So here’s the skinny. There’s this app that has recently begun rising in popularity among android and apple users alike, known as Simply Piano, by JoyTunes. Catchy Names. It’s ambitions are as outrageous as it’s color scheme.
This app hopes to be the next Yousician, aiming to teach young aspiring pianists to read sheet music, and proper piano playing technique. It uses unconventional methods, stating that “It’s easier to learn when you’re having fun”. Rather than drill-and-kill memorization that has been popular for a few thousand years, it uses a modern scientific approach, which aims to keep things relevant with newer songs, making it easier for some to stay interested.
Now, I haven’t tried this app yet, which is what we are going to be doing to day, but let me just say this before we start: I can’t read sheet music. I’ve been playing piano for 6 years, but I’m almost entirely self-taught, and play by ear. It takes me several minutes to pick out a single bar. I have tried conventional means, but I have ADD and get frustrated and can’t concentrate. If this app can teach me what I couldn’t learn in 6 years and 2 attempts at piano lessons, then that’s all I need to prove its success.
It seems a little cheesy at first, so it may take some time to get used to that. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it recognized the notes I was playing, despite the really awful mic that came built into my old tablet. It also includes MIDI support for electric keyboards, which gives you a guaranteed recognition every time, as well as a touch-screen keyboard option for the keyboardless and the traveling. The lessons are easy to begin with and the overall feel of the app is smooth and usable.
Using The App
When they say one step at a time, they really mean toddler steps. The pacing of the lessons seems very well suited to beginners. It doesn’t feel like it’s rushing too far ahead and leaving you behind, but it also does a good job making sure you don’t get underwhelmed. It seems to be based on a leveling system, not unlike an RPG, where the higher you rank, the more things you unlock, and the greater the challenges. After only a few minutes, I unlocked the 5-minute workouts, which I will get into further.
Contrary to the folk method, this one is actually kind of fun, and makes a game out of it. I find myself actually wanting to get to the next level, unlock the next thing. If it ever does become a chore, the levels are short and sweet, keeping stress and uneasiness from a stretched attention span to a minimum.
Drills And Workouts
I’m not the kind of guy who likes workouts. I don’t enjoy causing myself pain and pushing myself to my limits. So when you say “workout”, I get scared. Not here. These are flashcards and drills disguised as bonus levels, or mini games. They seem to be oriented to those who have a busy schedule, but still want to keep exercising their skills, keeping those finger-abs toned.
The lessons and exercises are very contemporary compared to other apps and learning resources, which is a good thing for most people. I don’t care for it myself, and I know some more traditionally oriented people that wouldn’t either. But this app isn’t targeting the audience of people who like the traditional method. This app aims to stay relevant, and teach a new generation in a way they will listen. To quote Glenn Holland from “Mr. Holland’s Opus” when confronted about his informal methods:
“I will use anything, from Beethoven, to rock ‘n’ roll, if I think it will help teach a student to love music”
And I think that’s where we are at this point. As much as it would be nice to keep things classy, you need to reach out to people in a way they understand. Language evolves, and so do people’s interests. I didn’t come to appreciate the greatest hits of the 17th century until after I went through that Electro-Dance phase. So I’ll take whatever works, and this, my friends, seems to work.
At level 4, I did very poorly and accidentally activated a mode I didn’t know existed. If you fail to get the right notes enough times, it switches to “Practice Mode”, where it very gently and patiently guides you throughout the notes. It’s like a little phased-out playground where you can mess up and take your time while reality is suspended, then puts you back in where you left off to tackle the problem in real-time once you get your stuff together. I need this in real life.
I finished the free beginner course in between writing this post on-and-off. After that, there is a subscription service. You can subscribe on a 3 month, 6 month, and annual plan, with the 3-month at $15/month and the 1-year at $8/month. If unsure, you can subscribe to the 1-week free trial.
You unlock dual-weilding (your hands, at least), and a library of thousands of songs, including chart-topping hits, and famous memorable classics. It has several more courses to learn from, including a discourse on blues (which I am stoked for), chord styling, classical, and pop cords.
Do I believe in this app? Yes. Yes I do.
When I decided to review this app, my expectations were low. I thought at first that it would fall exactly where it’s predecessors fell. Into the stream of failed attempts of digitalizing and changing the way we learn music. I thought it would be half-baked and no better than the rest. But, this one…this one is different. In the first half-hour of playing with it, I could see that this review would be a positive one.
10/10, would use again.
I’m not affiliated with JoyTunes in any way, but I cannot recommend this app enough. Download the app ->here<- to improve your piano skills today!
If you have any feedback, send me the code “173yf-fgg-89” to the email Jason@meloncolliemusic, and your comment in hexadecimal or binary.
Or just use the comment box below…