Simply Piano Review: An In-Depth Look at the Platform

Simply Piano Review

Simply Piano is a piano learning app developed by JoyTunes (of apps Piano Dust Buster and Piano Maestro).

It is highly popular and has even won awards such as Apple’s Editor’s Choice Award, Parents’ Choice Award, and Best App from Google Play.

JoyTunes claims that their piano apps are used by tens of thousands of piano teachers worldwide and teach millions of songs every week.

Their goal for Simply Piano was to create an educational and fun app for learning piano quickly and easily.

Simply Piano teaches using videos and interactive, progress-measuring lessons, similar to the game-like format of other piano apps like Playground Sessions and Skoove.

There’s lots more to know about this learning platform – let’s check it out.

Getting Started

First, you’ll need to download the Simply Piano app. Unlike many other online piano courses, Simply Piano is not compatible with computers, so you will need a mobile device or tablet.

I recommend a tablet, since the larger screen is easier on the eyes while practicing.

I’m sure it won’t come as a shock that you also need a piano. Since Simply Piano uses your device’s mic to recognize notes, you can use a digital piano, acoustic piano, or keyboard, but for the best learning experience it’s important to make sure that your piano has 88 weighted keys.

Simply Start Screen

If you’re using a keyboard, the Simply Piano allows you to connect via USB MIDI, which is what I’d prefer, since it’s much more reliable when it comes to note recognition.

The app does also offer the option of using an on-screen keyboard. However, it also mentions that this feature should be used only to check out the app and not as a permanent solution to not having a piano.

When setting up your account, the app will ask you to select your level of experience and choose between goals like “I want to learn piano as a new hobby” and “Learn the basics of piano”.

Simply Piano Setting Up Goals

It also asks you to set up a profile with your name and age. Since you have the option of adding up to five profiles on the same account, it will also get you to set that up here, or you can add them later.

As for subscription options, Simply Piano offers a 7-day free trial so you can try it before you buy it. After that, it is $119.99 per year, $89.99 for six months, or $59.99 for three months.

What’s Included

There are several aspects to the Simply Piano app that add some variety to your piano practice. Let’s take a closer look.

Courses

Simply Piano currently has 27 different courses divided into two streams: Soloist and Chords.

You don’t have to choose between them, though; you can do them simultaneously, one after the other, or just focus on one. However, since there is theory taught in the Chords track that would be useful for those on the Soloist track and vice versa, I recommend completing them both.

Simply soloist chords learning paths

The courses start with an intro video explaining what you’ll be learning, and then move on to videos demonstrating the new concepts.

After the videos, you’re taken to the learning interface. The musical staff is displayed on the upper part of the screen, and underneath is a keyboard. As you’re taught new notes, they are highlighted on the keyboard.

simply piano video tutorial

Instructional video in one of the lessons

The app gets you to learn a few bars of music at a time by first hearing it and then reading it from the staff.

Once you’ve learned several short sections, you will put them together with a backing track and the music scrolling across the screen.

simply piano learning interface

Simply Pianos’ learning interface

If you get a note right, it turns blue; if not, the note turns red. If you take too long and a hint pops up to show you where the note is on the keyboard, the note turns yellow.

If you play more than a few yellow notes, you will have to repeat those few bars.

If you play more than two red notes, you go into practice mode, which has you playing much slower and with a metronome.


Songs

The song library has hundreds of songs to choose from, with a good selection corresponding to each level. You can scroll across the top to find the right level, but you can’t sort by genre. However, since most of the songs fall into the popular music category, this isn’t that big of a deal.

simply piano song library

Song Library

Each song is divided into sections like “intro” and “chorus” to break up the learning process. You learn a few bars at a time in the same way as in the courses: Listening, sight reading, and then playing longer sections with the backing track.

When you play the complete song, Simply Piano shows you how many notes you got right and how well you kept up the rhythm and tempo. It also gives you a rating out of three stars.

simply piano new song

An unusual aspect of the songs is that all of them have a track to play along with, even the classical pieces. And since most of the songs originally have vocals, there is usually a singer as well.

This is great practice for playing along with a band or accompanying a singer, but not so much for solo piano. “Für Elise” doesn’t usually have backing drums!


5-Minute Workouts

Simply Piano 5-min workout

These short practice sessions are designed to keep your skills sharp even when you’re too busy to do a lesson. There is no general menu; instead, you’re given a workout based on the level that you’re currently at.

These workouts don’t teach anything new, but they reinforce concepts that you learn in the courses. For example, the first few have students sight reading notes that were taught in the most basic courses.


Sheet Music

Simply Piano doesn’t expect you to be always reading from the scrolling music; they provide printable sheet music that you can use away from the app.

Simply Piano sheet music

With these pieces, you can practice your reading skills without the scrolling lines, instant feedback, and backing tracks.

The Curriculum

Before the courses split into the Soloist and Chords streams, there are two courses designed to give students a quick foundation of piano basics, whatever their piano goals are.

These courses, “Piano Basics” and “Essentials I” teach you finger numbers, basic rhythm, a couple of easy chords, and a few notes in each hand on both the keyboard and the musical staff.

Simply Piano chord basics

You’ll also play simplified versions of six songs, including “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran and “Jingle Bells”.

Besides the initial shared courses, there are a few later ones on reading lead sheets that are for both tracks, since chords and melody each play a part.


Soloist

The soloist track is designed to teach you how to play solo piano pieces that include both melody and accompaniment. It does this with an emphasis on reading music and scales.

The lessons are taught within the context of a song, so you always feel like you are working towards playing something enjoyable.

Simply Piano essentials course

Learning Paths – Soloist (top) and Chords (bottom)

Essentials II and III expand your note knowledge to two octaves, teach C and F positions, accidentals, and have you playing the one-octave C major scale inside of a song.

Next comes Classical I, which is labeled “optional”. It starts with a lesson on music history and the styles in each period before moving on to simplified versions of pieces from the Classical and Romantic periods.

A second Classical course, which comes just after Intermediate III, teaches an excerpt from Beethoven’s “Für Elise”, which I’m sure is on the lists of many aspiring pianists.

Intermediate I, II, III, and IV get more rhythmically interesting with syncopation and ties. They also teach scales D and G major and expand upon the positions learned in the Essentials courses, including shifting positions and playing higher notes.

Simply Piano intermediate

Two Taste of Bach courses introduce the Baroque era, Bach himself, and teach a few well-known Bach minuets and airs. Like the Classical courses, these are labeled optional.

Pre-Advanced I is the second-to-last course, and here students learn about key signatures and 16th notes. While the concept of key signatures is explained, you actually only put it into practice with D major and F major.

In addition to the skills courses, there are courses for learning how to play “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

These are taught in much the same manner as the songs in the song library, but with videos introducing the songs and giving them context.


Chords

In this track, you’ll learn how to use chords to accompany any song you want. The courses teach using the chords for well-known pop, rock, and jazz songs.

Simply Piano jazz chords

Pop Chords I introduces chords C major, D major, G major, and E minor in the context of songs like “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by the Guns ‘N Roses. It also introduces the concept of a bassline.

Pop Chords II and III teach F major, D minor, E major, A major, and B minor. Basically, you’re taught the chord, given some practice, and then you get to play a short song that includes the new chord.

Simply Piano video instructions

Chord Styling I, II, and III are all about showing you how to play the same chords in different styles, including soft rock, ballad, and classic rock. They encourage you to put your own twist on well-known songs with chord patterns and techniques.

Blues Chords I gets you playing the chords C7, G7, and D7 in exciting new styles like swing and rock ‘n roll. You’ll also learn about the 12-bar blues.

Jazz Chords I and II go deeper on theory in addition to teaching jazz patterns. Here, you’ll learn about chord progressions, including the major and minor 2-5-1 chord progressions and the turnaround progression. Minor seventh chords and diminished chords are also covered.

Simply Piano tempo settings

Lastly, the Slash Chords course covers pedal bass, moving bass, and chord inversions, as well as introducing slash chords. In this course, you get to play songs like “Hello” by Lionel Richie.

Pros and Cons

Every course has its strong and weak points – let’s take a look at Simply Piano’s.

Pros:

Works with any piano or keyboard – There is no need for midi cables or a digital piano. Since the app listens to the notes, any piano or keyboard, including acoustic pianos, will work just fine.

Teaches note reading right away – You’re taught the basics of reading music in the first few courses and the learning format makes sure that you keep accessing those skills.

Makes you get it right – The courses don’t let you move on until you play a section correctly. While some students may find this annoying, this feature is a plus in my books because it holds you to a standard, just like an IRL piano teacher would.

Multiple profiles on one account – Up to five family members or friends can use the same account and log in on different devices. This is great for keeping each other accountable and learning as a family!

Works without an internet connection – Though internet is needed for downloading the lessons and creating profiles, you can still do the lessons without it, which is great for those with a spotty Wi-Fi connection.

Every course starts with a recap – “Reminder” lessons solidify previous concepts and help you build on what you have already learned. This is especially good for reading music—the app gets you to sight read notes over and over in different patterns, which is what it takes.

Cons:

Doesn’t let you skip ahead – Though students are free to select the courses at the level they choose, the courses do not allow you to skip sections that you don’t need to practice.

This means that it’s difficult to isolate concepts without doing the whole course, which would be frustrating for students who know what they want to learn.

Not very customizable – Compared to other methods like Piano Marvel, this app does not have many options for customization.

For example, the practice mode lets you choose between a few tempos but not set your own and doesn’t usually let you split up the hands.

Possible problems with note recognition – Many users have said that they had trouble getting the app to accurately recognize notes. I found that the volume on my keyboard had to be up quite high for it to work consistently.

There is a troubleshooting section that claims to solve 90% of note recognition issues, but tips include using a midi cord and avoiding the sostenuto (sustain) pedal, which is not ideal.

Moves slowly – Simply Piano recommends that you take two years to complete the entire program. While many students would be able to go faster, following this schedule means that they wouldn’t learn about key signatures and 16th notes until near the end of the second year—very late for such fundamental concepts.

Doesn’t teach advanced music reading or theory – The course leaves out many symbols and terms that are needed to read more advanced music outside of the course. Additionally, Simply Piano is very light on theory compared to other online piano courses and traditional methods.

Who Is Simply Piano Best For?

Simply Piano can be used by both kids and adults. All ages will find the format easy to use and appealing, and kids will like the colorful design and images.

Additionally, learners of all generations will find songs that they enjoy in the courses and song library.

Simply Piano family account

As I mentioned, the program does progress quite slowly, which is good for younger learners. However, since the format makes it difficult to skip through and make sure you’re not missing anything you might need a refresher on, adults who want to move faster would be better suited to another program.

This app is also geared towards those that want to play popular music, whether as a piano solo or chorded accompaniment.

Though there are a few classical courses and songs in the library, the fact that they are labeled “optional” is telling.

Final Thoughts

Simply Piano Verdict

Simply Piano is a good app for those who want to learn to play the piano but don’t know where to start.

The practice is very guided; the app shows you what to practice, forces you to play it slowly if you need to, and doesn’t let you move on unless you get it right.

This level of direction is good for students who want to learn on their own but aren’t so great with disciplining themselves, or don’t know enough about practicing the piano to make use of more customizable features.

Students will come out of Simply Piano with a good grasp of the basics of reading music, playing chords, and accompanying singers or other musicians.

It is, therefore, a solid foundation for moving on to more advanced piano courses or exploring chord accompaniment on your own.

With that said, I wouldn’t say Simply Piano is the best piano app out there.

It definitely has its shortcomings and there are many other great apps that may be worthy of your attention.

Skoove, Flowkey, Piano Marvel are all popular piano apps of similar format that I recommend checking out before making the final decision.

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.


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