Pianote Review: A Modern Approach to Learning Piano Online

Pianote Review

Pianote is not a brand-new piano learning platform, as some of you eagle-eyed readers may have noticed.

But with a major update to their platform, we thought it deserved a second look – this review will cover features included with the Pianote+ subscription, some of which aren’t included in the standard Pianote subscription.

Promising fun online piano lessons for all skill levels, as well as an online community of fellow students and teachers to engage with, let’s see what Pianote delivers!

What Does It Offer?

Pianote is an online learning platform which combines piano lessons, artist-led courses, and a library of popular songs for you to learn and try.

What stood out to me compared to other platforms was its focus on community – the platform makes it easy to connect with other students, and has opportunities to ask real teachers questions as well.

Pianote Intro

It seems that Pianote is really making the effort to expand into a full lifestyle, with student forums, podcasts, and many little extras on offer alongside lessons.

Multi-instrumentalists may also be interested to know that Pianote is part of the Musora family, which features singing, guitar and drum learning platforms. The Pianote subscription will also give you access to these, if you’re interested in trying anything else!

Who Is It Aimed At?

Pianote is aiming itself at anyone aiming to learn piano – young, old, experienced or a complete beginner.

It notes that it still provides material and inspiration suitable for advanced pianists, but its method and foundation course are very much aimed at complete beginners.

Pianote Experience

There’s a handy ‘Where to begin?’ section on the Method page to point you in the right direction based on your skill level. There’s also a variety of musical styles covered in the material, which should hopefully have something to interest everyone.

How Much Will It Cost Me?

Pianote has two separate pricing streams – one for Pianote, and one for Pianote+ . Both are subscription-based payment, with the option to pay monthly or annually, and all options feature the first week free, and come with a 90-day money back guarantee.

The Pianote subscription gives you access to the lessons and most community features, but not the song library. This will cost you $25 per month or a discounted $200 for the year.

Pianote Membership

The Pianote+ subscription includes everything in the Pianote package, as well as full access to the song library and ‘direct access to real teachers’, giving opportunities for feedback and questions. This will cost you $30 per month or a discounted $240 for the year.

Both subscription options do work out cheaper than the traditional cost of weekly lessons.

So How Do I Get Started?

Once you’ve purchased your subscription and logged into the Pianote platform, it recommends you click on the ‘Method’ section and start with the ‘How To Use The Method’ video, to introduce you to the platform.

All you’ll need to use Pianote+ is an up-to-date web browser and internet connection, though there are options to download things like sheet music.

Of course you’ll also need a piano or keyboard to practice on, but it doesn’t need to be connected to a computer.

It takes a minute to wrap your head around all the terminology, but basically Pianote’s main foundational piano course is called The Method.

Pianote Method

The Method is divided into 10 Levels, starting from Level 1, which covers the very basics of keyboards and chords, right the way through to Level 10, which deals with jazz techniques, complex time signatures and playing with bands.

Absolute beginners should start at Level 1, but more experienced players may want to jump in at a higher level – you can also press the ‘Where to Begin’ button I mentioned earlier, which will give you a short questionnaire and then recommend a level to begin at.

Pianote Levels

So once you’ve decided on a Level, click on it and you’ll see it’s divided into around three Courses, each focusing on a different area.

Each Course is made up of around four to eight Lessons. Each Lesson consists of a video (which could be between five to twenty minutes in length) and a short assignment.

I hope you’ve got your head around that – my point is, there’s about 3 to 6 hours worth of material in every level, so alongside practice time, each level could take you at least a month to complete, if not more.

Pianote Features

And this is only the main Method course – we haven’t touched the Songs or Bootcamps or Tips yet! There’s a lot of material to get through, which could be daunting, but is certainly value for money.

Here’s what a lesson looks like – a video, an assignment, and under the ‘Downloads’ tab are any handy worksheets or sheet music files that you may want to use or reference.

Pianote Level 1 Lessons

Once you’ve done a lesson, you can mark it as complete, or you have the option to ‘Add to List’, if it’s one you’d like to mark to come back to. Each lesson also earns you XP points – as far as I can tell, these don’t do anything, but could be a good motivator for some.

So what does this Pianote Method cover? Let’s take a quick look…

The Method

Level 1

Level 1 of the Pianote Method starts right at the beginning, assuming you may never have even touched a piano before. It gives tips on keyboard posture, choosing a keyboard or piano, and setting up a practice space.

Pianote Learning Interface

Then you get into playing – Pianote starts off by focusing mostly on a ‘chording’ style, and will quickly lead you through your first C scale into learning four basic chords that will get you to be able to play ‘Let It Be’.

It also includes a backing track for ‘Let It Be’ so players can play along with a metronome and a singer, accompaniment-style, which is a useful addition.

This is a nice pace for students who want to move quickly to playing. With this, it introduces some basic chord shapes and the idea of chord charts – a more contemporary music invention as opposed to classical notation.

You can’t escape theory entirely though – Level 1 gives you some scales to start playing to begin ‘developing your hands’, lays some foundation for ear training and recognizing melody movement, and introduces some basic rhythm notation, and 3/4 and 4/4 time signatures..

Remember that each video often comes with an exercise or worksheet for you to complete, so if you’re someone that learns well through writing things down as well as physical practice, this will help you greatly.

Pianote Assignments

It’s worth noting that while there are other coaches on Pianote, this Level and almost all of the lessons in the main Pianote Method are led by Lisa Witt, one of the main coaches and developers with Pianote.

She has an easygoing, down to earth style, though if you don’t take to her style, you may find getting through the Method difficult.


Levels 2-5

The following levels use a similar structure, building and developing a lot of what was covered in Level 1.

You’ll learn some scales, and they attempt to make scale practice fun, by encouraging you to add an element of improvisation using the left hand chording techniques learnt in Level 1. This is a good idea for those who can’t bear scale practicing!

Pianote Scales

You’ll learn about triads and how they’re used to build chords, and how to use chord inversions to make improvising and moving between chords flow a lot easier.

Songs learned include ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ and ‘Someone Like You’. There’s also some tips on using the sustain pedal to make your playing sound more expressive.

In the ear training and theory sections, you’ll cover some useful foundation concepts like different time signatures, hearing the difference between major and minor, and identifying and playing various intervals and chord progressions.

These are all key to getting you playing by ear, and they throw in some tips on accompaniment rhythms and riffs to make it all feel more natural.

Only in Level 5 do you move away from chord charts and start covering the dreaded notation and sight-reading, but with your chord knowledge and ear training from previous levels, hopefully it won’t feel so mysterious.

It’s worth noting that all of these videos contain high-quality overhead shots of Lisa’s hands while she plays, so all you visual learners should hopefully feel relieved. A lot of this content also seems geared towards pop playing, pop accompanying and playing in bands, which is perfect if that’s what you’re looking for.


Levels 6-10

By now you’ll have got the idea of the general structure of the Method! Levels 1 to 5 provide all of the grounding you’ll need to progress. But at this point another option is also presented to you; the New Method Path called ‘The Classical Method’.

What this means is, if you’re interested in a more classical style, and you feel comfortable on the material covered in Levels 1-5, you can choose to switch to the Classical method here.

Pianote Classical Method

This is led by coach Victoria Theodore, and takes you through five Levels containing multiple classical pieces, such as Minuet in G Major and Raindrop Prelude, along with more classical playing tips and warmup techniques.

If you choose to stick to the main Pianote method, Levels 6 through 10 will take you through more finer details of playing, such as dynamics and phrasing, and solving common playing problems that pianists have.

In Level 8 you also get to move away from the pop standard songs of previous levels, and try out some classical, blues and jazz tunes.

Level 9 focuses on songwriting, as coaches Sam and Lisa write a song with you, providing some knowledge on writing techniques and structure and writing in different genres.

It’s all rounded off with a final recap and some extra tips on learning, playing, polishing and improvising music.

But there’s so much more to explore on Pianote! Let’s take a look…

Coaches

Pianote Coaches

Under the ‘Coaches’ tab, you’ll be able to see all of Pianote’s coaches and the lessons they’ve uploaded. If you’d like some variety from the main Method and Lisa Witt, you can click on a coach and see what they have to offer!

This is particularly good for students who know what kind of playing and learning they’re interested in – the coaches all seem to have their own specialty, from Gospel to Arranging to Improvisation!

Songs & Song Tutorials

The Songs section shows you the hundreds of songs Pianote has to offer – you can sort them by skill level, style, artist, and progress. There’s classical, film music, country, pop, traditional, musical theatre and more!

Pianote Songs

If there’s a song you really want to play that isn’t available in the Pianote library, you may have the chance to get it by clicking ‘Request a Song’.

Once you pick a song and click on it, you’ll have access to the sheet music via the Downloads tab, and you’ll also can take a look at Pianote’s ‘track’ – this is a version of the song that will play while guiding you along the sheet music, like this.

Pianote Sheet Music

To help you learn, there’s options to play the track faster or slower, to loop it, or to show a keyboard that lights up the keys as they’re playing, as shown above.

This is a pretty good idea for very visual learners, but those who need more coaching to learn a song may find it a bit lacking.

However, you might have another option – if you go over to the Song Tutorials tab, you can search whether your desired song has a tutorial video made by one of the coaches.

These videos are roughly 30-60 minutes each, and take you through the song more thoroughly. If you know you need more personal guidance in learning a song, this might be a better option for you than the song library.

Packs, Bootcamp & Quick Tips

The Packs section is similar to the Coaches section – more specialized sets of lessons, only here, you sort by subject and not by coach.

If you find the main Pianote method isn’t working for you, it may be worth trying out one of these other Packs instead – for example, it could be that ‘Piano Technique Made Easy’ works better for you. Each pack could contain anything from 12 to 72 lessons!

Pianote Packs

There’s also packs on subjects such as ‘Piano Riffs and Fills’ and ‘Sight Reading Made Simple’, so if there’s an area you know you’d like to work on, head here.

Similarly, the Bootcamp section contains more subject-focused material, but as individual lesson videos rather than groups of them.

Each video is 10 minutes to an hour, and focuses more on hand technique skills – for example left hand practice, or arpeggios.

And if you want something even shorter, head to Quick Tips – these are largely shorter videos with fun, time-based or list-based subjects, for example ‘How To Play A Walking Bass Line’, ‘3 Easy Coldplay Songs’ or ‘Piano Players Best Kept Secret’.

Live & Student Focus

For those of you wanting more teacher interaction, you can click on the Live tab which will show you the upcoming livestreams from the various coaches.

This could be anything from a Q&A to a masterclass on a particular piece, and will give you the opportunity to ask some questions.

Pianote Live Events

You can also go to the Student Focus tab. Under Student Reviews you’ll see videos from previous students who are working on a particular piece or technique, and the coaches giving them feedback.

Similarly under Q&A you’ll find the previous livestream videos where coaches are answering student questions and focusing on particular pieces. This is a great opportunity to learn from fellow students, and each section also has a button for you to submit your own question or playing video!

Podcast & Forums

And if you really want to dive deep into everything music and Pianote , head to the Podcast tab, and listen to the podcasts hosted by Pianote coaches as well as special guests.

Their episodes cover playing and piano stories, but also general music industry anecdotes and subjects such as mental health. This might be useful insight for anyone seriously considering a music career.

Pianote Forums

For other questions, you might find answers in the student Forums, and meet others learning and discuss progress and tips. It feels like an empowering feature of Pianote that it lets students learn from each other as well as the platform.

Pros and Cons

There are plenty of good things about Pianote , and a couple of drawbacks as well. Here are a few of them.

Pros:

Access to teachers – The teachers provide tips, visualizations, and practice methods that could easily be overlooked otherwise. They also explain and demonstrate concepts in a way that is easy to understand.

Fun and engaging format If you quickly get bored by printed curriculums or software-based programs, Pinote may be a breath fresh air with their fun and engaging video lessons that feel like you’re sitting in class with a piano teacher. Lisa’s cheerful attitude puts a smile on your face too 🙂

Can be used with acoustic pianos – Many online piano methods only work with digital pianos, but Pianote can be used by all.

Personalized content – One of the drawbacks of many online piano methods is that if you have a specific question, there is no teacher to ask. Pianote avoids this by making their teachers available for any questions that students may have.

Growing content – The live lessons mean that new content is being created all the time, and you can even influence that content by submitting questions or videos for review.

Equal weighting is given to musicianship and ear training, which is often neglected.

Practice Along feature and Playback Settings – While it’s pretty much a given when you use software-based platforms like Playground Sessions or Skoove, it’s great to have similar functionality with Pianote video lessons where you can adjust the speed of the playback, loop certain parts, turn on a metronome, etc.

Cons:

Public progress – To get the most out of the program, students have to make videos and posts that are visible to other students, which not everyone will be comfortable with. Also, the student profiles show their practice progress and completed lessons.

Scattered content – Because of the various lesson styles, it can be difficult to know when/if there is a bootcamp or quick tip, for example, that would supplement what you’re learning in Foundations. It would be easier to have all the technique in one place, or links between content that relates.

No immediate feedback – While Pianote is designed to be a step away from the immediate feedback offered by other online methods (“video game” style), knowing right away when your notes and rhythms are wrong can be helpful to beginners.

Final Thoughts

Pianote Verdict

The Pianote platform is ideal for anyone looking to really immerse themselves in piano playing.

Some might find the sheer amount of content overwhelming, but it provides real value for money and a well-rounded approach to piano learning, touching on many different genres and aspects of musicianship.

It could work for old and young players, though perhaps older players would connect with the style more.

The community aspect of the platform shines through, too – under every video you’ll find various comments from players going through the same thing as you!

About the Author – Giselle Sproule

Giselle Sproule

Giselle has been playing the piano for nearly her whole life. She has her grade 10 piano certificate from the Royal Conservatory of Music and a bachelor’s degree in English.

Giselle has worked as a piano teacher, but she is currently a freelance writer and editor. You can usually find her at home in Calgary or on a travel adventure with her mandolin.


41 Comments

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