ButtonBeats Virtual Piano Black is a cool Flash app that simulates a piano keyboard on your desktop. You can play it with your mouse or with optional keyboard controls. By tapping out notes in a numbered sequence, even total beginners can play simple tunes like “Happy Birthday” and “Jingle Bells” to more complex melodies such as those by Mozart, Bach, and the Beatles.
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Virtual Piano’s interface does indeed look like a real piano keyboard, albeit a reduced one, with attractive highlights on the black keys, which are functional. That was a good sign since we’ve seen many similar programs in which the black keys were strictly for show. The controls are minimal: Fullscreen, Activate Keyboard Control, four Sounds options, and a Songs button that opens a drop-down list containing many tunes you can tap out on the keys when the keyboard controls are activated. Virtual Piano can also record your performances, and a red Recording message appears when it’s doing so. You can play back your recordings via the Control menu, which includes a Loop feature. Clicking a question mark icon toggles the key symbols on and off. When it’s activated, Virtual Piano displays the corresponding PC key symbol on the piano keyboard, with letters for white keys and numbers and symbols for black keys. The sound quality is very good indeed; in fact, too good for our test system’s built-in audio chip. The realistic dynamic range and sustained tones frequently exceeded the tiny op-amp’s capabilities, resulting in audible distortion, especially when using high-quality headphones. Most musically inclined users will have a better sound card or external speaker system, which will do a better job of reproducing challenging piano tones as well as yield an even more realistic piano tone.
Best of all, Virtual Piano Black is totally fun. Clicking Songs pins open the songs menu just above the keys. We merely had to select a tune, activate the computer keyboard symbols on the piano keys, and start tapping away. As the ButtonBeats documentation states, you can be playing Beethoven in minutes, even with no musical experience at all. This is the baby grand of piano sims.
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