Why limit your piano practice? Using apps to help you practice, as well as within your piano lessons, can be a ton of fun! Here are teacher Sabrina P.‘s recommendations for the best piano apps for iPad and iPhone…
There are SO many piano apps for iPad, iPhone, and all other models of tablets and smartphones — some claim they will help motivate your kids to practice, others say that they help your little ones learn how to read sheet music. Some you pay for, while many are free. They all claim to be the app for you!
So how do you know which ones to download?
Below I’ve pulled together my list of the best piano apps, all of which I use personally or use in my private lessons. They are reviewed based on my personal opinion and experience with them. I’ve also rated them against each other, meaning the apps marked as 10/10 are better than every other app out there.
PianoMaestro (Apple) (FREE)
This is the BEST piano teaching/motivating app on the planet. The minute you turn it on, you’ll notice it’s not just one of those many scrolling piano note apps.
Here are a few of the wonderful features:
- Unique to the app is its MusicSense Engine. Basically, sit in front of your piano and it recognizes the notes you play. I was blown away by how well it works!
- Kids can use this app to learn how to read rhythms – one of the hardest skills to teach – quickly and simply. Most of the songs have music in the background that you play along with, and all you have to do is play the note when it reaches the laser line.
- If a song is too hard you can hit the “learn” option, which is a great way to show kids exactly how to practice piano. It breaks the song up into small parts, and each part must be played two or three times before moving on.
- There are more than 5,000 songs and exercises, and they’re always adding more!
- There are several different genres to choose from, including pop & rock, musicals, classical, and TV and game themes!
Piano Dust Buster (Apple) (FREE)
If you want to expose your little ones to piano, this is the app for you. It’s designed exclusively to teach piano to toddlers and kids not quite ready for lessons. Unlike Piano Maestro (which focuses on learning to read sheet music), Piano Dust Buster introduces piano letters to kids.
The premise: help Granny dust off her piano! To play, you need to whack dust shapes to the beat and plays with many genres of music. It’s really great for exposing kids to classical music!
Tenuto (Apple) ($3.99)
Tenuto is a type of flashcard app. Yes, you do have to pay for it, but honestly if you bought music flashcards, you would spend at least this much. Plus, it’s much cooler on an iPad!
Tenuto teaches users how to find the different letters on the keyboard, as well as recognizing notes on the staff. It also has an ear training section, but I don’t recommend it because it’s a little difficult to use.
goodEar (Apple) ($0.99/$3.99)
goodEar is a really fun piano app for iPad, particularly for helping with ear training. There are four versions of the app – chords, melody, scales, and intervals. You can buy them separately (each costs $0.99), or you can buy goodEar Pro, which includes all four for $3.99. However, unless you already have a pretty good ear and just want to test how good your ear really is, I really don’t think the Pro version is practical. Instead, just choose the lesson that you’d like to focus on.
goodEar Melody is the version my students like the best because it’s the easiest to understand and play. Once you turn on the app, it’s pretty straightforward – it’s basically like “Simon Says” for piano. You can change how many tones you want to play in a run and what kind of intervals to choose from. I usually start my students with the settings in the screenshot below.
Piano Notes Pro (Apple)($2.99)
This is exclusively a sight reading app. The look of the app is very clean and you can even personalize the background screen to the color of your choice!
To begin, choose how high and low on the staff you want to play, which staff you want to read, and if you want the notes to be random, ascending, or descending. Then, all you have to do is play the key that is shown on the staff.
This app has many great features that take students a while to get through, but if you want to keeping going you can also purchase an upgrade pack for an additional $0.99, which adds major scales, broken chords, and multi-pattern notes.
Rhythm Lab (Apple) ($2.99)
I really like this app for teaching rhythm. It starts very easy but can get really difficult! There are 20 levels, which all have at least 10 lessons. One cool feature of this piano app is that you can practice playing rhythm patterns from famous composers like Bach, Joplin, and Mozart.
As you play the game, you’ll see valued notes (quarter, half, whole, etc.) and you have to play them along with a metronome. You can listen to the rhythm first if you need a reference. After you have completed a rhythm, swipe to the left and the next task will appear.
Here’s a tip when using this app: after you press play, you will hear a specific number of clicks first; this corresponds with the top number of the time signature. For example, if the time signature is 2/4, you will hear two clicks, then you have to start playing the written rhythm on the third click. That is the only confusing part of the app.
I do have two complaints about this app, which is why I’ve given it a lower rating: I don’t like the way it looks – it’s just a bit messy for my taste. You also cannot have multiple accounts.
Piano 3D (Apple) (FREE + any in-app purchases)
The way this app works is pretty cool — it’s a concert grand piano that you can scroll around and look at from all different angles to see how an acoustic grand really works — plus, you can play on the keys!
Users can also access a pretty good-sized list of modern and classical music. When you select a song, it will switch back to the piano and you can watch the song play on the keys.
Piano 3D is a cool way to learn a song by ear (instead of reading sheet music). You can pause the song, play the song note-by-note, and pick the hand you want to see and hear. You can also connect your keyboard to the app and record songs right into the app.
I like to use this app to expose kids to classical music. They can see how hard some pieces are, and this can motivate kids to practice. They also see that music can be far more vast and interesting than the pieces they’re playing in method books!
The downside of the app is that songs are pretty expensive. I waited until there was a sale on the app to buy a lifetime subscription, which was $20. They do, however, offer a few songs for free, or you can buy short-term access to all the songs in weekly and monthly subscriptions.
Scribd (Apple, Android, Microsoft, Internet) (FREE)
Many of you might know Scribd as a reading app, not unlike Kindle or iBooks, but with Scribd you can also find a lot of free sheet music for piano! However, it can be a bit challenging to find the right piece from the app if you don’t know a few tips.
For instance, if I wanted to find “Beauty and the Beast” sheet music, I recommend including search words like “piano,” “easy,” and “sheet music” after the title. The first results to show up will always be books, so you have to scroll down to the “Documents” section. There you will find relevant sheet music that people have posted.
Overall, this app is a great way to get your kids playing pieces they want to play, which will make practice more enjoyable for you and them!
GarageBand (Apple) (FREE – $4.99)
You’ve probably heard of GarageBand for your computer, but the portable version is really useful as well, especially if you have a budding songwriter on your hands! You can record piano with tons of different synthesizer sounds and play other instruments like guitar, drums, and other stringed instruments. Little ones especially like being able play on other instruments, as this helps them become well-rounded musicians.
Just so you know, if you buy a brand new iPad, Apple throws in a few apps for free, and GarageBand is one of them. If you have a previous model, you’ll have to buy it, but I believe it’s worth it!
With this list of apps, we’ve covered everything you’ll need to start learning piano — music reading, rhythms, intervals, note recognition, sight reading, and so on. A lot of these apps are just for learning the basics, but there are many more apps that may be more helpful for different situations and goals. In my experience, the apps above are the most useful in almost all situations. Hopefully you’ll find some of these useful for yourself or your piano students. Happy learning!