A projector is being used in an innovative tool aimed at helping people master playing the piano.

The Projected Instrument Augmentation system (PIANO) has been developed by musicians and academics at the University of Ulm in Germany. Blocks of colour are projected onto a screen attached to a piano, with the projections signposting the notes that need to be played. The blocks of colour hit the piano keys just at the moment they need to be hit.

Notes are even colour coded to make it obvious which finger they should be played with, and a red projection highlights mistakes. Embellishments such as trills are signposted by a change to the colour blocks, such as a ripple, for example.

Florian Schaub, one of the researchers behind the system, told New Scientist: “We had quite a few novices use it who were very sceptical at first, but then were really impressed by how quickly they could play relatively well.”

Formal studies are now taking place to see how the PIANO tool can be used more widely to help people learn to play musical instruments.