Yousician is an app designed to help you “unleash your inner musician” with virtual, game-like lessons. It listens to you play the notes on the screen and gives you instant feedback on your accuracy and timing.
Since its launch in 2014, Yousician has won several awards, including Apple’s “Editor’s Choice” award and Google Play’s “Best of 2016 Apps”.
While the same app teaches guitar, ukelele, bass, singing, and piano, I’ll be focusing on the piano aspect of the Yousician app.
Let’s find out what the hype is all about, and if you can really learn how to play the piano from Yousician.
Since the Yousician app can work with both a MIDI cable or your device’s microphone, you don’t need to have a digital piano or keyboard to use it; an acoustic piano will also work.
The app is available for iOS, Android, and desktop, so you likely already have a compatible device. However, tablets fit nicely on music stands and are a good size for reading music on the app, so it would be my first choice for use with Yousician.
Yousician is subscription-based, and you have a few options to choose from.
Prices vary per country, but in the US start at $19.99/month or $119.99/year.
Once you install the app on your device of choice, you will be asked to choose the instrument that you would like to learn and how much experience you have.
It will also show you a few videos on how to use the app. Once you’re oriented, it’s time to jump into the lessons.
These lessons are created for you based on your progress in other areas of the app, and are found on the homepage of the Yousician app.
Depending on how much time you have you can go for the 10-minute “Quick” lesson, the 20-minute “Casual” lesson, or the 30-minute “Intense” lesson.
Though the name makes it sound like you’ll have a virtual teaching guiding you through the concepts, this is not the case.
Instead, you’re shown interactive lessons that introduce concepts and give you exercises to drill them into your hands and mind.
The Guided Lessons do give you instant feedback on the accuracy of the notes you play, but don’t really use the game format, which I’ll get into in the next section.
Under the “Learn” tab in the app, you can choose between “Missions” and “Workouts”. Missions are set up to help you practice what you learned in the guided lessons.
Each level is unlocked as you complete the previous one, but you can challenge any level you wish by doing a quick skill test.
The levels each contain a few video lessons, which explain the main concepts of the level.
The other types of lessons in each level include “Workouts” (which we’ll look at shortly), songs, and practice of new concepts.
Within each lesson, there is a practice mode and a performance mode.
During performance mode, you’re marked on how accurately you can play the song or exercise. Therefore, you have to play it in the default mode, without adjustments.
Once you complete the lesson, you’re given a score out of three stars. A perfect run will get you three gold stars!
In both practice and performance mode you can choose between three notation styles:
1) Enhanced – Rather than notes, the staff has colored bubbles with the note name on the corresponding line.
The length of the bubble indicates how long the note should be played. This mode is fine for raw beginners, but they should aim to move on to traditional notes as soon as possible.
2) Sheet – Traditional notes with no colours or note names. This is the mode for those who wish to learn to read music with no crutches.
3) Colored – Color-coded notes help identify the finger that should be used to play it.
In a single position this can be helpful for playing the right notes, but I would rather see finger numbers introduced as a finger-identifying system, as these are used even into advanced music.
If you ace a lesson on the first try, you’ll be prompted to take a skill test to see if you’re ready to skip to the next level.
Once you pass a level, there is the option of having a certificate emailed to you. I treasured my piano certificates as a kid, so this is a nice touch for those who want to celebrate their accomplishments.
Workouts are a great source for technique, scales, chords, and ear training. They’re taught with the same game format as the Missions.
Within the broad Workout categories (like Major Scales and Pop Chords) you can choose individual Workouts based on level.
I highly recommend completing the Workouts along with the Missions and Guided Lessons, as they reinforce important concepts more thoroughly.
These optional weekly challenges pit you against students at your level, in general, or in your friends list.
Everyone plays the same song, but it comes in different levels, a melody version, and a chords version. You’re awarded points based on accuracy, just like in the missions.
The song library has a wide selection of songs available in levels 0 to 10 and in a variety of genres like classical, pop, blues, and even metal!
Most songs have accompaniment that’s fun to play along with, but there are also solo piano pieces.
To find the perfect song, you can search by artist, song name, genre, and level.
Levels one and two teach proper hand technique, the basic notes in the treble and bass clefs, and simple tunes using both hands.
Beginning at level three, the course splits into three paths: Classical, Knowledge and Creativity, and Pop.
You’re encouraged to follow all three to become a well-rounded pianist, and the app makes this easy by automatically including lessons from all the paths in the “Continue Learning” section that saves your progress.
This path works toward playing pieces by the great classical composers. It uses well-known pieces to teach new notes, keys, and styles.
By the final level nine, you’ll know many scales, have a solid grasp of reading music in several keys, and coordinate hands easily.
This path’s goal is to give you an understanding of music and a basis for writing your own songs.
It introduces concepts like key signatures, scales and chords, and ear training, ending at level six.
Rock, pop, and blues are king in this path. It focuses heavily on chords, patterns and riffs.
The level nine goal for this path is for you to be able to change chords quickly and play interesting melodies with a well-developed bass line.
Here’s what I like (and don’t like) about Yousician.
When evaluated as a tool for learning piano by yourself, Yousician is best for those who like to figure things out on their own.
The lessons have a bit less spoon-feeding than traditional piano methods, which is best for adults who want to learn quickly.
While kids will enjoy the game format, most will need an adult to help them along. The app can also be used as a supplement to regular lessons.
Both the older and younger set will find songs to enjoy in the library.
With an even balance between classical- and pop-oriented lessons, Yousician is a well-rounded piano method.
A student who follows all three learning paths will come out being able to play chord accompaniment to melodies as well as solo piano classical pieces.
However, there is still a lot of room left for growth once you reach the end of Yousician’s levels. It is also subject to limitations common to online methods, such as lack of training in style and technique.
Overall, the Yousician method isn’t the only piano method that you’ll to need, but it’s a good foundation for whichever style of piano you choose to pursue afterward.