It’s no replacement for the real deal, but you’ll be playing along to songs in no time
Price: Free (includes IAPs)
Size: 265.9 MB
Seller: Yousician Ltd
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Piano by Yousician promises to be your virtual piano tutor for the digital age. Packed with exercises, challenges, videos, and backing tracks – and aimed at both beginners and experts – could this be the iOS piano tutor we’ve been waiting for?
The complicated matter of learning piano is broken down into bite-sized chunks in Yousician’s app. You begin with the basics: playing a middle C, getting your timing just right, and seeing how the note is positioned on the stave. The app diligently listens along as you play on your own piano or keyboard and provides feedback in real-time.
Complete beginners shouldn’t feel overwhelmed. You also get to play along with real pieces of popular music, which is even better – the early days of piano tuition can feel bogged down with scales and exercises, but Piano tries hard to make the experience as fun as possible.
The app asks students to work through levels where skills are progressively developed. Each level includes lessons across different domains, including classical technique, music theory, and pop. Then each individual lesson is broken down into a video, exercises, and workouts where you play along with a track. It’s a structured approach, and there’s a lot of content on offer.
When it comes to learning whole songs, Piano takes your ability into consideration. Foo Fighters’ Pretender is a good example. First, Level 5 players can learn the melody. Then, Level 6 players can tackle the accompaniment. Finally, Level 10 players can learn the whole thing, playing unaccompanied with both hands. This tiered approach makes pieces accessible for lower-skilled players. However, this library of songs is locked behind the app’s Premium Plus subscription.
But what if you’re already a piano maestro? When you first launch the app, Piano will check your previous knowledge. If you have some experience, the app will assess this and move you on to the right level. If you still happen to be scoring highly, you’ll be bumped further along until the challenge is just right.
While Piano generally does a good job of hearing your playing using your device’s microphone, the app performs best when it’s positioned next to an upright acoustic piano rather than a digital one. Yousician’s app also struggled to hear certain chords during the three-chord exercises – each time an F major was played, the app didn’t pick it up. When we tested Piano with a MIDI keyboard, and though it worked, the volume had to be pretty high before the app recognized any of the notes played.
What’s also disappointing is that for players who’ve been bumped along a few levels, it’s not possible to dive back into any of the previous exercises without plodding through the lesson from the very beginning.
There are also concerns around how well Piano can cater for experienced players. The well-known Für Elise, for instance, is available in a high-ranking Level 8 unit in the app, but this is still a simplified rendition of the original Beethoven piece. Those with some experience of the piano or keyboard could find this app a little frustrating – though perhaps this isn’t Yousician’s target market.
In terms of cost, Piano can be downloaded free of charge and you can access a limited number of the app’s lessons without having to pay a dime.
However, if you’re serious about using the app to learn piano or keyboard, a Premium or Premium Plus subscription might be worth investing in. Premium subscriptions unlock all lessons for $20/£20 per month or half that if you pay for a year upfront. Premium Plus unlocks all lessons, instruments, and those all-important famous songs, and costs $30/£30 per month or $180/£160 per year. Much less than a professional tutor and a bunch of songbooks, but hardly cheap. We’d recommend you try the app first and dive into the paid fare if you’re really serious about practicing.
- A huge range of lessons
- Not overwhelming for beginners
- You can learn real songs
- Some issues picking up chords
- Experienced players may become bored
- You can't hop into exercises you've skipped past