Simply Piano is a piano learning app developed by Simply (of apps Simply Guitar, Simply Sing, Simply Draw).
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.
Simply (formerly 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.
There’s lots more to know about this learning platform – let’s check it out.
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.
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”.
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 $149.99 per year, $89.99 for six months, or $59.99 for three months.
There are several aspects to the Simply Piano app that add some variety to your piano practice. Let’s take a closer look.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
With these pieces, you can practice your reading skills without the scrolling lines, instant feedback, and backing tracks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Every course has its strong and weak points – let’s take a look at Simply Piano’s.
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.
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.
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.