With so many different piano learning apps and tools online, how do you know which one to choose, and what makes one app better than another? The advent of technology has changed the way we live our lives, mostly for the better, but sometimes we do not feel sure that we are really getting the best for our money. Let’s take a look at some important features to consider when selecting an online tool to make learning piano faster, more efficient, and more fun.
What systems/devices can you use it on?
Make sure to research which platforms the app operates on as nothing is more deflating than finding a great app that requires you to buy a new device. Piano Marvel operates on iPad, Windows PC, and Mac.
My personal favorite is my PC laptop followed closely by the iPad Pro. Many studios and parents prefer to use the iPad because of the portability and small size. It is also something that many children are very comfortable using, so they require little to no time to acquaint themselves with the device. The ability to use the touch interface on both my laptop and the iPad are another reason that I prefer those two devices.
What age group is the app designed for?
Having something too simplified, or too difficult, can kill the desire to practice and learn. Make sure that the app you consider is appropriate for the level of the learner. Piano Marvel has lessons starting with the very basics: teaching notes, rhythms, vocabulary, and more. There are free printable PDFs with written exercises to help ingrain the knowledge so it becomes automatic as well. Lesson videos help show you where to place your hands, and give you more information about the exercises. The software does not require you to start at the very basic level. For instance, if you are more advanced, you can skip the very basic stuff and move up to your own level. In our studio, we have users as young as pre-school and retired adults that use the program, so it is suitable for whatever age you might be, and whatever level you might be. The pieces range from a level 1, new beginner, to a level 18, piano genius.
How interactive is the app?
Nobody wants to feel like they are sitting in a lesson with the teacher droning on and on- we want it to be fun, interactive, and exciting! Look for an app that provides feedback to tell you what you are doing right, and where you can make improvements. With Piano Marvel, you can play the exercise or piece when connected to a MIDI instrument and see the green notes for where your rhythm and notes were correct, or a red note letting you know that your timing was off, or that you played the wrong note.
This helps you to correct what you are doing wrong so you do not continue practicing the wrong note over and over without realizing the error. I like that I am “graded” so I can try to improve on my previous scores, and I compete with myself.
How does it teach you?
If you’ve ever sat down at a piano with a piece of sheet music in front of you, you may have felt rather intimidated! To a beginner, too much at once is overwhelming and you do not know where to begin. Look for a system that teaches you in small steps at the beginning to get you comfortable with learning and provides feedback that helps you feel successful. A popular feature in Piano Marvel, known as Practice Mode, has revolutionized the way that people learn piano! It takes “slicings”, small chunks of the exercise or song, and lets you learn the right hand, left hand and then both hands together. This step by step approach takes away the feeling of being overwhelmed and allows you to learn just a little at a time. This is what really makes a difference in the speed that we learn! After you finish one slicing, you move on to the next, and the next, and the next and pretty soon, you know the entire song!
The exercises inside each slicing are set at different tempos so you learn it at a slower speed and gradually work up to full speed. It is really rather addicting, just one more little section turns into an hour of practice without realizing that time has flown by!
Does it accommodate different learning styles?
One thing the world of education has come to realize in the past couple decades is that we do not all learn the same way. We do not all think the same way. Using the old-school method of sitting at a piano with a teacher looming over you, feeding you notes for an hour a week doesn’t really allow our brains to learn how they learn best. One of the best features in Piano Marvel is that you can learn how you are wired to learn. There are PDFs if you prefer to print them out and do written exercises, there are interactive lessons, with videos, to help you see a demonstration of what you are learning, there is dynamic sheet music that you play along with, or sheet music that waits for you to play the notes before moving on to the next note, allowing you to play each song at your own speed. Speaking of playing at your own speed, let’s take a minute to consider the wonder that is Prepare Mode.
This development has done wonders for my piano skills! This is the sheet music that waits for you to press the correct keys before going on to the next note. It moves at your speed, allowing your hands to get used to the patterns and flow of the notes without worrying about playing precisely at the correct tempo. Trying to learn a new piece at the suggested tempo can get frustrating when you make a mistake and cannot find the right hand position to pick the music back up. It also allows you to play with dynamics and expression to find out what works and sounds best to you. This is the portion of the software that I have the most fun with, playing the same song over and over for my own enjoyment. It also allows me to play the song without feeling pressured to keep up when I am first learning. The picture above is an example of how Prepare Mode keeps track of your attempts and tells you what your score would have been if you were being assessed.
Does it teach you to sight read, play by ear, or memorize?
One of the most valuable skills that any pianist can have is the ability to sight read. Many believe that it is something you are born with or not, but that is simply not true. It is a skill that is learned, just like you weren’t born knowing how to read a book; you had to learn! Most apps do not teach sight reading. Only Piano Marvel has the SASR-the Standard Assessment of Sight Reading-program. This portion of the software makes testing and practicing sight reading simple and straightforward. Gone are the days of your teacher having to watch you play snippets of random songs and grading you based on their observations. Now you can test yourself whenever you want and see your progress marked on a graph! The graph makes it easy to see just how fast you are progressing.
But, that is not all, there are exercises for both ear training, and memorization, or rote learning, as well. Piano Marvel is designed to make you a better all around pianist, helping you adapt to whatever you may want to do at any given time.
How extensive is the Library?
Another major factor in the decision to go with an app is the size of the Repertoire that you will have to choose from, and what type of pieces that it includes. Some people prefer to learn the classics from Haydn and Bach or Rachmaninoff, while others may want to play something that their friends will recognize and opt for more recent pop pieces. Either way, the larger selection there is to choose from, the better.
In Piano Marvel, there are over 10,000 pieces of music, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can also upload any song into your personal Piano Marvel library! The ability to learn whatever song that you want is invaluable, and many teachers have found this to be the best tool to keep students interested in practicing. Providing them with the option of learning what captures their attention will keep them passionate about what they are studying and practicing.
With so many different apps out there to help you learn piano, it is important to consider several factors when choosing one to learn piano, especially since getting the most for your money and time is of primary interest to most people. Take a look at all Piano Marvel has to offer and you will see why it is the best option for many different reasons. You can try out our free account and get started today!