In the 90s my parents bought some software that was connected to our computer that taught me the basics of piano. I never took actual lessons until high school, but the lessons on the computer were fun and started me in the right direction. That was 15 years ago, and now there is some amazing software out there that can help you or your students towards your goal of learning how to play piano. Most of the software out there is best used in conjunction with piano lessons, but if price is an issue, a lot of this software can help a beginning student through the beginning stages of lessons.
Piano Marvel is fantastic desktop software. In order to use it you’ll need a keyboard with a midi input port. Just about every electric keyboard will have one. Then you’ll need to set up your computer so you can see the monitor while you play.
Setup is really the hardest part. It’s not even hard, it just might require you to move your computer around a bit and get a stand or small desk to hold the monitor.
Once you get everything set up the program is very simple. The program takes the student through progressively more difficult pieces. Piano marvel tracks rhythm and notes, so whenever the student doesn’t quite hit the right note at the right time, piano marvel will let you know.
The student receives a score after each piece. After you reach a certain score, you get a trophy. The goal is to fill your trophy box! This is an absolutely fantastic way to learn because it makes learning the piano a game. Students really love to play when they can visually see what they need to work on. The note and rhythm tracking is similar to having a teacher there.
Piano Marvel is only $15/month.
Playground Sessions was co-created by Quincy Jones. It has a lot of big names behind it, including a YouTube pianist David Sides. Each lesson has a video of David teaching important piano concepts. It may not be exactly like a teacher is there with you because you don’t get the specific instruction that perhaps you need, but it’s about as close as you can get without having a private teacher.
Playground is desktop software just like Piano Marvel. You’ll need to hook up a keyboard to a computer, so there is a little bit of setup required. Playground also tracks notes and rhythms. It scores you similarly to Piano Marvel as well.
Playground seems to focus more on the adult beginner market and less on young students. It can cost as much as $17.99/month. If you plan on using it for at least a year, though, you can pay for the year and save almost $100. If you plan on using it for a couple of years, you might want to buy the lifetime membership at $269.
Playgrounds most interesting feature is that you get to play music you know. Playground includes an iTunes like store. You can purchase music by your favorite pop artists for learning with Playground. Yes, purchase. Remember that they have to pay the licensing fees for each of these songs, and they’re a business too. Each song will cost you $3.99 as long as you have a membership.
Piano Suite Premier – Adventure
If you’re just looking for software, and you’re not too keen on a subscription product, you might think about using Piano Suite Premier. The software by itself is only a one time payment of $89.95. You can even buy a keyboard bundle as well for $189.95 which includes the software. The keyboard in the bundle is just a very basic 49 key midi keyboard that will only really be helpful for you to learn some notes and rhythms.
Piano Suite Premier, and really most software applications, thrive with teaching basic rhythms and notes. Once this stage is passed up, there isn’t a whole lot of reason to continue using piano software. A private teacher is where you get artistry from. Realize, though, that learning rhythm and notes are a big barrier to entry. If you, your child, or your student can get past that point, then often students start enjoying music and practicing on their own.
Piano Suite Premier looks like it hasn’t been updated since the late 90s. It’s user interface is really dated, but it’s similar to other software out there that it gives you feedback on your playing in real time. It also has lessons, but instead of recorded lessons like in Playground Sessions, they are typically just words on a page that you’ll have to read. It takes a bit more effort to really be able to learn with Piano Suite Premier.
If price is an issue, though, there are definite advantages to a one-time payment.
Piano Wizard Academy
Piano Wizard Academy is different from the rest. It’s not just about teaching you to read right off the bat. Piano Wizard Academy begins with colored stickers on each piano key. Then a game is played without the staff that shows colors in time to music. Later the games keyboard on screen is turned on its side to eventually show a staff. Then finally the colors are taken off and the student progresses to a real staff.
This can be very helpful for younger students to begin lessons. Again it is desktop software, and the student will need a midi keyboard and a computer set up to use it. The software by itself is $387. You could use Piano Marvel for over two years for that price. Piano lessons are a long term commitment, but with piano software it likely won’t take two years to transition to traditional piano lessons.
If your child is younger, Piano Wizard Academy might be a good idea, as the color playing is simple for most young students to understand.
If hooking up a keyboard into a computer isn’t you’re cup of tea, there’s now a new option. Piano Maestro is an iPad app that works very similarly to other software like Piano Marvel. This is the future. You don’t have to hook up any keyboard to a desktop computer. You just need the iPad. How do they do it? They use the microphone in the iPad to detect sounds. It works in the same way that the cord and keyboard did. It may not be quite as accurate, but it’s pretty darn close, and plenty good enough to use.
Students that already have a real piano at home also don’t have to be forced to play on some cruddy keyboard. Students can learn the piano on a piano. You can get started by just downloading an app. Pretty easy right? Right now it is unfortunately iPad only, but here’s to hoping that will change.
Another big difference with Piano Maestro is it’s not meant to replace piano lessons, although it definitely could be used like all of the other software in this way. It’s actually meant to compliment the lessons. Once the app is downloaded you will need a subscription. Either a teacher or student can purchase the subscription.
Get Piano Maestro by downloading it from the app store on your iPad.
Piano learning software is a great way to learn how to read, or a great practice aid, but they don’t replace lessons. Private lessons with a great teacher is always the best option, but sometimes it’s not an option because it can be so expensive. If you’re interested in lessons, first look into online private lessons they tend to be less expensive. If they are still too expensive, software is a great place to start.
Have you used any of these products, or any other product not listed? Let us know about your experience with them in the comments!
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