Synthesia is a nifty piece of software for Windows and Mac that lets you learn how to play the piano or keyboard on your computer. Using colourful notes that fall on the screen, Synthesia lets you play and learn how to play the piano or keyboard in a fun and easy way

Play with a real piano or keyboard. Synthesia lets you plug in your keyboard or piano and play along with the falling notes. If your keyboard or piano does not have a USB port, you can get a MIDI-to-USB adapter that will let you plug your piano or keyboard into the computer through the MIDI port.

Synthesia's official web site recommends using the EMU XMIDI 1X1 MIDI-to-USB adapter as it works with all keyboards that have a MIDI port.

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If you have a keyboard that comes with a MIDI port, you can use this cable to connect your keyboard to the computer to use with Synthesia. According to Synthesia's official web site, the EMU XMIDI 1X1 USB MIDI Interface works perfectly with Synthesia and does not require any installation of drivers.

All that’s required to play any song in Synthesia is a MIDI file. A simple search on Google for “Piano MIDI” or “Keyboard MIDI” will turn up plenty of web sites that let offer free MIDI files. Once you get the MIDI file, you can load it from Synthesia and learn how to play it.

Synthesia shows you visually how to play a song so there is no need to learn musical notation. Want to play your favourite song but don’t want the hassle of learning how to read musical notation? Synthesia will let you do that easily by showing you exactly which notes to press. As someone who couldn't read music to save my life, this feature is a godsend.

However, if you prefer to read sheet music, you can switch the feature on in Synthesia too.

synthesia piano game screenshotCredit: Sy

Synthesia lets you practice songs in different modes so you can work on your weaker areas. You can choose to practice a song with emphasis on either melody or rhythm. For the former, Synthesia will wait for you to press the correct key before moving on, and for the latter, Synthesia lets you adjust the speed of the song and give you feedback on whether you’ve pressed the key on time.

In both modes, you can choose to practice with only the left hand, the right hand, or with both hands.

If you’re wondering how much you’ve progressed, Synthesia keeps track of your score each time you play too. The screenshot below shows a record of scores achieved playing the melody mode on the right hand. I find it motivating to look at the scores and see improvement (even if it’s only a little). This is handy for deliberate practise too. Pay attention to  your weaker areas and working on them will help you get better at better at playing the piano or keyboard.

synthesia progress recordsCredit: Sy

Synthesia can be downloaded for free although some of its features are not fully unlocked in the free version. You can try out its paid features before you decide to buy but these are limited to the songs provided. I own the paid version and at $35 or less during promotions, I think it's absolutely worth getting.

Finally, here’s a video of a song played in Synthesia:

Need a keyboard to use with Synthesia?

Yamaha YPG-235 76-Key Portable Grand Piano Premium Pack
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(price as of Nov 15, 2015)
If you don't have a piano yet, this is a good one to use with Synthesia and recommended by the official site too. It comes with a USB port so you don't have to get the MIDI to USB cable if you get this piano.