I got the chance to interview Alex and Patrick Smith, the creators of RainPlay, an innovative music learning solution, about their Kickstarter campaign.
Mary Ann Mahoney: What is RainPlay and how does it work?
Alex Smith: RainPlay is a cool new device that allows anyone to learn how to play the piano, quickly and easily!
RainPlay uses cascading LED lights that shows you the keys to play. We have provided different colour lights to represent the different keys. The white lights will be above the white keys, and the blue lights will be above the black keys.
All you have to do is place the aluminium panel above your piano or keyboard keys and choose your favourite song. Then press play! The cascading LEDs make it easier to anticipate which note come next.
MAM: Can you use RainPlay on a keyboard as well as a piano?
AS: Yes! Think of it as a visualizer for musical notes, used to enhance the enjoyment of any piano or keyboard.
MAM: Does RainPlay come with music or can you download your own?
AS: Each device comes with pre-loaded songs, although you can download more music for free online. MIDI files can be used with RainPlay which is stored on an SD card. Once you have found a composition that you like on your laptop or PC, you can transfer it to the SD card for use with RainPlay.
MAM: Is RainPlay aimed at beginners only or can anyone use it?
AS: RainPlay is a great way to be introduced to learning music. You can pause the music, it can be rewound, and the speed can be adjusted, which makes it great for beginners. Beginners will also find it to be an enjoyable and exciting experience.
People who are already familiar with playing the piano can use it to practice different songs, or just for fun.
It’s a powerful learning tool for students in academic settings, allowing them to learn in an alternative way compared to traditional teaching methods.
MAM: Do you need to connect RainPlay to a laptop or PC?
AS: You don’t need a PC to use RainPlay. All you need to do is insert an SD card, choose a song, and the LEDs will guide you. Whilst using the RainPlay like this, RainPlay is powered by a 5v USB power supply, which is included with each unit.
You can send MIDI from your DAW or other MIDI software of choice via USB MIDI. Whilst using RainPlay via USB MIDI, the unit is powered through the PC’s USB port. You don’t need batteries, which makes RainPlay ideal for retrofitting existing instruments in the context of an educational establishment.
MAM: Is RainPlay available in a variety of sizes?
AS: RainPlay is available in three different sizes to accommodate most keyboards. The 49 key ‘nano’ version, 76 key ‘mini’, and the full size 88 key standard model. We wanted to make sure that RainPlay was accessible to anyone wanting to play piano.
MAM: We know that RainPlay was created by Patrick and Alex, a father and son team. Do you both have a background in music? How about hardware and design?
Patrick Smith: We both love music and enjoy creativity. I bought an incredible piano, and realised that because I hadn’t played in a while, I needed a bit of a refreshers course.
So, I asked Alex, whose career is to build synthesizers, to make something to help me pick up my musical abilities where I left off. That’s how we created RainPlay.
MAM: What’s your manufacturing process like? Do you CNC mill things in-house?
AS: We do have some sophisticated custom built machinery to assemble the RainPlays, which is essential when each unit contains many hundreds of individual components. What we don’t produce ‘in house’ is sourced from reliable suppliers that we have been using for several years.
MAM: How do you think RainPlay compares to learning to play piano through sheet music?
AS: There is no doubt that using RainPlay is faster, more intuitive, and much more fun than conventional learning techniques. RainPlay allows everyone to play the piano quickly and easily, regardless of age or ability, without the tedious lessons, endless scales, or even a musical ear!
MAM: Do you feel that RainPlay will help budding musicians to better understand music and lead to more music being written?
AS: It’s a much simpler method of learning compared to reading traditional sheet music. I think that it will encourage more people to play.
RainPlay is the perfect way to discover or re-discover the joy of playing piano or keyboards. Hopefully, it will inspire people to make music of their own.
MAM: What was your inspiration for RainPlay’s innovative LED system?
AS: After considerable experimentation, our unique cascading system for the LEDs has proven to be the optimum solution to enable the player to very easily anticipate the upcoming notes. You can set the brightness of the LEDs as required.
MAM: Do you feel that the cascading LEDs will appeal to the Guitar Hero generation and encourage them to take up real instruments?
AS: Most definitely! RainPlay is so much fun and so easy to use that anyone can play keyboards almost immediately. Friends can even get together to play the harder pieces!
MAM: What perks do people get if they back your Kickstarter campaign?
AS: We are offering a variety of offers and special deals for those wishing to make a pledge. Full details can be found on our Kickstarter page.
MAM: What are your future plans for RainPlay?
AS: Once RainPlay is well established, we have plans to launch another very exciting keyboard related device. More on this in due course!
MAM: How can people support RainPlay?
AS: Our Kickstarter campaign!
MAM: It’s been great chatting with you. I’m really excited to see RainPlay come to the market.
You can back RainPlay on Kickstarter now.