Today we change gears a bit, from featuring best gaming keyboards, to talk about a different type of keyboard – the fun-learning musical kind. Combining its love for music and technology, Roli created Lumi Keys, a wireless RGB MIDI keyboard controller designed to work together with the Lumi app to make music learning easier and more interactive for everyone, using the learn-as-you-play approach.
Getting setup with Lumi is very simple. Download the Lumi mobile app to your iOS or Android device (compatible devices are listed below), then pair it via Bluetooth with the Lumi keyboard. Once you’re connected, you’ll get access to the Lumi library, where you can either dive right into learning to play a song or study the basics first by watching the video tutorials.
The Lumi keyboard comes with 24 keys, featuring the Roli BrightKey technology which has “full spectrum” illumination and design inspired by Fresnel lenses (used particularly in lighthouses). This is what provides the Lumi keyboard with its bright, attractive colors that look great in dark environments but also stand out in well-lit settings. Its keys feel precise, even though they are fairly small, measuring just 19.4mm wide, which is a touch narrower than the typical 23.5mm.w The high (black) key measures 9.67mm, rather than the standard 13.7 mm.
The plunge distance is 10mm, which is 92% of what you’d find on a grand piano. If you are a beginner, this may not be a concern, but experienced musicians will notice the difference and may need to get acclimated.
The Lumi Keys have a modular design, using DNA connectors (proprietary Roli magnetic connectors), so you can connect to another Lumi keyboard or to Roli’s Blocks, a studio-ready mini keyboard with a variety of configurations including a drum pad. As of this writing, the software app for Lumi only supports two joined keyboards, but theoretically, more Lumi keyboards could be attached together for playing more than 48 keys at once.
Weighing 1.3 pounds and measuring at 11 x 5.5 x 1 inches, the Lumi Keys are really portable and convenient to carry around compared to other more traditional MIDI keyboards which can measure anywhere from 20 to over 50 inches in length. Portability is key to musicians on the go, and you can easily fit more than one Lumi keyboard into a regular backpack.
As a true MIDI keyboard, Lumi Keys will work with other MIDI-compatible software. Just plug it into your desktop and use it with any DAW (digital audio workstation) such as GarageBand, Contact, Cubase or Omnisphere.
The Lumi mobile app allows multiple methods of keyboard fun, including free play, jamming or learning songs. The RGB keyboard sets the stage for learning songs using the app, with color-coded notes and a Guitar Hero-like experience. As the song plays, notes scroll down on the screen with colored keys appearing for you to play on your keyboard. The more used to the learning activity you get, the easier it becomes to play without looking at the RGB keyboard.
Challenge mode is available where, much like Guitar Hero games, it tracks your accuracy and rates your performance at the end of the song.
You can connect to the Lumi mobile app via Bluetooth and USB-C which includes MIDI out and power for charging the rechargeable lithium battery).
At the heart of the Lumi app is the Lumi library, where all the content (songs and lessons) are stored and organized. It comes in two packages – Essential and Premium/Complete. The Lumi Essential is the free access service that comes with the initial package and starts you off with 60+ lessons and 40 classic songs. Once you’ve mastered the songs and lessons there, you can move up to Lumi Premium/Complete, which does require a subscription, but provides access to a constantly-updated library of 400+ contemporary and classical songs and over 130 interactive lessons.
Once you’ve settled in and gotten some knowledge under your belt, Lumi can connect you to Roli software packages like Studio Player, the Noise app and Roli Dashboard. These are real pro tools and while Lumi can readily use the entry-level Blocks, there’s no reason to not jump right into making music like the pros. Studio Player opens up a massive library of sounds and has composition tools like Smart Chords (for chord composition) and Multi-Layered Arpeggiator (for rhythmic patterns). You can add Roli Noise to your mobile iOS device for sketching out musical ideas on the fly. With Roli Dashboard, your LUMI can work with Roli’s popular Seaboard Rise and other popular DAWs.
Since the advent of MIDI, making music has become more accessible to aspiring musicians. The new Lumi keyboard and app offer something everyone from beginners to professionals can appreciate.
For those who want to go Pro, Lumi provides the perfect first-step toward using Roli Blocks and instant connectivity to software packages like Roli Studio Player and the mobile Studio Noise. This is definitely a great toolset for any beginner who is wants to make the leap into serious music playing and production.
Depending on your budget, the $299 price tag may seem a tad expensive compared to other MIDI keyboards on the market. But combined with its beginner-friendly game-style learning and easy upgrade potential to pro-level tools, the Lumi is an impressive and powerful music platform for new learners and hobby musicians.
Lumi aims to inspire and cultivate a love of music by making it easy to learn, play, and make music in a fun environment. This keyboard delivers on that promise.
Tom’s Hardware is part of Future US Inc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. Visit our corporate site.
Piano, Keyboard instrument
World news – US – Fingers-on: Tickling the RGBs With Roli’s Lumi Keys