Computers and technology have changed the way we get news and information, communicate with friends and family, and even learn new skills. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to play the piano, today there are more options available to achieve your goal than ever before. There are hundreds of free piano lesson videos available online, websites dedicated to providing tips, tricks, and private lessons, online games that teach music theory, and sites offering sheet music for any song you can imagine.
One of the most intriguing and exciting developments in musical instrument learning technology is the newest generation of piano learning software. There are many options available, at all different price points. You can buy a full program outright, or there are companies available online that offer a subscription-based model.
Most offer a carefully constructed and developed curriculum, put together by highly qualified teachers. One of the best piano learning software systems on the market is part of a software-based, monthly subscription service that offers a comprehensive software learning package combined with online features, downloadable software, tutorials, games, and social media for a complete approach.
The question is, does piano learning software really work? Can you replace a teacher’s expertise and individual attention (via online lessons or in-person lessons) with software and video learning? Below, we’ll examine several different packages available, and compare the pros and cons of each with one-on-one instruction.
The Basics of Learning Piano
Desire is an important part of learning any instrument – so you’ve got the first step down! But learning to play piano also requires focus, enthusiasm, persistence, patience, and dedication. Without these attributes, no teacher in the world will help you to learn, so keep these in mind when you decide which program you go with.
Three of the best piano learning software packages on the market today are Piano Suite Premier, and two subscription-based services called Piano Marvel and Playground Sessions. Let’s look at some of the features offered in each:
- Piano Suite Premier - $89.95
At first glance, Piano Suite Premier is impressive in its scope. It offers tons of information and you could spend hours exploring before even beginning your first lesson. It teaches the history of piano combined with lessons in music theory and performance, and like many of the newer packages, incorporates interactive games as a learning tool. Piano Suite also contains a library of 500 songs and a “Composer’s Corner” for writing and printing your own musical scores. You can then arrange them with accompaniment using the onboard multi-track recorder function.
The lessons go beyond playing to cover all aspects of music theory, with hundreds of narrated lessons and exercises that work on sight reading, notation, fingering, rhythm, scales, chords, and other areas of performance and theory.
- Piano Marvel – $12.00/month subscription
Truly cutting-edge in its approach to teaching, Piano Marvel is one of the first comprehensive subscription services for learning piano. It features a software package that addresses learning to play piano through a complex multimedia curriculum that combines tutorials, exercises, games, and progress tracking.
Piano Marvel takes a unique approach to teaching by focusing on short segments with frequent rewards, geared toward developing long-term skills. It uses many of the visual elements of video games and interactivity to break down complex subjects, such as music theory, into smaller, bite-sized learning segments.
While the price is reasonable, keep in mind this is a monthly subscription service. You are in essence renting access to the software and lesson services.
- Playground Sessions – $9.99/month subscription
Playground Sessions takes a unique approach to learning, different from the other piano learning software options reviewed here. The teaching method is thorough, engaging, and easy to follow, and is probably one of the best options for piano learning software.
The methodology focuses on a “play-to-learn” method, broken down into four main lesson categories: Keyboard Skills, Notation, Rhythm, and Ear Training. The lessons teach the basic elements, such as notes, chords, inversions, scales, and notation. It also introduces music theory concepts, such as key signatures, rhythmic elements, note duration, rests, and syncopation, and takes you through three levels for each concept (Rookie, Intermediate, and Advanced).
Based on the learning concepts found in musical games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, Playground Sessions uses pop music to teach music theory and technique. Video tutorials incorporate the music of popular artists like Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, and Norah Jones to teach music theory, and the ultimate goal of the lessons is to teach the student how to create their own compositions and arrangements.
Playground Sessions also integrates social media into its system, allowing users to share their progress on Facebook and Twitter, and also connect with other users through the networks. By incorporating social media and using today’s most popular musical stars as part of its core teaching curricula, Playground Sessions connects the next generation of music students by engaging musicians of all backgrounds through today’s socially connected world.
Piano Learning Software vs. One-on-One Learning
While these piano learning software packages may work alone, their effectiveness can be amplified by working with a qualified piano teacher. Keep in mind that there are many subtle aspects of playing the piano that can’t be learned by software alone. There are also elements of technique that if learned incorrectly, will impact your ability to progress as a player.
Additionally, while the software approach offers flexibility and allows you to learn at your own pace, it requires a level of discipline that young students often lack. It’s very easy to get frustrated when having difficulty with a challenging technique or concept, and having an experienced teacher walk you through those challenges is often the difference between sticking with your lessons or giving up.
Piano learning software can be an excellent tool that can work for some students who are driven to succeed, but most of the packages out there work best when combined with studying with an experienced music teacher to create a comprehensive system for learning to play the piano.
There are no shortcuts to learning how to play a musical instrument proficiently. With practice, the latest cutting edge tools, and an experienced teacher to keep you motivated and inspired, you can achieve your dreams of playing the piano. The most important step is to just get started!
Piano by katiesw1