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Not to be confused with synesthesia.
The Synthesia logo
Developer(s) Synthesia LLC.
Platform(s) Cross-platform
Release date(s) 1 March 2013
Genre(s) Music video game
Mode(s) Single-player
OS X 10.8.2 running Synthesia 0.8.5

Synthesia is a video game and piano keyboard trainer for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, which allows users to play a MIDI keyboard or use a computer keyboard in time to a MIDI file by following on-screen directions, much in the style of Keyboard Mania or Guitar Hero. Additionally, Synthesia can be paired with MIDI keyboards that have illuminated keys, which some people believe makes learning piano easier for beginners. It was originally named Piano Hero, due to the similarity of gameplay with Guitar Hero; until Activision (the owners of the rights to Guitar Hero) sent a cease and desist to the program's creator, Nicholas Piegdon.[1][2]


The program was originally Windows-only, but after a donation-drive in early 2007, the game was ported to Mac OS X.[3]

Synthesia was originally an open source project, but seeing the potential commercial value of the program, Piegdon decided to stop releasing the source code (version 0.6.2), however leaving the most recent open-source release available for download. While the basic functionality is still currently[when?] free, a "Learning Pack" key can be purchased to unlock additional features, such as a sheet music display mode.


Free Version

MIDI Support: You can play any MIDI file with Synthesia.

Online Scoreboard: You can submit your scores online at any pace you play.

With Learning Pack

Melody practice: The game waits for you to press the correct keys before moving on.

Finger number hints: Add finger number hints to notes using a simple one-click gesture.

Sheet music display: Add a classic notation view to the game in addition to the arcade-style falling note display.

Note and key labels: Show note names on either the falling notes or keyboard keys in the English system, Do-re-mi style (fixed and movable), or by scale number.

Section looping: Practice difficult sections repeatedly with loops.[4]

Cease and desist letter[edit]

In a letter dated 26 March 2007, Activision requested that Piegdon "immediately cease any and all use of the "Piano Hero" name in connection with the distribution and promotion of [his] video game and agree not to use such in the future".[5] Piegdon responded by hosting a contest for a new name for the project, resulting in the name, Synthesia, suggested by Daniel Lawrence.[6]


  1. ^ "Activision sends Piano Hero fella cease and decist; denies plans of Lawyer Hero". Destructoid. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  2. ^ "'Piano Hero' Name Cease And Desist From Activision". Synthesia Official Website. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  3. ^ "You want Piano Hero on your Mac?". TUAW. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  4. ^ "Synthesia Features". Synthesia Official Website. Retrieved 2012-03-10. 
  5. ^ "Piano Hero Gets Cease and Desist". Kotaku. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  6. ^ "Synthesia Name Change". Synthesia Official Website. Archived from the original on 2007-10-24. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 

External links[edit]