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I brought this Piano Mat for my daughter last Christmas; she was eleven at the time. I was looking for a last minute Christmas present as I had brought all the gifts she had requested on her list and I wanted a few surprises for her.
I brought the Piano Mat from amazon.co.uk and it cost me just under £40, they are still available for roughly the same price. As this was a Christmas present I was unable to check it out before wrapping, I had my fingers crossed that it all worked fine and would be well received.
When my daughter finally got around to playing this a few days after Christmas I was impressed with the size and quality of the Piano Mat. The mat is just under 6 foot long and 2.5 ft wide. The top side where the keys are is made from thick, strong vinyl and is easy to wipe clean. The under side is made from fabric similar to tarpaulin and is a bit textured to help it grip the floor better. Both sides are joined by some black fabric tape, all the materials the mat is made from are wearing well and it still looks as good as new.
Despite being of a decent size and made of hard wearing materials it still doesn't match up to the Piano in the film Big, I really would like to get my hands, or should I say feet on one of them in my lounge.
Once the mat is opened and spread out you can see the control panel that is sat on the top edge in the centre, this panel is where the batteries live, the Piano Mat requires four AA batteries, to insert the batteries you just need to unscrew the back panel and pop them in the right way around. I just used the cheap batteries from Poundland and they lasted six months before they needed replacing. The control panel houses the on/off switch and two speakers, there are also LED's to show when the power is on, when the demo is playing and when the mat is recording.
The Piano Mat has 24 keys (14 white and 10 black) on the bottom half that are set out in the usual Piano style. The white keys are 13 inches long and just less than 5 inches wide and the black keys are 10 inches long and 3 inches wide. The key sizes are great and just right for pressing with your foot.
The top half of the Piano Mat has the volume controls, these are indicated with a large + and - which is pretty self explanatory, the volume controls are very responsive. Next to the volume is a large "Record" button, when pressed it gives a little beep and the record LED turns on to indicate that it is recording, you can then play a tune of your choice or just make a racket, when you have finished playing or reached the 80 note limit you can listen to your composition by pressing play back, if you press record again it just deletes what you have recorded. We found that once you had recorded a tune you could then harmonise with yourself by playing on the keyboard at the same time. The next button along is "Demo", this is also self explanatory and happily plays away to itself putting all of our creations to shame. The last button is the "Play" button, you press this to start playing with the keyboard, if the keyboard is inactive for three minutes it goes into sleep mode, to start playing again press any key.
The keyboard boasts 8 different musical instruments and these are Piano, Saxophone, Violin, Organ, Trumpet, Harp, Vibraphone and J-Guitar. Each of these instruments has a button with the corresponding instrument on it and can be chosen with a quick press. To me the different instruments sound pretty much the same as each other.
The clarity of the piano Mat is very good; the sound plays clearly all the way from low volume up to the top. When a recording is made it plays back clearly too, when playing a recording back you can change the instrument it plays in by pressing the associated button. I thought this was quite a good feature.
All the control buttons and the Piano keys are very responsive, you only have to press your foot on them as if you were walking, no need for stomping, and the key will play a lovely clear note.
My kids and I usually play on this with socks on, not shoes or slippers. I think shoes would be too hard and could damage the sensors. We usually have no slipping problems while playing unless we get a bit boisterous, I would not like to play this bare foot as I think sweaty feet could become an issue. You don't have to stand on this to play; the keys and controls are just as responsive when played with your hands.
Due to the width and length of the Piano Mat it is suitable for more than one player at a time, when more than one key is pressed at a time the Piano Mat seems to be able to process it well and play both notes together. I have only played this with my daughter and I together or my son and daughter together or my Husband and I, as we are all adults or near enough adult sized there is only room for two, if smaller children or toddlers were playing I think you could easily fit three or four on, but this would need some organisation to prevent a complete racket.
Overall I think this was good value for money, while it has not been used everyday it has reappeared every few weeks and had a good playing with. The mat easily folds up and slides back into the sturdy cardboard box it was supplied in. Despite the regular folding and trampling all the keys and controls are as good as new, no dry joints or loose wires.
We play with the mat on a carpeted floor, I do think that it may slip slightly on a laminate or tiled floor, and would therefore recommend the use of a rug underneath to protect flooring from over enthusiastic stomping and prevent slipping.
While we have not really been able to get a proper song out of the mat we have played chopsticks and that old standby of my household the Wallace & Gromit theme. We have otherwise had great fun harmonising and making a big old racket in general.
I don't think the Piano Mat is supposed to be taken seriously as an instrument, but it does get young children interested in making music and the more couch potato ones off the settee for half an hour and dancing about.
I personally think this is a great toy and would be a welcome addition to any rainy day or boring afternoon. It is currently available on amazon.co.uk for £36.99, and can probably be found in most good toy stores.
Thank you for reading.