Piano Trainer User Guide

Welcome to ReadMusicFree.com (RMF).  We offer free games and tools for musicians and aspiring musicians.  We offer our tools for free because we generate revenue by placing advertisements on the pages.

Grand Staff Defender versus Piano Trainer

Although Grand Staff Defender (GSD) and Piano Trainer are both intended to help musicians and aspiring musicians to become proficient at reading and playing sheet music, they are catering to two distinctly separate audiences.  GSD is intended for use on ALL platforms, and work well with just a touch-screen or computer keyboard.  Although you can use MIDI devices (such as musical keyboards) with GSD, it wasn't really designed for this.  It is difficult to design an application that emulates the nuances of a musical instrument with just a touch-screen or computer keyboard.  On the other hand we don't want to turn GSD into a game that requires MIDI since many aspiring students do no yet own MIDI devices, and many casual users don't want to install a MIDI plugin just to try a game.  Our solution was to develop the Piano Trainer.  The Piano Trainer is designed to be the next level, for students that are becoming more serious.  While it too can use a touch-screen and computer keyboard, it was designed to be used with MIDI devices.

What Can the Piano Trainer Do

The Piano Trainer is a tool that can help you become proficient at reading and playing sheet music.  Using the Piano Trainer you can learn to recognize and play the notes on four different clefs (Bass, Treble, Alto, and Tenor).  You can become proficient on a real piano keyboard (or other MIDI instrument). Piano Trainer helps you work on your timing accuracy with multiple metrics.  Soon you will be able to work on your velocity accuracy as well.  In addition, the Piano Trainer has many more customization options to help you hone in on those skills you would like to develop.  You can set it to generate one or two staves, each with different clefs.  You can set the notes that you want to be tested on in each clef.  You can set the tempo of the song, and use the integrated metronome to synchronize yourself with the trainer.  Soon you will be able to set different time and key signatures as well.

Where the Piano Trainer is Going

We plan to offer the Piano Trainer in its current form indefinitely.  But RMF also recognizes the need to train against real sheet music, not just random notes on the staff.  We are in the process of integrating the ability to read and write ABC files, so that you will be able to create/upload your own training files.  We have begun working on a set of training modules that utilize the Piano Trainer to create an interactive learning environment.

Do I Still Need a Music Teacher?

 Yes, absolutely.  A music teacher can provide intangibles that a book, video, or online lesson can never teach.  They can tell you the subtle problems you might be having with your hand posture, timing, or other issues.   They will know when you have hit a roadblock because you are conceptualizing something wrong.  Last, music is very much a social art-form.  A music teacher can provide opportunities to play in front of an audience, and to meet other musicians.  This constant stimulation is necessary to keep you from becoming stagnant.  Stagnation is the enemy of progress.  Once a student gets in the mental habit of being stuck, it can be difficult for them to break free and begin moving forward again.  

While this site offers many great tools and lessons, it is intended to augment what you receive from a real, live music teacher.

Basic Usage

The organization that develops internet standards, W3C, is working on a draft MIDI specification called the Web MIDI API.  We are excited for the possibilities that this will offer, and will be keeping a close eye on this standard, with the intention of offering our tools to a broader audience.  For now, The Piano Trainer works best when connected with a MIDI device using the free Jazz-Plugin on a Mac or PC.  This plugin is offered without cost, and is safe to install on your computer.  If you do not have a MIDI device, or your computer does not support the Jazz-Plugin, then you can also use their mouse/touch-screen to active the piano keys, or use the keyboard to request notes.

The keyboard controls are:

  • Number keys set the octave (currently this is unnecessary since the trainer auto-assists by selecting the octave of the next note).
  • A-G select the note.
  • Shift key (pressed after, not necessarily at the same time as the note) to sharp the note.
  • Control key (pressed after, not necessarily at the same time as the note) to flat the note.

The onscreen keyboard:

  • Automatically adjusts (with more or less keys) to the range of notes in the song.
  • Responds to the mouse/touch-screen.

Understanding How Timing Accuracy is Measured

Once you click the button to RUN TRAINER, you will begin hearing the metronome click.  Typically you would count out the beats for one measure before beginning your performance.  The trainer does not begin tracking accuracy until you play your first note.  Accuracy is measured against the metronome. Missing a beat has a one-time accuracy penalty on the current note, but subsequent notes are measured against the metronome as if the song was intended to be played from the current beat.   

Avg Press Inaccuracy Ms - This is your average innacuraccy, in milliseconds, for pressing the note when it should be played.  You should be trying to achieve the lowest innaccuracy you can.  Studies show that a casual listener cannot hear less than 35 milliseconds of innaccuracy, whereas a profressional drummer can hear around 9 milliseconds of innaccuracy.  So, to please most listeners, shoot for 35 milliseconds.  To please your drummer, shoot for 10 milliseconds.

Avg Release Inaccuracy Ms - This is your average innacuraccy, in milliseconds, for RELEASING the note when it should be released.  Again, less than 35 milliseconds is good, and less than 10 milliseconds is ideal (but extremely difficult).