look amazing, the keys themselves have a less-than-premium feel, unfortunately. Soft or partial depressions on a key don’t always register, which is frustrating. ROLI says the keyboard’s travel distance is 92% of that of a real piano, but it feels like much less. Playing on it feels reminiscent of typing on the Apple MacBook’s butterfly keys, in that you feel like you just need a few more millimeters of travel distance. It feels like you’ll need to push right through the keyboard to make any impact.

The keys are also unweighted (or at least, not weighted enough), and they feel cheap. ROLI says the keyboard has a nice dynamic range, but honestly it feels incredibly limited, especially when you consider how responsive ROLI’s phenomenal Seaboard keyboard is. Those who have never touched a piano likely wouldn’t pick up on these issues, but the difference is noticeable to those who have. It feels more like a piece of tech than an instrument, and not in a good way.

Fixing these issues would certainly improve the keyboard, but it’s worth noting that they don’t hinder it at all. The keyboard has a fun design and would look nice set out on a desk. Its small size makes me want to carry it around my house from room to room and play it. I also like that it is small enough to fit in my backpack; it’d be fun to take on a camping or road trip.

The App

LUMI Keys companion app with lessons and songs
Suzanne Humphries

The companion app for LUMI Keys looks beautiful. The user interface is clean and logically organized, with separate tabs for the Home, Learn, and Play tabs. The colors and graphics used in the app look terrific, and the font keeps things minimally clean and easy to read.

Tapping on a song or piece takes you to its individual page and shows you information like who wrote it, how long it is, and what key it’s in. Here you can access settings for changing the keyboard’s sound, with fun options like Bright Synth or Acoustic Guitar. You can also adjust playback speed and how notes are displayed, like the default Cascade (a la Guitar Hero), Rainbow, ColorNote, or Classic (the latter two look like sheet music). All of these options are a great way to shake up practice time and keep things exciting.

Each song gives you three options: Watch, Practice, and Challenge. Each gives you the option to toggle the note names and metronome on or off, change playback volume, and adjust sound and note display options.

The Watch option is handy, as it lets you see how a song would be played out before you try your hand at it. When you feel ready, the Practice option lets you play along. In this screen, you’ll see the notes appear when you’re supposed to play them, and the corresponding note on the on-screen keyboard and actual keyboard both light up. You can try to keep up with the notes, though some songs have a “Wait” option that won’t move on to the next note until you get the current one right.

Once you feel comfortable with a song, you can move on to Challenge mode. Here, you’ll put your best foot forward and try to play every note accurately and on time. The better you do, the more points you earn and higher your overall mastery rating is. You can find your rating (along with other tracked metrics like Songs Practiced and Time Played) in your profile.

Person looking through LUMI's library of lessons and songs on a tablet
ROLI

These features are all excellent, and exactly what I’d expect from something like LUMI Keys. However, the app definitely has some shortcomings (both small and large) that diminish the overall experience LUMI Keys is trying to provide.

One of the most frustrating issues is dealing with song difficulty. Any song you tap on shows you its difficulty on its individual page. Sometimes, once that page finishes loading, the difficulty changes, and there isn’t a way to manually change it. This means you’ll have to keep tapping on and backing out of a song in order to try and get the difficulty to change (and sometimes it just doesn’t), which is hugely frustrating if you aren’t lucky enough to get the difficulty you need the first time around.

There is an option to browse by difficulty at the bottom of the Play tab, but there’s no reason this feature shouldn’t be built into every song’s individual page. Furthermore, there is no clear definition for what each of the five difficulty levels mean, so it’ll take some trial and error on your end to figure out your level if you aren’t an absolute beginner.

There have also been times where the correct song doesn’t load. And some songs have you play along with the melody, while others just have you playing the main chords. Some “songs” are really just fragments, rather than complete pieces. This is not uncommon in the music world, if you think of it as an arrangement, but it might be disappointing to some users. I’ve also noticed a few spots where the note timing feels off, too, so what you are supposed to play doesn’t totally line up with a song’s actual melody, which threw me off in Challenge mode where it docked my performance score.

Luckily, the product hasn’t been released yet, and most of these things can be easily remedied with a software update. Each of these issues was frustrating in their own way, but I’ll only hold them against ROLI if they don’t ever get addressed and patched.

The LUMI Library

LUMI Keys companion app song library
Suzanne Humphries

LUMI’s library of songs is impressive. It includes a solid combination of over 400 traditional songs, classical tunes, famous rock, EDM, and pop songs as well as interactive lessons. This is pretty much in line with what you’d get in traditional piano lessons. New songs are added on a regular basis, too, so you can always look forward to having something new to play.

LUMI Library is offered in two tiers: LUMI Essential (free with LUMI) and LUMI Complete ($9.99 per month, or $6.67 per month for an annual membership). LUMI Essential includes 40 classic songs, 60+ introductory lessons, and 72 exercises. LUMI Complete includes over 400 songs, 130 lessons, and 380 exercises (including everything offered in LUMI Essential).

LUMI Complete has a decent (though noticeably limited) selection of classical pieces from composers like Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and J. S. Bach. It also has plenty of popular songs from artists like Taylor Swift, Calvin Harris, Dua Lipa, Imagine Dragons, and Major Lazer.

When you’re in the mood to focus on learning, LUMI has your back with tons of lessons, which span everything from music theory and technique to understanding chords and creating countermelodies. It’s a great range of content for beginner and intermediate pianists.

All Together Now

LUMI Keys on table with app on iPad Pro and headphones
Suzanne Humphries

I think what ROLI is bringing to the table with LUMI Keys, and what is normally expected from traditional piano lessons, are more or less on the same page. LUMI’s lessons for technique, notation, and music theory, though quite basic, touched on most—if not all—of the most important points I would teach to new students. It was nice to see a blend of traditional, classical, and pop songs in the app’s library, too.

The app offers exactly what I want it to, but its serious issues cause it to get in its own way. Players need to be able to easily set song difficulty, load the correct song, and have accurate note timing to play against. It’s what’s expected in traditional lessons, it’s what’s expected in Guitar Hero, and it’s what should be expected of LUMI Keys.

The 24-key keyboard is fine for beginner and low-intermediate lessons and songs, but serious players will literally outgrow it, and LUMI’s steep price (remember, it’s a whopping $299) will probably keep most users from buying a second one. For under $600 (the price of two LUMI Keys), you can get a full-size keyboard with weighted keys that’s pretty dang close to the real thing. Those keyboards will also allow you to record songs, among other benefits.

Conclusion: An Interesting Albeit Pricey Concept

LUMI Keys keyboard and companion mobile app
ROLI

For anyone who is serious about learning piano, nothing will beat traditional piano lessons with a teacher and a real piano. However, I know that’s not everyone’s goal and that some people just want to learn piano basics and have some fun learning a few songs. I think LUMI Keys is the perfect thing for closing that gap.

Honestly, LUMI Keys feels better suited for people who want to learn just enough piano to record EDM songs on a MIDI controller than for those hoping to one day become concert pianists.

LUMI Keys is a terrific idea, but both the hardware and software need some polishing, especially since it costs so much. The concept of connecting with color over notes definitely makes piano (and music in general) more exciting than it currently is, and it’s bound to grab people’s attention and keep them interested. It is plenty capable of teaching the fundamentals to curious beginners, and its library of over 400 songs and lessons should keep anyone entertained.

If you’re interested in LUMI Keys, you can preorder the available bundle now for $299. The bundle includes a LUMI Snapcase, free shipping, and a $50 voucher for LUMI Complete. Pre-orders will ship starting on December 16.

Here’s What We Like

  • Bright colors are fun and exciting
  • App is beautiful and has a high production value
  • Teaches technique and music theory basics

And What We Don’t

  • Pricy, especially with the software subscription
  • Song difficulty settings are all over the place
  • Sometimes loads incorrect song





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