PROS / There is a heavy emphasis on playing music to learn, as well as learning to play popular songs.
CONS / It takes a handful of lessons before you start to learn any theory, which is intentional, but learning note values earlier in your playing can be helpful.
VERDICT / Playground Sessions takes a unique approach to teaching piano that engages you with a fresh batch of music and relatable concepts to motivate you.
Play to learn: that is the motto behind Playground Sessions' online piano lessons. The sole purpose of Playground Sessions is to get you playing your piano the second you start lessons. Playground Sessions presents the lessons in a fun and modern way that helps even the most novice piano player learn without becoming bored. You can download popular songs to learn, track your practice progress and even record a performance to see how you sound as you learn new songs. These are a few of the reasons why Playground Sessions is one of the best online piano lessons and earns our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award.
You can purchase a subscription to Playground Sessions in three separate manners – monthly, annually or a one-time payment for a lifetime plan. Playground Sessions accepts payments via debit and credit cards and PayPal. If you have an older version of Playground Sessions already installed on your computer, it will automatically update to the newest version.
The dashboard within playground sessions has been totally redesigned. The new dashboard combines all of your practice progress, lesson levels and stars you have earned within one area. The dashboard clearly details the total amount of time you have been practicing, along with completed lessons and those that are in progress. This section makes it easy for the student or teacher to have full insight of the total time spent practicing piano.
Motivation is a key factor in continuing piano lessons. Playground Sessions keeps you motivated in a number of different ways. Playground Sessions is MIDI compatible – this is how you track your performance and how much you practice in real-time. When you take a lesson, the correct notes you play will be marked in green and the wrong notes will be marked in red. After the lesson is complete, it will break your performance down into a percentage, and you will receive points for your performance. Playground Sessions keeps track of the points based off a level system, and as you earn points and hit certain point totals, you level up.
The toolbar above the lessons has been improved as well. All of your tools have been enlarged and are easy to see. The metronome lets you adjust the tempo to whatever speed you feel is comfortable. You can also change the markings above the notes to show you numbers, the name of the note or you can leave it blank.
Another feature that we found to be incredibly helpful when learning to play piano is the ability to record your performance. In learning piano, tracking your progress is crucial, and recording a performance is a great way to track how well your piano skills are coming along. You can record a performance and save it so you can listen to it when you are done. This is one of the only online piano lessons that allows you to do this. When you record your performance, you can earn up to three stars for performing the song perfectly, two stars for a few mistakes and a single star for a handful of mistakes.
Your progress tracking also goes much further than that. You can go to the progress tab within the software to see how many times you have practiced a particular lesson or song. Your progress is marked with a line graph, showing you when you played the song and how well you did in a readable timeline. This piano teaching software not only allows you to listen to your progress, but shows your progress in a timeline so you can visually see that you are getting better as you practice. All of these tools keep your motivation at a high level to engage you in the program.
One of the most impressive features found in Playground Sessions is the online store, which enables you to learn and master piano by providing a place to purchase popular song lessons that you are familiar with. When you learn songs that you are familiar with, you have something to compare your performance to and something to strive to achieve. Playground Sessions has publishing rights with many different publishing companies and songs, so you can obtain songs and sheet music all within the store. It’s great that all of these resources are within one place.
The real motivating factor for earning the stars and points is to earn free songs. When you acquire 15 total stars, you earn a free song purchase from the song store. This includes the song download along with the sheet music. You can also earn free songs when you improve five levels. Playground Sessions always seems to keep you progressing toward a goal, which is extremely helpful in keeping you motivated as lessons become more difficult.
There are a countless number of individual practice exercises and lessons. There are 70 video tutorials that add up to 30 hours of video lessons from the instructor.
There are lessons for every skill level of piano player. If you are a total novice, rookie lessons are where to begin. More advanced players should start with intermediate, and highly skilled players can choose to enhance their skills with the advanced package of lessons. There are also lesson packages tailored to enhance your technical skills on the piano, as well as packages that focus on improving playing music by ear, sight-reading and notation development.
David Sides is the video instructor for these online piano tutorials. Even though they are video lessons, David presents the lessons in a natural way that doesn't feel forced. He presents the information in an encouraging way. Feeling comfortable with your teacher, whether it's in person or in video tutorials, is key. If you don't like your instructor from the beginning, chances are you aren't going to continue with your online piano lessons.
All of the lessons are located in what is called Bootcamp. Bootcamp has a combination of video tutorial lessons and play-along exercises to get your hands acclimated to the keyboard. Within these play-along exercises, you learn how to play beginner versions of songs by Duke Ellington, The Beatles and Beyonce, all before you get to the second video tutorial.
The instructor immediately has you start learning the melody of a popular song. This is the difference between Playground Sessions and other piano software. Playground Sessions uses popular music to teach you the basics of playing piano so you stay invested. You learn by playing, which is the motto of Playground Sessions.
After you are done playing the song with the instructor, he explains to you the numbering of the fingers and how to apply finger positioning to the keyboard. The end of the lesson is done in a playful manner where he wears funny ape-like hands to explain that fingering positions are about being comfortable and that everybody's hands are different. The humor helps to keep you invested in the lesson.
In the second lesson, you cover more on piano keys and how to break the piano down into manageable sections. Within the first two lessons, there isn't much theory involved, but for good reason. Playground Sessions intricately works the theory into your lessons without having you become overwhelmed or bored. You won't really be introduced to theory or notation until several lessons down the road.
As you begin to advance in levels, it takes more points to level up. As you practice songs that are more difficult, you earn more points for good performances. This keeps you motivated to continue to practice more difficult songs and push yourself to become a better piano player.
Help and Support
If you have any questions concerning Playground Sessions, there are multiple avenues that you can pursue for assistance. On the website, you can find support and email options. You can also give the company a call for direct support. The website has live chat available to you, and if you have a common questions you can also visit the FAQs section to quickly have your concerns addressed.
The user forum is now built right into the software. The forum gives you access to the community of piano players. From the forum, you can ask the instructor questions, have discussions with other students and make song requests.
Playground Sessions takes a modern approach to learning piano. It slowly integrates the "scary" theory into digestible segments, all while you are learning to play popular music. David Sides is a natural when it comes to teaching, and his video tutorials are easy to watch and keep you engaged. This is one of your best chances to stay engaged when learning piano online.