Ever since I was a kid I always wanted to learn the piano. Whenever I saw people playing the instrument I always thought that they looked so smart as they effortlessly played the notes from a sheet of music. I wish I had the opportunity to learn it when I was young, but my family didn’t have the spare cash for a piano, let alone those hefty tuition fees. I’d like to think I would be pretty good at it by now if I started back then. Having said that, I wonder if I would have had the discipline.
As I got older I bought myself an electronic piano and decided to try and learn how to play on my own using tutorial books. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out well. I couldn’t really comprehend what the book was saying and I found that the music examples didn’t really translate well in print. It was also really boring. My piano sat unused for five years as my life got increasingly busy with work commitments. I was about to give up on it until two magical things appeared in my life: an iPad Proand the Simply Piano app.
iPad’s are great for watching movies and browsing the web in front of a TV but I haven’t used it for much else. Then along came the iPad Pro, it’s like a totally different product altogether. With the attachable keyboard and pencil, it became much more of a creative machine. But that’s another story, what was really cool was that while browsing the App Store for new apps that I could use with the Apple Pencil, I came across Simply Piano. Simply Piano teaches you how to sight read and play the piano by displaying sheet music on the screen in a series of entertaining lessons. There are a wide variety of courses for different playing levels and it is suitable for all ages. The app had good reviews and the basic version was free, so I decided to give it a go.
I initially downloaded the free app to see if I would like it and after only a few minutes I knew it was going to be awesome. I upgraded my membership to get the full suite of lessons and exercises, it’s really cheap compared to getting a music tutor.
Being super busy at work I decided that I’d only commit to 20 minutes of practice 3 times a week. All other days I would just do the 5-minute daily workout on the app. This might not sound like much practice time but I have gone from no piano skills to now being able to sight read sheet music (albeit slowly) and play two-octave scales within a year. I can also play several different chords and understand fundamental finger techniques.
Although you can use the app across other iOS and Android devices, I found that using Simply Piano on the iPad Pro gave the best experience. The iPad Pro has a fast processor that renders the animations and music smoothly and the large retina screen made it comfortable for watching and following the tutorials. Having the four powerful speakers on the iPad Pro meant that I could clearly hear the backing tracks when I was playing along with them. This is not the case with an iPhone, iPad mini or other android devices as the speakers are just not loud enough and can distort on max volume, making the lessons much less enjoyable.
One of the standout features of Simply Piano compared to other piano tutoring apps is the listening feature that analyses what you’re playing and gives you feedback on how well you’re going. The microphone on the iPad Pro picks up the notes from the piano quite well, however, I noticed that the app sometimes has trouble recognising four-note chords.
Simply Piano is probably not a complete replacement for a qualified piano teacher, but it definitely helps if you want to get started. If you are looking to learn the piano or brush up on your skills, the app will save you a bunch of money. Now that I have some basic skills, my next step is to find a music tutor to visit once a month just to get some human feedback whilst I still practice in my own time with Simply Piano. Stay tuned for an update next year.