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April 13, 2010

Learn to play the piano without trying

Posted: 11:13 AM ET

Atlanta, Georgia - Thad Starner, a pony-tailed Georgia Tech professor, started a talk at an emerging technology conference here with a question for the audience:

"How many of you want to play a musical instrument but don't because it takes too much time to practice?"

Several people raised their hands.

"Yep, I'm the same way."

His solution? A yellow and black glove, stylish enough for Michael Jackson, and fitted with buzzers just above the knuckles.

The glove is designed to teach people to play uber-simple piano licks while they're doing other tasks - or, in other words, while they're not trying to learn.

To this point, Starner wore the glove during his lecture. The buzzers in the glove vibrated his fingers one at a time, teaching him the piano fingering for Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." He wore an earbud that played the simple melody in one of his ears, in synch with the finger stimulations.

In trials, Starner said this kind of background learning works rather well. In the most recent test, subjects completed reading comprehension tests while wearing the glove. Nine of 16 of them were able to play the melody perfectly.

Starner said he'd never done this sort of while-giving-a-presentation test of the piano glove before. At the end of his talk, he played Beethoven's simple song without trouble.

After the presentation, Starner said the true value of his project may not be in learning the piano but in rehabbing patients with brain and spinal cord injuries. He said he worked with a quadriplegic man, in his 70s, whose hands were so clawed up that he couldn't button his shirt.

The finger-stimulating glove helped him get that ability back, he said.

And he learned a little piano in the process.

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Filed under: computers • multi-tasking • Music

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Bored   April 13th, 2010 11:44 am ET


quna215   April 13th, 2010 12:50 pm ET

Is that glove every going to sale for the people who want to learn how to play music the easy way?

concernedcitizen   April 13th, 2010 1:54 pm ET

Wow, this could be useful

gamEr   April 13th, 2010 2:01 pm ET

It wont work I’m telling you

penguin   April 13th, 2010 2:40 pm ET

they should make one for other instruments other then the piano because not everyone likes to play the piano.

udtlearner   April 13th, 2010 3:53 pm ET

Man,I did it without a singnal device...And somehow someone is using my piece of music?I played it,before I put a tux on at a wedding.

sharkzz   April 13th, 2010 4:46 pm ET

Wow, what a clever approach...

I mean, who cares about the instruments – "Starner said the true value of his project may not be in learning the piano but in rehabbing patients with brain and spinal cord injuries." I wonder if this technology could be adapted to jump starting certain neural pathways in coma patients as well?

kevin   April 13th, 2010 6:04 pm ET


4L3X   April 13th, 2010 9:12 pm ET

I play multiple instruments, the piano included, and took the necessary time it took for each instrument to learn to play at an advanced level. I've been playing the piano for fourteen years and the thought that someone can slip on a glove and learn how to play simply because they are too lazy to take lessons or practice angers me. Hopefully this glove will be used for medical purposes only and not be used to "cheat" to "learn" to play an instrument.

LOL   April 14th, 2010 1:42 am ET

4L3X, get over it. Your years of training are going to become obsolete with this device. Technology has a way of doing this, your discipline wouldn't be the first, and it won't be the last.

Vitaliy   April 14th, 2010 5:24 am ET

Haha. That glove is meant to learn to play songs that were composed by some artist. And you would play "by the chords". Real instrumentalists would lean the new cool techniques, and any songs can be remade easily. That's why the glove is crap

Gil_Bert   April 14th, 2010 12:29 pm ET

Awesome! Would that work for playing a Saxaphone? gimme! gimme! let me try it! I hope it is for $19.95....

The Dude   April 14th, 2010 1:24 pm ET

Am I the only one thinking that where the fingers are is just as important as what order they "fire" in? Take a simple melody you know and shift it one key left or right. Usually, this will be a disaster because this thing isn't teaching you key signatures and the whole step/half step patterns in Western music differ as you move up and down the keyboard. Most melodies also require you to move your hands left and right. Until this thing can trigger your elbow rotation also, it's of little use.

Let's be frank, too; wearing this makes you a robot, not a musician.

kb   April 14th, 2010 1:57 pm ET

I agree with the musician who has played for sometime to a point. This glove will have better use in spinal cord injuries, this is what the inventor is strongly suggesting. A true musician would not take a quicker root to learn their craft, I do have a degree in piano performance.

noway   April 14th, 2010 6:22 pm ET

you're all thinking the same thing.

koolkid   May 28th, 2010 3:26 pm ET

this is really cool but how would you know where to put your fingers and how much is this

lipscomb bohemian   June 22nd, 2010 10:04 pm ET

4l3x________you sound like music is a contest.
im an artist [painting] and i sometimes feel that way about some "systems" etc.....but i really dont like it when i feel that way

Sarah   September 16th, 2010 1:54 am ET

I'm sorry but this is so dumb. This thing is not going to teach you how to play. It might remind you of which fingers to use. But you actually have to know what notes to play, what octave to play it in, and the note duration. Or be able to play by ear, which I do, but I don't know many people who have. I've been playing piano for 8 years. This is just another way for people in the US to be lazy and not practice. Isn't our country lazy enough?? I agree with The Dude and 4L3X.

Bernard Brown   September 16th, 2010 2:51 pm ET

Is this Piano glove available where Can you buy this glove & what is the price?

joehubbard   September 17th, 2010 1:09 pm ET

Another gimmick for the "I want it now generation." Only dedicated and organized practiced leads to being able to play any musical instrument well.

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