Sometimes learning the piano can be daunting for kids — and ensuring that they’re getting in the practice time can be daunting for parents. But Keys and Kingdoms combines virtual learning with physical play to get kids tickling those ivories and having fun!
With Keys and Kingdoms, kids unlock musical power by working on real music skills using a role-play game on a computer or iOS device. Kids learn basic piano-playing skills as they journey through the game in which the goal is to save Harmonia by battling aliens. It’s fun to see on-screen character react based on which piano key kids press as they go through different quests with graphics that resemble a Japanese anime style. There are some battles that are like a video game, so just something to be aware of for younger children. However, the better you play, the better your character defends and defeats.
As a qualifier, this reviewer took 12 years of piano lessons, had a stint as a piano player in the high school jazz band, and is even known to still play “Jingle Bells” on the family upright piano during the holidays. So there was a high expectation and interest in how Keys and Kingdoms works to invoke the love of learning and playing the piano for kids.
The first thing to note is that the bundle set comes with a keyboard with ample length and depth to feel comparable to real piano keys. There are some extra features that adds a more keyboard (vs. piano) vibe to the device that serve as piano pedals and other ways to make their musical journey more fun. The keyboard itself is light for kids to be able to move it around the home, but is sturdy to give an elevated and more serious play experience. This does not feel or look like a toy piano.
In addition to the keyboard, the set comes with a cord to attach the keyboard to a Mac or PC computer and a Lightning to USB adapter to use with an iOS device. (Android capability is still pending at the time of this review.)
Pro tip: Save the box and simple packing materials the set comes in. It has a handy carrying handle and is a great way to store the components when not in use — or when you want to take it on the go so you can put on a concert at Grandma’s house.
It takes about 15 minutes to get an account created. With verification codes, app download time, and email approvals, it does take a bit to get everything set. You can select a monthly plan — or a yearly plan for some savings. The bundle comes with a free three-month trial included.
Once you have created an account, you can make up to three player profiles making it great for families or teachers. With your account, you get access to all islands and more than 100 songs and quests with future features included.
If you don’t get the bundle with the keyboard, you can use Keys and Kingdoms via the on-screen piano if you use it with a touch screen device. A piano or MIDI keyboard is required for advanced levels, but you can use any compatible third party piano and MIDI keyboards if you didn’t purchase the bundle from the get-go. For the best play experience, the devices you use should be less than three years old with a dedicated graphics card or integrated video card. iOS devices should be iOS 11 or later, iPhone 6s or newer, or an iPad after 2015.
After logging in, the gamified lesson begins right away. There is not much by way of tutorials, so if kids are brand-new to the keyboard experience, it may be a bit confusing at first. It also appeared that the physical keyboard labeling and the corresponding labeling on the screen were different. However, the goal at the beginning is proper hand placement, note timing, and listening.
It addition to learning keys and hand placement, the Keys and Kingdoms product also focuses on other skills like ear development and note memorization. For best results, kids should find a quiet place to play or use earphones to they can hear the notes. As kids progress, they can level up by creating their own music or learning to play popular songs from top artists, which is a great technique to keep them engaged and make their piano lessons relevant.
Keys and Kingdoms is recommended for kids ages 6-15 and serves as an excellent product for homeschooling, after-school programs, or kids and families looking to play piano without expensive lessons. It lets parents see how much their kids like learning to play before making significant financial and physical investments.
If you’re looking to unlock kids’ musical power, Keys and Kingdoms hits all the right notes!