Piano Academy is an app that teaches piano to complete beginners, no matter their age. While the app does include a digital keyboard at the bottom of the screen, it is intended to be used with a real keyboard or piano, meaning that while instructions are conveyed through the platform, the platform itself does not attempt to replace the actual instrument one is learning. The app starts by familiarizing you with the keyboard, and slowly works through theory and how to read music until you understand the basics.
As a former piano teacher, I started using this app with skepticism and was pleasantly surprised by how spot-on its pedagogical foundation was. Each lesson is broken down to include one or two learning objectives that are easily attainable in five to ten minutes. You learn the concept (starting with two basic notes, then moving up through basic notation, posture, hand positions, intervals, and rhythm) and then have the opportunity to practice what you have learned in three exercises. There is a narrator who starts each lesson with a video, and throughout the lesson his voice guides you and gives you praise when you’ve done well.
Besides having an encouraging virtual teacher at your side, the exercises engage the learner by utilizing real songs by a variety of artists (from Pachelbel to Rihanna) with accompaniment, so that even if you’re playing just a couple of basic notes, you can hear how they fit into a larger piece of music. This is far more fun than just playing variations on three notes alone.
I also feel like Piano Academy eases you into concepts nicely; it doesn’t move too fast or too slow. While for the first several lessons you aren’t penalized for playing the wrong note (the song just pauses until you play the right one), once you get more comfortable you are docked points for playing incorrectly. Similarly, you are eased into reading music by having note names written on a staff to start with, then as you become more comfortable they turn into regular notes without letters attached.
It is important to note that Piano Academy’s digital keyboard is only effective to a point. If you’re using an iPad it works quite well, but on a smaller device (or for anyone with large hands) playing can become difficult. Working off a small screen also doesn’t allow you to practice fingering, posture, and hand position correctly; these skills can only truly be practiced on a real piano keyboard, especially once you start playing with both hands.
I have very few complaints about this app; in fact, I want more! New content is added monthly, and I hope to see continued theory and practical lessons that build upon what Piano Academy already provides.
I have tested out a handful of music skill-teaching apps, and Piano Academy has definitely impressed me the most. Especially for a free app, the quality and production value of Piano Academy are fantastic, from its gamified learning activities to its video instruction. For any beginning piano player, age five or fifty-five, I recommend this product.Image: by Melanie Hering