The ONE Keyboard Pro has the attention of the piano community and rightly so. That’s because this portable 88-key keyboard for beginners and experienced players alike has a lot of great features. It has keys that light up with sheet music, video lessons, games and new users can take a crash course in piano music when connected with The ONE Smart Piano app.
The One Smart Piano App
The software application for the end-user is really the heart of The ONE Keyboard Pro. The app is designed to work seamlessly with the keyboard so that as you are playing a song or going through an exercise, the keys on the keyboard light up to help you. This is done because the keyboard is communicating with the app and vice versa. The keyboard tells the app what keys you actually played and the app is giving you feedback via the lighted keys.
Now, you might think this would be counterproductive, since after all you are supposed to be not only learning to play the piano but also learning how to read sheet music. Wouldn’t lighting up keys be like cheating? Rewind 30 years (it really pains me to write this, just so you know). The reason I gave up on learning how to sight read sheet music is because it was incredibly boring. I just wanted to play music. If The ONE Light Keyboard does one thing it is this: they allow you to actually play real music and learn at the same time.
I have purchased quite a few midi compatible apps over the years and they work in a similar way, but they all failed for one very important reason…they lacked variety. inevitably you would get tired of playing the small selections of songs that are available to play with the app or get bored with the couple of exercises. This is not the case with The ONE Light Keyboard. In fact, I have a hard time deciding what activity I want to do next when I sit down at the keyboard. The following is a list of activities that are available with the The One Smart Piano app:
In addition to the main four sections of the app, there is a not-so-obvious but super useful section called “Learning Tools.” From the home screen of the app, select any of the four sections and then select the “three horizontal lines” icon in the upper-left corner of the screen to access the app sidebar. Click on the “My Account” button and within your accounts page there is a “Learning Tools” button. Learning Tools gives you some really great additional learning resources. Ear Training presents you with the audio from either a single note or multiple notes and then quizzes you on what you just heard. This helps you gain an ear for notes and chords, really handy when playing with other musicians. The Score Reading section gives you a customizable interface (lets you choose Bass Clef, Treble Clef or both and what keys) and then presents you a series of notes that you must play on the physical keys…an excellent way to sharpen your sheet music reading skills.
The ONE Smart Keyboard Pro has a substantial weight. It is an 88-key keyboard which accounts for some of the weight, but most can be attributed to the massive built-in speakers. Speakers are distributed to the right and left of the keyboard, with the iPad/music stand in the center.
Around back are the ports; aux in/out, sustain pedal input, a USB B port, and the power input. Depending on which device you are to be using (iPad or Android tablet) a micro USB, Apple 30-pin, or Lightning cable will plug into the USB B port. It is a bit of an odd combo, USB B to Lightning, so if anything does happen to the cable, it could be difficult to replace.
On the front of the keyboard, on the left side, are a pair of headphone jacks. These 3.5mm ports are great to connect headphones and practice in silent. With neighbors sharing walls, this came in handy for late-night jam sessions. Only two physical controls can be found on the keyboard itself, a multi-function knob and a power button. Rotating the knob adjusts the volume while depressing it changes the instrument voice on the keyboard.
Piano keyboard keys usually come in one of four types. Non-weighted, semi-weighted, weighted, and progressive weighted. Most low-end keyboards fall into the non-weighted category. You can tell immediately by the lack of almost any resistance as you push down a note. Semi-weighted use springs and has a bit more feedback as you play. Most “pro” level keyboards will be categorized as weighted. These attempt to mimic the hammer action effect that you get with real acoustic pianos.
Only high-end keyboards will have progressively weighted keys. On acoustic pianos, lower notes have more resistance than the high notes. So some top-tier keyboards will have graded (or progressive) weighted keys. Where the weight changes depending on where the key is on the keyboard.
The ONE Smart Keyboard Pro has great feeling weighted keys. They aren’t graded, but they feel great while playing nonetheless. Another pro feature is the 128-maximum note polyphony. That is about as good as you can ask for on a keyboard.
As a quick background, polyphony is the number of individual notes the digital piano can produce at one time. A good way to look at it is 32-note maximum polyphony is terrible. 64-max can be acceptable. 128 is usually seen as best and anything above is more gimmick than substance.
I was very impressed with the volume, fullness, and quality of the on-board speakers. Professionals may prefer their own amps (which work with the aux out), but I expect most users to rely on the built-in speakers. The ONE Group used 10 layers acoustic samples and 16 bits stereo sampling accuracy for their grand piano audio. The grand piano is going to be the most important sound on any keyboard, and the sampling sounded pretty amazing.
I looked at the quality of the keys earlier in this review, and in use, they work quite well. Like many keyboards out there, I noticed a couple dropped notes when going for some very light, repetitive staccato notes but that is hard to avoid. In our many, many hours banging away on this keyboard, it was responsive and replicated the sound selected well. Even having a few professionals play it, they were also very happy with its performance.
I like this thing. It isn’t going to beat the one-on-one instruction you’ll get with a good piano teacher, but it will provide you with a way to gradually improve your skills, and a way to have fun doing so. It might seem a bit expensive at $799.00, but in reality it’s hard to find a good keyboard like this one that teaches you how to play music by the use of an app.
I personally would recommend it to anyone who is learning and wanting to learn how to play the piano/keyboard as it has taught me quite a bit in the few weeks that I’ve had it and it’s something that I’ll continue to use going forward as playing the keyboard is actually a ton of fun thanks to The One Smart Keyboard Pro in making it easy to teach someone like myself.