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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gadgets can help with music

By Kim Komando

Computers and other gadgets let you download and listen to music. But maybe you want to make your own music. Well, tech gadgets can help with that, too.

There are plenty of electronic instruments. And there are games, toys and online tutorials that will help improve your musical talents.

At the high end, you'll find Yamaha's Disklavier pianos. These are working, full-sized pianos in both grand and upright versions.

You can play Disklaviers as you would a traditional piano. They also feature computerized controls. The pianos can play from special CDs or floppy disks.

The pianos can reproduce the styles of well-known pianists. They can also record and play back your playing.

Some models have additional features. For example, MIDI inputs and outputs can be used to control other instruments. Or you can program music from your computer.

Other models can add orchestration to tracks. And don't forget the silent-play feature. You can listen to your playing via headphones with no sound coming out of the piano.

Want to learn to play the piano? Or how about the guitar? You'll find free lessons on sites like YouTube.

The videos give you a quick introduction to playing part of a song. The video may direct you to another site to learn the rest. Some of these sites are free, but others charge. You'll learn to play using familiar songs.

Some of the lessons are disappearing from YouTube. It was forced to pull some videos after complaints from copyright holders.

But there are sites that specialize in music lessons. If the guitar is your instrument, visit www.justinguitar.com or www.guitarlessonworld.com. For piano lessons, visit www.pianotricks.com.

"Guitar Hero" is a popular video game series. There are versions for Sony's PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox 360. There is an upcoming version for Nintendo's Wii.

Using a guitarlike controller, you play notes as they scroll on the screen. You are awarded points based on the number of notes you hit. "Guitar Hero II" is about $80, including the controller.

There are also competitive karaoke video games, including "Karaoke Revolution" ($30) and "SingStar" ($30). A microphone connects to your gaming console and you can sing along with a number of songs. The game matches your voice to the song's vocals; you're awarded points for accuracy. There are versions of the games for the PS2, Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube.

And this holiday season, look for "Rock Band." It will be available for the Xbox 360 and PS3. As you may have guessed, "Rock Band" will bring together a number of instruments. You can connect two guitar controllers, a drum pad and a microphone. It will be possible to connect remotely to play the game.

Sure, many television shows and movies have mocked air guitar. But for some, it is a serious business. (Or maybe it is just serious fun!)

Contact Kim Komando at gnstech@gns.gannett.com.