06 June 2022
By Ellie Palmer
We give the piano learning app a test drive to see what it can offer
✔ Courses on the piano basics, ranging from sight-reading to playing with both hands
✔ A library of songs to learn and play, ranging from classical to top-charting hits (give examples)
✔ Instant feedback on your playing, with tips on how to improve your skills
✔ Courses for different tastes and levels including classical, pop, blues and more
✔ Price: $119.99/£95.11 for 12 months | $89.99/£71.33 for six months | $59.99/£47.55 for three months. The first 7 days are free, giving you the chance to try before you buy
The Simply Piano App is a piano learning tool that has been developed by JoyTunes. The app, which has over ten million downloads and counting, has spent plenty of time at #1 in the iTunes education charts in the past, which is an impressive feat.
It has featured on USA's The Today Show, Life Hacker, and The Guardian, has almost 500,000 ratings on the Google Play store with an average of 4.3/5 and just shy of 350,000 on the iTunes store with an average of 4.7/5.
The app’s goal is to “guide you to become the piano player you always wanted to be” – quickly and easily. But do they actually succeed in doing so? Let's take a closer look.
1. Accessible, affordable learning
Whilst I’m the sure the majority of us would agree that the best way to learn the piano is with a 1-2-1 piano teacher, this option is not affordable and accessible for everybody.
$119.99/£95.11 for 12 months of Simply Piano is a much more affordable option for those who want to learn piano but find themselves on lower incomes – especially considering the average price for a one-hour piano private lesson these days is £30 and up.
With your Simply Piano subscription, you are given access to a whole range of courses starting from the basics and moving up to more advanced techniques. You are also given access to a huge library of songs to learn, and feedback and tips on how to improve your playing.
2. More than one learning style
Simply Piano gives you the choice of how you want to learn the piano. Not everybody will benefit from learning via the same method; we all have different brains that may work differently to each other. Some will thrive learning the piano the traditional, theoretical way. However, others will be much more successful learning by ear, or by visual aid. As Albert Einstein once famously said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
The courses on the Simply Piano app are split into two paths, each using different learning methods. The 'Soloist' path focuses on 'sheet music, sight reading, coordination and technique'. The 'Chords' path teaches you to 'play the chords of the most well-known pop, rock & jazz songs so you can accompany any song.' Thankfully, there is an option to do both simultaneously if you would like to do both.
Left: An example of the 'Soloist' path. Right: An example of the 'Chords' path
The 'Soloist' path focuses on the traditional idea of melody and accompaniment. It is mainly theory-based, and more closely represents the classic method of learning piano. It includes lessons on scales, octaves, key signatures and syncopation. The path also includes lessons on specific music periods and composers.
The 'Chords' path focuses on a less traditional learning method, instead focusing on – you guessed it – chords. It includes lessons on basic chords, jazz chords, blues chords and slash chords. Alongside these lessons, you are given songs to play that include the chords you have been learning. The aim of this path is to get you playing some of your favourite songs as quickly as possible.
3. Access to a library of hundreds of pieces
The Simply Piano song library is impressively large. The library is split into numerous categories including Classical, Pop Chords, Chord Styling, Lead Sheet, Blues Chords, Taste of Bach and others. You can also choose a song based on difficulty level. Songs available range from Billie Eilish's Ocean Eyes to Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca. Some of the pieces have multiple versions based on your level.
Once you've chosen your piece, the first two or three bars of music appear. As the piece begins, you're guided along the stave by a luminescent line that keeps you on-beat. The simple but effective layout helps to keep you focused on the immediate, up-coming notes.
With each track, you have the option of adjusting the tempo to fit you. It gives you three tempo options: 60%, 80% and 100%. Additionally, the majority of the tracks have a backing accompaniment playing along with you.
4. Interactive feedback
One aspect of 1-2-1 piano lessons that is hard to replicate in online learning is the aspect of receiving feedback. True, honest feedback is only possible if the teacher is present with the student, listening to them play.
Simply Piano has done their best to at least partially replicate this by 'listening' to what you are playing and offering immediate feedback. No bluetooth or wired connection to the app is required. All you need to do is a) have your phone near your piano when using the app, and b) give the app access to your phone's microphone. You will be asked to give the app access when you sign up, so there is no need to go searching through your phone's settings to do this.
Whilst no wired connection is necessary, you do have the option of connecting to the app via a MIDI keyboard if you are looking for more accurate feedback. If you don't own a piano or a MIDI keyboard, there is an option to use the app's on-screen touch keyboard. However, there is a small delay between what you play and what you hear, so we wouldn't recommend this option.
5. A fun, entertaining way to learn the piano
The latest generation is much more of a visual learner than previous generations, and with much shorter attention spans. The Simply Piano app has taken advantage of that by creating an eye-catching, colourful, entertaining interface. With each bit of progress you make on your journey to being able to play the piano, you're greeted with on-screen celebrations and progress bars changing from incomplete to complete. It generates visual satisfaction, enticing you to keep moving forward with your learning.
Want to give Simply Piano a go? Download the app here.