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Monday, March 16, 2009

Casio Light-Up Keyboard: An Honest Review of a Musical Instrument that Teaches You How to Play Songs

When I was 5-years-old I started taking organ lessons.  You know, the organ?  The distant geeky cousin of the piano? Yeah, that thing. We lived on the South Side of Chicago and for some reason in the mid-70's, organ lessons were considered well, kinda cool.  

I'm not sure exactly why I started learning how to play the organ although my older brother was into it too so maybe my parents got some two-for-one deal on the lessons or something.  I do remember going to White Sox games at Comiskey Park (I was a total tomboy and an avid White Sox fan at age 5) and my dad used to walk me to where Nancy Faust played the organ during the games.  I would stare at her through the glass and my dad would say "This could be you someday. This could be you."  That may have had an impact.

As a young child, I remember going to my organ lessons and I remember having to practice at home.  A lot. Being forced to sit at the organ with the afternoon winter sun glaring through our front living room bay window to practice. A half-hour every single day. Pining to go play with my friends but instead stumbling around trying to learn "The Green Green Grass of Home" and "It's a Small World" with a Fox-Trot beat.

And although I can look back on it as a drag, I most often look back on it as a total gift.  I learned how to read music, translate the notes onto the keys, play in some competitions (and earn a few cool trophies), and even play a couple of times at our local mall organ store to earn a few bucks to spend at the old-fashioned candy store in our neighborhood.  Yeah, I was a 7-year-old playing "Hava Nagila" at the mall to a small crowd of passers-by.  I mean, who wouldn't stop to watch that action?

Now that I'm a parent, I'm wondering when and if we will get our kids in on some formal music lessons.  While I don't play the organ anymore (abandoning the organ is an entirely different story for another day), I do love to play me some guitar, especially around a campfire.  And my dude?  Well, he is a stellar musician who spent his 20's playing in rock bands around town before he left the rock-n-roll dream to support and raise his family.  

So we have some music in our blood and it seems our kids got something going on inside their little rhythmic hearts. But we have yet to take the real plunge into lessons although our 6-year-old is at the ideal age for it.  So when I was given the chance to review the Casio LK-100 keyboard that touts a 3-step-lesson system, I was like, "Let's give this a try."


Casio currently has three light-up keyboards on the market, and with a retail price of $159.99, the LK-100 is the least expensive. The LK-100 includes 61 Full-Size Illuminated keys, 12 note polyphony, 100 tones, 50 rhythms, 100 tunes, LCD display, dual speakers, 3-step lesson system, microphone jack with volume control for sing along, MIDI, and auto-accompaniment.

It's a streamline piece of equipment that is generally a great addition to a household with kids because of the tune selection which ranges from "Happy Birthday" and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" to Joplin's "The Entertainer'" and Pachelbel's "Canon."  My kids LOVE playing freeze dance to any number of musical styles and I think it's a great way to expose them to a wide range of tunes from folk to classical.  

The 3-Step-Lesson System is broken down into this line of thinking: First, master the timing; next, master the melody; and finally play the song at normal speed. The entire method is designed to help you learn to play a song. Or two songs. Or many songs. But only the songs that exist in the Song Bank.  And if you're lucky, you'll have a whole concert put together so you can show off at your next dinner party.


The LK-100 incorporates the 3-step lesson system to help you learn to play quicker and easier. This unit also features auto accompaniment system to generate complete backgrounds with drums, bass and chord parts with the left hand, while playing melodies and solos with the right hand.

Even individuals who cannot play the keyboard at all can follow along with the 100 built-in Song bank tunes with the ONE KEY PLAY buttons. You can also use the 3-step Lesson System to learn at your own pace. Play slowly at first until you are able to play along at normal speed.


So along with the many sessions of Freeze Dance that have been played with friends and neighbors since getting our Casio LK-100, all of my three kids (ages 1 1/2, 4 1/2 and 6 1/2) love to bang on the keys.  

They love to sit up on the little stool we purchased to go along with the keyboard, pick some random tune like "La Cucaracha" and hit any old key that they think works.  It's a great way to practice some rhythm and timing because even when they're not hitting the right keys, they are getting used to hitting keys at the right time. 

Only CR, my 6 1/2-year-old, has tried to actually learn a song. And the song she keeps coming back to is "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." I've sung that song to her about a million times already in her short life, so let's just say, she knows it well. 

She has loved being able to see the right keys light up to show her where to go. She knows the timing of the song so she's able to keep up and actually play at normal speed.  The thrill of quickly being able to "master" a song is extremely worthwhile to learning I think. The smile on her face when she hits keys that actually sound like a song she knows is priceless of course. 

I think this is the one aspect of the Casio LK-100 Keyboard that really has sold both me and her.  That, without months of practice, a child can actually play a song for her friends.  It instills a certain confidence and excitement that hopefully will translate into a desire to keep learning. 

CR has also brought home her simple music sheets from school where she is learning to write and name notes and she has placed the sheets at the keyboard. It happened naturally. She wanted to know which notes on the paper were the actual notes on the keyboard. It is at times like these that I am extremely thankful that I read music because it has helped us to take the learning process a step further.

In the couple months since we've had the product, I can honestly say CR has played frequently but not consistently. This makes me realize how much of learning an instrument as a child has to do with a parent forcing that child to practice.  Even though Casio has made it easy to kick-start the learning process, I'm not sure how much true advancement would be made without me jumping in and guiding the whole process.


What I learned is that this product is geared towards learning how to play certain songs but not necessarily towards learning how to really play an instrument.  I think learning how to actually read music is extremely important if you are learning an instrument. Once you learn that, you can translate your knowledge to a variety of instruments.  I'm not saying you would play those new instruments well, but you would at least have a foundation on which to stand.

Now, it's tough to talk about learning music without getting too detailed, but when you are really learning to read music and translate that onto an instrument, there are many things to keep in mind.  One thing, on a keyboard such as this, is the fingering. There are proper ways to finger the keys and with this lesson system, Casio does try and show you the proper techniques on a small display above the keys.  But after trying it out myself, I can honestly say it's a pretty tough thing to learn using only tips from the display. Again, using the right fingers on the keys only comes with tons of practice while actually looking at the keys. 

All in all, I can honestly say that the Casio LK-100 is a great introductory instrument into a family home. The Song Bank is varied and fun and the Light-Up Keyboard is a true bonus feature. It is also an extremely affordable instrument if you are interested in augmenting it with actual music lessons from a teacher. 

I am extremely grateful for the music foundation my parents provided me, and working with this Casio product reminded me how important it is to give music to my children.  So I think we are on our way to some formal lessons. 

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thanks to Casio for Freeze Dance memories to "La Cucaracha", a walk down memory lane of my early organ-playing days, and the motivation I needed to get my kids some music lessons. 

A super-duper thank you to Mom Fuse for giving me this opportunity. You will be repaid with a private concert of Casio keyboard songs whenever you find yourself in Los Angeles. 


  1. I wish I had taken piano lessons as a child. My husband is an awesome musician so I'm sure we will start our daughter off early too.

  2. should i send you the sheet music for seasons of love so you can start practicing on that organ now?

    seriously, my bean can play pretty much anything by ear. it may take him forever, but it's an interesting process to watch, but it has definitely made it harder for him to learn to read music. he wants to do it "his" way. he plays the saxophone in the school band and the electric guitar just for fun. he would probably like this keyboard.

  3. I took piano lessons for about ten years, and I am so thankful to my parents for making me go.....and practice. My middle daughter has recently started piano lessons...lots of noise.....UGH!

  4. Myself along w/ all my siblings were forced into piano parents both play & we always had some form of music in the home. I later played the flute so I guess my parents were successful. Now I want a piano so I can force my kids into the realm of learning and lessons...maybe a keyboard for now!

    Oh &I love my parents for it & am thankful I can also read music, so I will be able to help my kids too.

  5. That looks like a fun toy! I have ZERO musical talent, but my husband is a pretty talented drummer and guitar player!

  6. It's refreshing to read a review that addresses both good and not-as-good aspects of a product. Nicely done. (And I think you should play some organ music on your blog, heehee.) Or as my husband would say, "I have an organ you can play, Honey!" Yours probably does, too. LOL

  7. Nice review Lee. Kids never appreciate music lessons until they hit... bout 30 something.

  8. I took piano lessons from the 150 year old ex librarian in our town.

    good times.

  9. Great review.

    As you know, I started my daughter on lessons and let me say that it's really a pain. I hope we (and she) can keep it up.


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