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Synthesia logo.jpg
Developer(s)Synthesia LLC.
Platform(s)Windows, macOS, iOS, Android
Release9 December 2006; 16 years ago (2006-12-09)
Genre(s)Music video game
OS X 10.8.2 running Synthesia 8.5

Synthesia is a piano keyboard trainer for Microsoft Windows, iOS, macOS, and Android 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, or with virtual player piano on screen, 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; this was until Activision (the owners of the rights to Guitar Hero) sent a cease and desist to the program's creator, Nicholas Piegdon.[1][2]


Synthesia was started around 2006 by Nicholas Piegdon, and was originally named "Piano Hero". Hosted as an open-source project on SourceForge, it was released under the MIT license.

The program was originally for Windows-only, but after a donation drive in early 2007, it was ported to Mac OS X.[3] An open source fork for Linux called Linthesia also exists, which is used as a base of other forks to fix compilation issues on recent Linux systems.[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]

Continued development as closed-source project[edit]

After May 2012, Piegdon decided to stop releasing the source code, as he saw the potential commercial value of the program. However the last open-source release version 0.6.1b is still available for download.

In the continued commercial version the basic functionality was still freeware. A "Learning Pack" key could be purchased to unlock the freemium additional features, such as a sheet music display mode. In December 2014, with Version 10 of Synthesia, the ability to use the program without purchasing it was removed, with the exception of several playable included demo MIDIs. However, an older version can still be downloaded, thus still being able to use the program for free.


Synthesia has support for playing custom MIDI and MusicXML files, as well as linking with MIDI controllers. Synthesia will rate the player's performance afterwards, and give a score which can be submitted to an online scoreboard. Synthesia also has a paid "Learning Pack" that allows users to view music in musical notation, as well as multiple practice features, such as "Melody Practice" which pauses the piece whenever the user misses a note, and only continues when the right note is played.[7]

See also[edit]


  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 2019-07-19.
  3. ^ "You want Piano Hero on your Mac?". TUAW. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  4. ^ "Synthesia-like software for Linux". GitHub.
  5. ^ "Piano Hero Gets Cease and Desist". Kotaku. Archived from the original on 2012-07-09. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  6. ^ "Synthesia Name Change". Synthesia Official Website. Archived from the original on 2007-10-24. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
  7. ^ "Synthesia Features". Synthesia Official Website. Retrieved 2012-03-10.

External links[edit]