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Joined: Aug 2021
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I signed up for trial Playground Sessions and i really like it. Its fun to play using their methods and i prefer their types of sings to those in Piano Marvel. I also did a free trial on Flowkey and it is good also. I am also intrigued by Pianote, and they seem to be a more recent option on the market.

I am an intermediate player, and what i like about Flowkey and PS is that they clearly categorize their lessons, songs and exercises into rookie, intermediate and advanced levels. So i know where to begin and what i can skip. I find PS also has a lot more in terms of lessons and exercises than Flowkey.

I like the personality of the people at Pianote, but it 'seems' more geared to straight beginners.

I see the strengths and weaknesses of these three packages as follows.

Flowkey - Strength: Polished, good software and utilizes direct connection to piano to 'pause' the song until you hit the correct notes (I believe they are the only ones that have that feature)
Weakness: Limited lessons and exercises. cant print sheet music from app, Song library good though,,,

Playground Sessions: Strength: Numerous lessons , exercises, different personalities featured in training videos, extensive Songs library, can print sheet music, badges and grades assigned, background bands sounds options for all their songs. Weaknesses: some lessons very drawn out. No waiting during song playback for you to hit the right notes before continuing.

Pianote: I havent used so only going off impression here. Strength: More interpersonal chances to connect with live teacher. Charismatic teachers. Lots of lessons, guides, video tutorials, Youtube videos. Chance to submit feedback to teachers so they can assess your true piano level Weakness based on my perception from research: not connected to app via digital Piano cable/bluetooth. In fact its not an app, its a series of videos from what i gather. Too beginner focused?

Any feedback appreciated. i need to decide soon which of these i will commit for full year. I like PS, but Pianote seems worthy competitor although they use a different approach than just software.

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I’m not a member of Pianote but I like their videos on youtube.

There is also pianowithjonny.com



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I always think real teacher, either in-person or virtual, helps better than software.
The key to learn quickly is to identify misconception, just like learning any topics. The rest is practice.

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I have not used Pianote, so it’s unlikely that my comment will be helpful, as I cannot speak to that system and/or software.

However, as a happy user, I am really enjoying Playground Sessions (PGS). I purchased a Lifetime Membership during one of their deep-discount sales on Black Friday, the day after US Thanksgiving.

Unlike many commenters on this site, I find piano software learning apps to be a wonderful addition to learning online or in-person with a teacher. It’s really unbelievable how helpful and transformative these tools are, especially for beginners and certainly for people who cannot afford to work weekly with a teacher.

I think you did a great job outlining the PGS strengths already, so might only add a few notes:

1/ Instant Feedback

I find the “instant feedback” while playing, when cabled to the digital piano via the Mac desktop and iOS app, absolutely invaluable.

My piano teacher has sometimes noted that I come in a bit early or late on the beat, or that I don’t have the timing of the triplets (or whatever) just right. Counting and metronome use is great but, oh my gosh, the instant feedback and the way the PGS software helps you exactly nail the count has been remarkable. It’s like my body is learning by itself— it’s still painstakingly slow, but it’s like the teacher is right there, saying: “now, that’s it!”, but it’s all non-verbal and immediate and visual.

PGS won’t help with coloring and dynamics, of course, but really helps with the beginner fundamentals like playing the right note and staying in time.

2/ “Playing Well with Others”

The backing tracks are also a huge assist for me in two ways:

a/ it’s my first experience, other than simple duets with my teacher, with playing along with others.

Even though these are digital tracks, I’m getting better at this and beginning to have hope that I’ll be able to play with friends who are violinists, etc. one day.

b/ the timing thing, again

As noted above, the backing tracks feel like a more natural “metronome” AND keep me moving forward, even if I’ve made a mistake, when I’m “practicing” in performance mode, if that makes sense.

Just to be clear: during slow and deliberate practice-practice, I use the PGS looping function and tempo features constantly to play 1-2 measures at slow tempo, then increase by 5-10, until the measures are perfect (or at least, mistake-free), then add 1-2 measures more, etc. The PGS backing tracks work at some tempos (1/2 speed, for instance) but might be silent at others.

But once I am linking the “chunks” of music together, it’s good for me to have a little practice time in a kind of recital mode, where I have to keep going to keep up with the backing tracks. PGS’s feedback with colorful notes— noting errors of some kind— really help me identify where I need to focus my next practice-sessions (that is: which measures are giving me trouble).

Finally, that 100% really helps me know when I have gotten the fundamentals of the song down and can move on to color, dynamics, etc. or simply move on to a new piece.

3/ the PGS Community

You noted already the video lessons on PGS’ YouTube Channel. However, there is a lively and positive PGS Facebook Group as well, where people support each other, assist with problems, and where the PGS instructors interact with the community of piano students. I’m pretty FB-avoidant but I do really enjoy this kind and helpful group.

I also enjoy the month-long Community Challenges, where the FB folks study and learn the same piece. Lessons for the Rookie, Intermediate, and Advanced levels are posted simultaneously by the PGS teaching team. If and when people feel ready, they post a video of their “performance” at the end of the month.

4/ the Song Library

As you noted, in addition to their Rookie, Intermediate, and Advanced Bootcamps (and their associated “courses” in reading music, scales, etc), PGS provides a nice and large library of songs from pop, Broadway, film scores, and classical sources.

Most appreciated by me, however, are the occasional arrangements provided by The Theorist, of piano YouTube fame. PGS must have some kind of licensing agreement with him.

Other than that, I imagine that Quincy Jones involvement with the development team has made it easier for them to get the licensing for songs by artists like Norah Jones, Billie Eilish, the Beatles, Olivia Rodriguez, Bruno Mars, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and others, as well as songs from La-La Land and Broadway hits. All classical pieces are available free in the library, presumably because they are in the public domain.

5/ music theory

PGS is not very strong in music theory, so I am supplementing the PGS lessons with a 9-part “Music Theory Comprehensive Complete” (Jason Allen) Udemy courses that I am also enjoying very much. The excellent instructor not only has wonderful classes but replies to questions within 24-hours.

I know your question was NOT about Playground Sessions, but thought I might be able to help by filling in some of the areas where you were comparing/contrasting alternatives to Pianote, as you make your decision.

However, I am sure Pianote or one of the other resources will be a great fit for you! Good luck on the journey!

Last edited by mtb; 09/17/21 10:23 PM.

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Originally Posted by scientistplayspian
I always think real teacher, either in-person or virtual, helps better than software.
The key to learn quickly is to identify misconception, just like learning any topics. The rest is practice.

You’ll discover there are many reasons that someone doesn’t have an in-person teacher: generally cost, time or availability. There are also some here that have no desire for a teacher but will use a program. If there are programs being discussed, they are not looking for a teacher, whatever the reason, and don’t see that as an option—- for them.

Having a teacher is also my first choice, but if it is not someone else’s, I’m still glad they want to learn to play. I think you are, as well

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mtb,

thanks for your extensive review of PS, and I second many of your thoughts and impressions.

I really wish they had something like that decades ago when I was still a child learning. would have been so much more fun, and make be feel like im playing my kind of music as part of a band instead of repeating 200 year old classical pieces over and over and over.

It seems pianote is still somewhat new and so not as many subscribers yet.

Next month Ill probably just do the free trial 30 day until cancellation and see how I feel.

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I’ve tried a couple of these in the past, but as someone who prefers to learn and play classical music, I find that most (all?) of these services lack in classical music repertoire. Sure, there is some, but they seem to be targeting people who mainly like to learn (current) pop songs.

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Originally Posted by Monoch
I’ve tried a couple of these in the past, but as someone who prefers to learn and play classical music, I find that most (all?) of these services lack in classical music repertoire. Sure, there is some, but they seem to be targeting people who mainly like to learn (current) pop songs.
Thanks, that's good to know. I can't say that I prefer classical over all other genres, but current pop hits fall pretty far beyond my (fairly eclectic) areas of interest. For one thing, when playing piano, I tend to prefer material written for the piano--and nobody (including me) wants to hear me sing along as I play!


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