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ROLI LUMI REVIEW – The MIDI keyboard to learn to play piano

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ROLI LUMI REVIEW

Let’s take a look at “The fun and easy way to learn to play the piano” the ROLI Lumi keyboard!

Back in February, I unboxed this MIDI controller, and I gave you my first impressions. You are asking: “Where can I buy this?”, “Can you see the staff when learning the songs?”, “Is it worth it?”, if you want to know the answer to these questions please watch until the end, there is a lot to cover.

ROLI’s main selling point is that this is the perfect device to learn to play the piano.
It comes with an app with hundreds of songs, from classical to popular.
The app has interactive lessons on scales, chords, and playing techniques.

The app can send signals to the keyboard to light up specific keys.
So when you are watching a video lesson where they talk about a scale, the lights of the keyboard match what is being explained in the video.
When you are learning a song, you can see which notes you have to play on the screen, and your keyboard, at the same time.

You can unlock more songs from other genres, like pop, rock, R&B, and contemporary songs paying a premium subscription of $9.99/month, or $6.67/month when you pay yearly.

Another cool thing about this controller is that it comes with these magnetic connectors. This allows you to snap another LUMI on the side to use them as one single device and double the number of keys. On desktop computers, you can snap up to four LUMIs if you are using ROLI Studio Desktop. It is also compatible with other products of the company, called ROLI BLOCKS.

This product is not yet available. I got mine from Kickstarter, which included 1 year of access to premium.
According to their official webpage, it is going to be available for preorder in September 2020, so expect to get this, at the earliest, by the end of 2020.
I have no connection with the company, and this is all I know.

Is it worth it?

First I’ll tell you what I like and then we’ll take a look at the negatives.

Pros:

The lights
These are very bright, you can use this in broad daylight and you can still see them.
You have different color modes outside the LUMI app if you use this as a MIDI controller.
And for advanced users: You can also send MIDI signals to light the keys up.

Portable
This is an amazing companion to my iPad and my iPhone because I can make music everywhere.
It connects via Bluetooth. I don’t need to carry around cables or use a dongle.
You can put this in a backpack, and it’s easy to store at home.
It only weighs 1.3 pounds (or 600 grams).
The keys are smaller than regular pianos but big enough.
This makes it comfortable for people with smaller hands to reach more notes. But it can be a negative point for those who want to get used to the width of an actual piano.

The keys are velocity-sensitive.
You have a desktop app where you can tweak its sensitivity. It turns out that mine was set too high and I couldn’t really play anything without being too loud.

The keys have after-touch.
This is a technology that is not known among piano players, as opposed to EDM music producers, but it’s a relatively new technology. While you are pressing down a key, you can keep pressing but change the amount of pressure you apply. This information is then sent to the software, and some virtual instruments use this to control effects. As an example, this could be used to control a violin vibrato when playing a long note. The more you press, the more vibrato is applied.

Cons:

You can’t connect a sustain pedal. This surprises a lot of people but it makes sense to me given how small the device is. Maybe they could’ve used a mini-jack, similar to what some companies are doing with MIDI where instead of having a full MIDI connector, they put a mini-jack with an adapter. Just a little idea.

It doesn’t feel like a real piano

Ok, for this one I consulted with other owners, pianists, and did some research.
The plunge of the keys is too short. What do I mean by that? When you press the key, it doesn’t travel much. It’s also hard to feel the end of the plunge. On a real piano, when you press a key, this kind of falls and it reaches the end. They still claim 92% plunge distance of a grand piano on their website. I don’t know where they took that number from. To me, it just doesn’t feel right. Other owners told me the same. This issue can become very apparent when instead of striking the key at the edge, you press it deeper, which sometimes is needed for some chords or situations. The deeper you go the tougher it gets.

The build is plastic

I wasn’t sure if I would put this as a bad thing because it means it weighs less, and then it has this rubber base that makes it stay in place on a table. I think it’s ok, maybe I was too hyped with the whole concept and I expected more. It also came with some marks, which I ended up accepting because I had an early product.

People like me that bought this from the Kickstarter campaign are having manufacturing issues and some say that ROLI is not responding to them. It happened to me that sometimes I miss a note, and I can’t tell why. I had to tweak the sensitivity. Let’s see how it goes when this product launches to the public directly from ROLI.

Review on the LUMI app

ROLI is targeting people with very limited or no knowledge of music with this device. I think this is evident when you begin learning some of the songs and you notice that:
Some songs have a different key to make it easier to play.
You play the melody of the vocals in most pop songs, which to me sounds a little bit cheesy, but ok.
Don’t get me wrong, If you want to get started and get a basic understanding of the piano to then, in the future, perhaps become more serious about it. Then yeah, this is a great way to get started. It’s very easy to follow. I would definitely recommend this if you have kids, it’s fun to play and easy to learn.

On the other hand, if you are a grown-up and intend to amaze people with your playing skills after learning all the catalogue, this may not the best method of learning the piano.

In short, a good way to get started but not for the serious player in my opinion. There are difficult songs, but these do not have both hands, at least in my case, as I only have one LUMI. This is just my opinion, so, maybe you enjoy the app like you would enjoy a videogame, then go for it.

The app design is good, the lessons are well-made, and the production value of the videos is high.

You can learn most songs in different ways. Some of these modes were not available back in February when I first unboxed this. You now have:

Guitar hero mode, they call it Cascade, but we know what it is.
Rainbow, which is like guitar hero but sideways.
ColorNote, which shows you a staff where the notes are colored like the keys.
Finally, Classic mode, where you see a staff the same way you would see on a music sheet, and every time it reaches the end of the first line, it disappears. This is the mode you are looking for if you are serious about learning music notation. In this mode, the keys are just black and white, and the highlighted key shows up in yellow.

For now, most songs don’t have a staff. They are slowly adding these modes to all songs.

All pop and rock songs are originals, so if you tap on a Billie Eilish song, like “No Time To Die”, the background music, is going to be the original song and not a cheesy MIDI synth song. Unfortunately, I cannot play this due to copyright restrictions.

Other updates

A small thing that changed since my first video in February is that if you have access to premium, you can now access all lessons and chapters. Before, to unlock one chapter you had to pass the final challenge of that chapter.

That’s it for this video. This is a long video that took me hours to make, so please if you found this information useful, give me a thumbs-up, and if you are feeling really generous, write “thank you” on the comments so I know it was useful to you.

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Other videos you may find interesting

Roli Lumi unboxing back in February 2020

Using ROLI Lumi on Desktop (Mac/PC and Ableton Live) with Roli Studio Player

Advance usage of ROLI Lumi Keys by sending MIDI to the keyboard

ROLI LUMI Keys vs AKAI Mpk Mini (for music producers)