Category Archives: App Review

App Review “Blob Chorus” by Lumpty Learning – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Aural training – or developing ‘a good ear’ – is such an important part of becoming a musician. It helps with everything from being able to harmonise through to simply recognising if you’ve made a mistake. But not everybody is born with a naturally good ear and even those who are can still learn to better refine it.

So how do we help our students develop their aural skills without the drudgery of drills and exercises? We use fun apps!

I initially reviewed this app nearly three years ago, but it has had a resurgence in my studio, with all current students really enjoying it, so it is worth revisiting it here.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWBlob Chorus by Lumpty Learning is one such app, which introduces students to basic pitch recognition in a fun way. It is used in thousands of schools around the world because it also works well in a group setting, but its simplicity means it is also totally suitable for individual lessons.

The premise of the game is simple: a number of green blobs have formed a choir and they are singing for King Blob (who is purple and wears a crown). Each blob sings a note and then King Blob sings a note. The note sung by the king is the same as a note sung by one of the blobs. But which one? This is what you need to identify.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWAlthough the game always opens with the default of three blobs, you can set the game to as little as two (which is the best place to start). As you improve, you can increase the number of blobs in the choir. The maximum is eight blobs, which is very difficult.

If the incorrect blob is selected, that blob will explode, but you are able to select another blob and continue doing this until the correct blob is selected. At any time you can click the ‘hear blobs again’ button at the bottom to hear the remaining blobs sing their notes again.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWThe game is separated into groups of ten questions; after each set of ten you will receive a score and an overall rating.

$1.49 on the Apple app store (but not for Android), the Apple version can be found here.

If you don’t own or have access to an iPad or Android tablet, never fear! The game is also available in a web version here; it just requires an internet connection.

They not only look cute, but they sound really cute as well 🙂

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

App Review – ‘The Most Addicting Sheep Game’ is Back! – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

In the middle of last year I reviewed a great iPad app called The Most Addicting Sheep Game. Not long after that, iOS 9 arrived and the app wasn’t compatible. The developer, Just So, is an individual developing these games in his spare time, so it has been a huge job for him to totally recode the game. I’m glad to say it is now back, better than ever, so the old blog post deserves a re-post.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWThe Most Addicting Sheep Game is a seemingly simple rhythm app for the iPad where jumps and rolls must be perfectly timed to the music by tapping or swiping on the screen. It is easy to learn, but tricky to master.

On the surface, the connection to traditional music education could be considered faint, as it does not involve written rhythm and connecting that to an aural beat, but it is still definitely all about rhythm. The rhythms are very precise – a fraction of a second off and your sheep will fall through the cracks – and the higher levels are very difficult, so I feel it definitely has its place as a music education app. It is aural, rather than theoretical.

The premise is that you control a sheep that jumps to the beat, either with a single finger tap, two-finger tap, or swipe. The aim is to work through all the increasingly difficult levels, while also scoring maximum points. Plus, it has cute sheep!

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWThe sheep can jump at either one, two or four beats and can also jump two different height levels. An obstacle on the path – such as a tower of balancing sheep – requires a swipe to knock down. This means, as with most things to do with playing music, your brain is concentrating on multiple things at the same time. The picture above shows one beat and two beat lengths, a double jump and single jumps plus swipes. All of that would take less than five seconds to execute. Plus it all has to be done strictly in time with the music!

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWThe graphics are cute and the music is catchy. At first the music can be annoying – especially when you aren’t being successful – but all of a sudden you will find it’s an integral part of the mood and the fun.

While you can get through to the end of a level by ignoring the height of the jump and always using two fingers, you will be penalised and won’t obtain the full score possible. If you’re anything like me and always want to see three stars at the end of a level, this just won’t do the trick.

The game begins with a Training mode, which has six different rounds within it. This mode teaches the basics of the single jump, double jump and swipe and then combines them all together. The levels after that are titled:

  1. Mild;
  2. Tricky;
  3. Wicked; and
  4. Grim.

Each of these levels contains six rounds. All levels, including training, also have an ‘infinity bonus’ level that doesn’t have the usual pre-determined ending, but will continue until you miss a jump and lose your sheep.

Working my way through the updated version, I have discovered that extra modes can now be unlocked, including the Supersheep mode (extra-fast) and being able to slow down the speed to practise difficult parts.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWYou can find it here in the Australian app store. It is not a free app, but costs only $1.49, a small cost for the amount of time it will keep you occupied.

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

The Benefits of Duets – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

I was lucky when I was learning the piano – my sister was also learning. Plus my Mum played. That meant I always had a duet partner available. Duets certainly have their challenges, but most of my memories of playing duets involve lots of laughter. My only complaint at the time was I always had to play the bottom part, which was usually keeping the beat and not as melodically interesting. Nevertheless, duets formed a significant part of our performing, particularly in our teenage years and were always fun.

Piano teacher in Wallsend NSW

“Piano Duet” by Pamela Blaies (http://pamelablaies.com)

The method books I use to teach my beginners – and most method books on the market – have a teacher accompaniment that can be played along with the student. It not only ‘fills out’ the sound of their very basic piece for them and makes what they are playing sound much more impressive for them, but it also unknowingly begins to teach them the fundamentals of playing duets.

The benefits of playing piano duets are many and include:

  1. Developing listening skills – the only way your duet will be successful is if you are constantly listening to what the other person is playing to ensure you are staying together.
  2. Early accompanying skills – following on from developing listening skills, learning how to follow or catch-up to the other person can set up the quality skills of a good accompanist.
  3. Teaches good timing – good tempo needs to be kept by both parts or the piece won’t flow and will sound very disjointed. With a partner, you are more likely to maintain a steady pulse and keep going. Over time, you will gain more rhythmic constancy and learn to adapt to any tempo set by a partner.
  4. Teamwork and interaction – pianists usually spend a lot of time playing alone. Playing duets not only encourage interaction with others (as practising together is essential) but you also need to be working together as a team to ensure the piece flows beautifully.
  5.  Articulation and compromise – it’s not just about the correct notes and timing. Duet partners need to learn how to articulate their ideas for interpretation, and then learn to compromise these with the other person’s ideas. Duets teach students to listen carefully, ensuring the parts balance evenly and that articulation ideas passed between the two parts are precisely performed.
  6. Motivation and accountability – while the two players are working as a team, for kids playing duets, they usually want to make sure they don’t sound worse than their partner, so will try their hardest. If they don’t know their part, they may feel they are letting down their partner as they know both of them are accountable for the best result. This also encourages more focussed concentration.
  7. Increased confidence – for those students who are nervous about performing, having a performing buddy is often a much-needed confidence boost.
  8. Pedalling awareness – one person will be pedalling for the other, while the second person will be surrendering their pedal control. This needs to be negotiated and controlled.
  9. Duets are impressive –  audiences (particularly parents watching their children play a duet together) love duets; they sound full, rich and harmonious and watching two pianists play together in sync is entertaining.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWI still enjoy the fullness of sound a duet provides and regularly play a duet ‘together with myself’, where I record the Secondo (bottom part) on my digital piano and then play it back while I play the Primo (top part). Duets are certainly a special experience :-)

If you are considering piano lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

App Review “Blob Chorus” by Lumpty Learning – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Aural training – or developing ‘a good ear’ – is such an important part of becoming a musician. It helps with everything from being able to harmonise through to simply recognising if you’ve made a mistake. But not everybody is born with a naturally good ear and even those who are can still learn to better refine it.

So how do we help our students develop their aural skills without the drudgery of drills and exercises? We use fun apps!

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWBlob Chorus by Lumpty Learning is one such app, which introduces students to basic pitch recognition in a fun way. It is used in thousands of schools around the world because it also works well in a group setting, but its simplicity means it is also totally suitable for individual lessons.

The premise of the game is simple: a number of green blobs have formed a choir and they are singing for King Blob (who is purple and wears a crown). Each blob sings a note and then King Blob sings a note. The note sung by the king is the same as a note sung by one of the blobs. But which one? This is what you need to identify.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWAlthough the game always opens with the default of three blobs, you can set the game to as little as two (which is the best place to start). As you improve, you can increase the number of blobs in the choir. The maximum is eight blobs, which is very difficult.

If the incorrect blob is selected, that blob will explode, but you are able to select another blob and continue doing this until the correct blob is selected. At any time you can click the ‘hear blobs again’ button at the bottom to hear the remaining blobs sing their notes again.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWThe game is separated into groups of ten questions; after each set of ten you will receive a score and an overall rating.

Free on the Apple app store (but not for Android), the Apple version can be found here.

If you don’t own or have access to an iPad or Android tablet, never fear! The game is also available in a web version here; it just requires an internet connection.

They not only look cute, but they sound really cute as well 🙂

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

App Review “Music for Little Mozarts” by Alfred – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Can you tell whether sounds are a low or high pitch?

Is the music going up or going down?

Does what you see match what you hear?

Beethoven Bear and Mozart Mouse are here to help you out!

‘Music for Little Mozarts’ is an app that was conceived for preschool and kindergarten-aged students, but if you don’t mind the cuteness, it is helpful for beginners of all ages. I mostly use it with students to help develop aural awareness, but it also contains some basic note recognition  and rhythm games.

This app corresponds with the the Music For Little Mozarts piano method books (published by Alfred), but the activities are still extremely useful even if you aren’t using those method books.

The following image shows the range of activities available in the app:

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSW

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWThe two I use most are the first two, as they are great early ear training activities asking only to tell the difference between two things. Is the note played a high note or a low note and are the notes going up or down? The interface is easy… just tap the red circle to hear the sound and then drag the same circle to either Beethoven Bear or Mozart Mouse, depending on your answer. For example, the image on the right shows the ‘Notes Going Up or Down’ activity. The student taps the red circle and hears a succession of notes. If they think the melody is moving from lower to higher notes, they drag the circle up to Mozart Mouse sitting at the top of the staircase. If the think the melody is moving downwards, they drag the circle to Beethoven Bear.

The app will not let the circle stay in the area of the wrong answer; it needs to be answered correctly before moving on to the next question.

Some of the activities don’t require the student to answer a question and act more as a teaching reinforcement. The child can play any note on the keyboard and the app will show them where it sits on the staff. After that, they can move on to the activity where they need to identify the keyboard location of a note after seeing it on the staff.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWThe app also has a simple rhythm exercise, using the note values that are commonly learnt in their first few lessons. Beethoven Bear and Mozart Mouse are each standing under a different rhythm. The student taps the red circle to hear a rhythm and then drags the note to the character standing under the rhythm they think is correct. Once again, the question needs to be answered correctly before moving on.

Aural training is such an integral part of a complete music education, so it’s great to find an app that approaches it in such a simple way for beginners. The first two activities are also great for discovering the aural capabilities of a new student… but they don’t even know you’re testing them.

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

 

 

App Review – “The Most Addicting Sheep Game” by Just So – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Run. Jump. Roll.

Jump… double jump… swipe….

Ping!  Boing!  Whoosh!

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSW

The Most Addicting Sheep Game is a seemingly simple rhythm app for the iPad where jumps and rolls must be perfectly timed to the music by tapping or swiping on the screen. It is easy to learn, but tricky to master.

On the surface, the connection to traditional music education could be considered faint, as it does not involve written rhythm and connecting that to an aural beat, but it is still definitely all about rhythm. The rhythms are very precise – a fraction of a second off and your sheep will fall through the cracks – and the higher levels are very difficult, so I feel it definitely has its place as a music education app. It is aural, rather than theoretical.

The premise is that you control a sheep that jumps to the beat, either with a single finger tap, two-finger tap, or swipe. The aim is to work through all the increasingly difficult levels, while also scoring maximum points. Plus, it has cute sheep!

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWThe sheep can jump at either one, two or four beats and can also jump two different height levels. An obstacle on the path – such as a tower of balancing sheep – requires a swipe to knock down. This means, as with most things to do with playing music, your brain is concentrating on multiple things at the same time. The picture above shows one beat and two beat lengths, a double jump and single jumps plus swipes. All of that would take less than five seconds to execute. Plus it all has to be done strictly in time with the music!

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWThe graphics are cute and the music is catchy. At first the music can be annoying – especially when you aren’t being successful – but all of a sudden you will find it’s an integral part of the mood and the fun.

While you can get through to the end of a level by ignoring the height of the jump and always using two fingers, you will be penalised and won’t obtain the full score possible. If you’re anything like me and always want to see three stars at the end of a level, this just won’t do the trick.

The game begins with a Training mode, which has six different rounds within it. This mode teaches the basics of the single jump, double jump and swipe and then combines them all together. The levels after that are titled:

  1. Mild;
  2. Tricky;
  3. Wicked; and
  4. Grim.

Each of these levels contains six rounds. All levels, including training, also have an ‘infinity bonus’ level that doesn’t have the usual pre-determined ending, but will continue until you miss a jump and lose your sheep.Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSW

You can find it here in the Australian app store. It is not a free app, but costs only $1.29, a small cost for the amount of time it will keep you occupied.

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

App Review “Flashnote Derby” – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Sometimes simple is best.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWThese days we have so much technology at our disposal and it is always tempting to look for tools that are complex and multi-use because we feel the more they offer, the more useful they should be. But sometimes we are just making things harder for ourselves. It’s like trying to work out all the complexities of a smart phone, when all we really want to do is make a telephone call.

Flashnote Derby is an app that solves a single problem and solves it simply.

Learning notes is a necessary evil with playing any instrument, and they are best learnt with repetition, including drilling. Flashnote Derby is fun and straightforward and will help a student to increase their speed of note recognition.

From a teacher’s point of view, this app works well because it is totally customisable. You simply select the notes you want the student to drill with the range being as small as one note and as large as thirty-four. Most other note-recognition apps only allow you to select a range of pre-determined notes.

The simple interface is a horse race, with your horse moving according to how well you are identifying the notes and it is really easy to set up. Go to the settings screen (the icon has a spanner and screw driver) and tap on the notes you wish to practise. Then it’s off to the races!

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSW

There are a few options for how you select your answer:

  • Letter names
  • Keyboard with letter names
  • Keyboard without letter names

For beginners, I prefer to use the keyboard. They are usually starting to learn treble clef notes at middle C, so find it confusing to have the A and B showing before the C. The keyboard starts at C and is more familiar to them. As an added bonus, it is then also reinforcing their keyboard recognition skills, not just note names.Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSW

Identifying notes correctly will move your jockey and horse ahead of their competitor; each time you answer correctly, he moves ahead a little bit more. If you can’t answer correctly or take too long, your opponent will move forward and you may lose the race.

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSWThe difficulty can be increased by adding more notes and/or speeding up the race. The speed is determined by whether you choose to walk, trot, cantor or gallop during your race. Before you know it, you’re an expert at naming the notes of the treble clef, the bass clef, or both.

By starting with an easy race, beginners are likely to win; this then gives them the confidence to want to play more and new notes can be added gradually as they learn them in their method book.

There is also a small series of tutorial videos that can be accessed by tapping on the lightbulb icon at the bottom of the settings page.  These will teach you the basics about the notes and where they are placed on the staff.

The soundtrack is a questionable aspect and can go either way… some students find the sounds of the crowd cheering and clapping faster and faster quite annoying (as do I) while others feel it urges them on.

In summary, it is a concise app that does exactly what it promises, in an easy-to-navigate way. All my students have loved using it.

The app is available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android phones and tablets and Kindle Fire tablets and can be found here in the App Store.

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

App Review “Rhythm Cat” by LMuse – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Learning the fundamentals of reading music – rhythmic values and note names – is so vital to playing an instrument, but it can be boring and frustrating. Finding a way to make any part of it more interesting and fun is always a bonus. Rhythm Cat delivers.

Piano Teacher Wallsend NSW

 

The Rhythm Cat app (from the Melody Cats suite of apps by LMuse Limited) is a fun and effective way to improve rhythm skills. It is an engaging way for beginners to get past the challenging and often discouraging introduction to reading music but can also be a bit of fun for more experienced musicians to conquer the progressively more complex levels.

 

On each level, you are presented with a rhythm example. The levels progress in complexity, allowing you to move ahead as your skill increases.Piano Teacher Wallsend NSW

After hitting the Play button, the soundtrack begins and a countdown is shown (depending on the time signature – usually 1-2-3 or 1-2-3-4). You then need to tap the large green button to tap the rhythm of the example shown, in time with the soundtrack. As you move through the rhythm, correct taps will turn the corresponding note green, while incorrect notes stay black. The very first level is basic one-beat crotchet beats. A new rhythmic value is introduced at each level – minims, semibreves, rests etc but the first ten levels don’t move beyond these basic foundation-level rhythms, giving a beginner plenty to play with. This is an example of a rhythm near the end of this section:

Piano teacher Wallsend NSW

The app also has high-quality soundtracks.  Rather than being cheesy or childish,  there is a nice variety of musical styles and tempos, including classical themes, folk tunes, and pop-sounding tracks.  Something for everyone 🙂

As the examples get more difficult, students must tap two different buttons, and then three  The notes are color-coded with blue and red to match the notes.  (The cat illustrations also become more colourful).

The color-coding is a great idea, but is a little confusing.  The blue and red notes coordinate with the blue and red buttons, but the regular notes coordinating with the green button stay their original black.  These green-button-but-black notes still turn green if you tap them correctly and stay black if you miss them.  But it’s only a small annoyance and you’ll become accustomed to it fairly quickly.Piano teacher Wallsend NSW

The app is very sensitive about making sure you tap the rhythm exactly on the beat, which could potentially be frustrating at times, but also will help you learn to be precise as you listen to the beat of the soundtrack.  Each level is scored with one, two, or three stars. If too many notes were incorrect, you will fail the level and be unable to proceed to the next one.

The free version of this app has 15 levels to try out and can be found here.  The Pro version (here) has four “stages,” with 15 levels in each stage.  Stage 1 uses basic rhythms, including crotchet rests and paired quavers.  Stage 2 introduces the dotted crotchet paired with a single quaver and also ties, to create syncopated rhythms.  Stage 3 introduces the quaver rest and complex time signatures (e.g. 3-13 is a killer – it mixes 3/4 and 2/4 and goes pretty fast).  Stage 4 continues with more advanced rhythms using three buttons.

Piano teacher Wallsend NSW

Developed in collaboration with professional musicians and educators, Rhythm Cat is an excellent app to use at home and in the studio.  Students will learn to look ahead more as they tap these rhythms, and will learn the important skill of listening to themselves and others (in this case, the soundtrack) to stay together.

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

 

 

App Review “ScaleBlitzer” by BlitzBooks – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

I was a kid who, when it came time to study for school exams, would always pick maths first. Not because I was particularly good at maths or that it was my favourite subject (it certainly wasn’t). But to me it was about right or wrong. I had the answer right, or I had the answer wrong, so I knew how I was going. Maths had structure, order and logic and working my way through a list of problems was easy discipline.

Playing scales is, to me, a very similar discipline. You have a list of them and work your way through the list. If you play with the correct fingering you should end up finishing in the right place. OK, that’s probably a bit of a simplistic way of looking at it, but you get the point. Structure, order and logic. The things that suit my brain so well.

Piano Teacher Wallsend NSWI have posted before about how important scales are and why we play both them and arpeggios, but I am very aware that not everybody finds them quite as mesmerising as I do. Sometimes you need to kick things up a level. Add a bit of variety. That’s where the app “ScaleBlitzer” comes into the routine. I use this occasionally during lessons, but also encourage my students to use it regularly at home.

Enter all of the scales you have been given into your homework list and the app will generate a vast range of activities based on those scales. Basically, it throws them back at you in a random order, with added instructions. Mixing it up a bit. ScaleBlitzer remembers your homework and keeps track of your progress.

Piano Teacher Wallsend NSW

Once you enter the Practice Studio, there are five different modes from which to choose:

  1. Warm-up: Easy practice methods like ‘ascending only’, ‘play twice’, or ‘no blowing, fingering only’.
  2. Basic: No practice method given, just straight out no-frills instructions (e.g. like you would get in an exam).
  3. Muscle Builder: Practice methods using such things as rhythms and accents.
  4. Brain Strain: Harder practice methods, or a combination of two methods (e.g. in a certain rhythm AND staccato).
  5. Thrill Seeker: This mode will give you either really tough methods, or sometimes three different methods to incorporate into one scale.

The following is just a sample of the type of direction you may read:

  • Play twice, second time faster
  • Double staccato
  • Descending then ascending
  • Rhythm: “Seventy sixty fifty”
  • Play three times without stopping
  • Play twice, mezzo forte first time, piano second time
  • Accent: “Galloping galloping”

Piano Teacher in Wallsend NSW

One of the features that makes using this app interesting is the self-rating feature. After each scale, you need to select how you think you went – Perfect 1st go, Got it eventually or Having trouble – before moving on to the next one. As we know, effective practise requires listening to the way you’ve played something and deciding whether it needs more work or not. This self-rating system encourages listening and critical thinking, rather than just playing through.

The app remembers what you do well and where you have trouble and future sessions are based on where the work is needed. You will be tested more often on the ones you’re having trouble with, until they start to improve.

Along the way, points are accumulated and characters and outfits are chosen and changed. Once you have made it through a Practice Studio session (5 scales/activities), it will offer you the opportunity to go on a World Tour, where you can choose your character, outfit and the countries in which you will play. The kids love getting to this part and it’s lovely to see their inner rock-child or pop princess come to the fore in their outfit choices! You can even record your playing to show your teacher what you have been doing.

Piano Teacher Wallsend

Overall, the aim is to make technical work more interesting to play while having a bit of fun along the way. I like using it as a teaching tool because it makes my students stop and think about what they are playing. For students, your technique will be improving without you being bored. For parents, it’s a bonus to have any resource that makes the kids want to play instead of having to nag them. You will also know they are practising the scales that need the most attention, because ScaleBlitzer is keeping track of it. At the end of the day, improved technical work means improved technique, which results in improved playing. If we can add in a bit of fun and variety along the way, then we have a bonus!

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.

App Review “Magic Piano” by Smule – Piano Teacher in Wallsend, NSW

Piano teacher in Wallsend NSWIt may seem odd that I have selected an app that isn’t about learning the fundamentals like note recognition, timing or pitch. There is no keyboard and there are no note names.

But music education apps don’t need to be always obviously teaching. This app has been around for a few years now and I love it for its more subtle advantages:

  • Encourages eye-hand co-ordination;
  • Develops fine motor skills;
  • Exposes students to a range of music they may not otherwise hear; and
  • Helps students to develop a good sense of rhythm.

Piano teacher in Wallsend NSWThe basic premise is that balls of light – representing the notes of a song – drop down the screen towards a line. You need to tap these balls as they reach the line. Doing so in the correct combination and sequence will play the song correctly. The balls are spaced variably and need to be tapped in the correct location, so you aren’t passively staying in one place.

The app is free and you are started off with a handful of free songs. Additional songs can be purchased for “smoola” (the in-game currency), which can be purchased or earned. Also, most days a free song is offered. You can earn smoola by watching advertising videos. I have never paid real money for smoola and have still accumulated over 165 songs, so it is easy enough to keep the game free and have enough content to keep you occupied.

Piano teacher in Wallsend NSWThree different levels of difficulty are available for every song – easy, medium and hard. The easy level contains single notes and two-note chords. The medium level includes three-note chords while the hard level moves up to four-note chords. There is also a range of difficulty in the songs themselves. For example, many of the old traditional pieces are written basically and are therefore simple, while a classical piece is much more involved. This means it is still incredibly useful (and fun) for total beginners but challenging for experienced musicians.

You can try playing with one hand or two. Being used to coordinating my hands from years of playing, I prefer to use two hands in faster passages when swapping quickly between chords and single notes.

Some songs link in with Smule’s other apps (singing and guitar) so you can play along to somebody else singing the song. You can even share your performance on social media.

Having a large range of music styles available means kids – and even adults – are exposed to styles of music they might otherwise never hear. This is a great asset for overall musicality and always a benefit for a music student. There are lots of current chart-toppers as well as favourites, such as songs from Frozen. The styles included are:

Pop Rock Country
Classical J-pop & K-pop Kids’ songs
Traditional Video games Movies & TV
Musicals

A little added extra (that I don’t use, so usually forget about) is a virtual keyboard that can be used to play tunes. It comes in a few different configurations. The tone is good, but the keys are very narrow.

Like any app, it’s not perfect and there are two aspects that are not ideal. Sometimes the balls drop too quickly after periods of rest or longer notes, so keeping to the rhythm you know is correct in your mind will result in you seeing a “play faster” message. This only happens occasionally on slower songs. A young friend once showed me that she could still get a perfect score by very quickly tapping on every ball, even though she wasn’t playing the notes of a chord together or following the correct rhythm. It was disappointing that doing this could result in a perfect score. But if you want to use it properly, it is a great tool.

Remember that not everything educational needs to be shouting it from the rooftop. Sometimes the more subtle approach can have just as much benefit. But be warned… this one is a little addictive!

If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.