This app by parent company JoyTunes boasts 1 million music learners per week and is very popular with beginners. It’s easy to see why. Unlike some other apps it’s not trying to teach you its own method of playing piano, instead giving you actual standard notation to read straight away, with the aim of teaching you to play a song that you choose from an initial list. Choosing your own goal is a really nice touch, though there are plenty of other songs grouped into level tiers along the way so that you have lots to practice at each stage of your learning. It ranks highly on our guide to the best online piano lessons right now.
Simply Piano: Membership
There are three subscription lengths available, but you get the same content no matter which you choose. Three months is the shortest duration, which costs $59.99 every three months until you cancel. To save money you could get a six-month subscription for $89.99 or take out a full year for $119.99. There is no ‘lifetime’ membership as with some apps, but you do get a free 7-day trial if you give your credit card details over for the 12-month subscription. Just cancel more than 24 hours before the 7 days is up and you can enjoy the rest of the trial without spending anything. It's an almost identical cost to Playground Sessions, which is another high quality app, so your choice really comes down to whatever learning style you prefer.
It’s also worth noting that at the time of writing Simply Piano comes with a dual subscription to Simply Guitar too, so you or a family member can learn guitar too for no extra cost.
Simply Piano: Lessons and Features
There’s a free introductory course that anyone can try, and it even lets you play with an on-screen keyboard built into the app itself, but only for this taster section, after which you need a real instrument. And there’s no desktop app available here, which is a pity. There is, however, a MIDI option available, though you will need a cable or adaptor to connect a MIDI keyboard to your tablet.
Once you’ve mastered the beginner tutorial you choose that song to get started with, ranging from Perfect by Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 to Baby Shark by Pinkfong, or Bohemian Rhapsody or Ed Sheeran’s Perfect in-between. The range of music styles on offer is commendable and there are hundreds of songs to practice in the song catalogue.
There’s an option to sign up for email tips and printable sheet music to try. There’s also a closed group for subscribers to join and exchange tips if you want to get involved in the community. Another neat feature is the way the app can be configured to remind you to do a short, daily workout, and this feature brings back the on-screen keyboard so that you can brush up on your note learning even while out and about, which is really cool if you have a busy lifestyle.
Simply Piano: Experience
This introduction to playing piano is exemplary because you’re eased in while surrounded by the real symbols and notes of standard notation. Even at the very beginning, there are not just crotchets and minims, but even rests clearly visible on the stave. And yet because it’s only focusing on your five digits, and the notes are introduced one by one in sequence, it doesn’t feel at all scary. In fact, it’s so expertly paced, you’ll make massive gains in very little time, and be playing two-handed in just a couple of hours in-app.
By the end of the half-hour or so introductory sequence, you’re playing the melody to Ode To Joy on actual black-on-white sheet music, which doesn’t move - a surprisingly strange-feeling when you’re used to the app scrolling from right to left. You can even print it out. Playing a real sheet of music having just learned how is a wonderful feeling.
At the end of this free period, you’re about to play a simplified version of the song you chose earlier on, but that’s when the subscription message appears. Even so, a few more hours on and you’ll be playing full chords with your right hand while playing bass with the left. It’s all down to the superb curation of the lessons and the little warm-up sections where the notes on which you’re about to be tested are all displayed, lit up as you play them so there are no surprises.
The app soon also gives you a choice whether to focus on chords or melody, though you can work through both in parallel if you prefer. It’s simple, but streamlined and effective. There are no latency issues at all on iPad Pro, and the analogue note detection is pretty good, though it does start to struggle to hear all the notes when you’re playing four at once.
Simply Piano: Support and User reviews
You can visit https://intercom.help/joytunes/en for a list of troubleshooting areas including a Technical Help section. There’s also an FAQ on the joytunes.com website that contains more troubleshooting tips.
Users really love this app too, and echo our thoughts on it. One comments that: "It starts off slow and lets you get your pace, then it pushes a bit to keep you engaged and learning". However, one of the few criticisms leveled at Simply Piano, by users, is how generous it is with timing. "Timing and rhythm is the weakest part of my playing, and the app is very loose about allowing me to hit chords too late. I ended up getting a separate app that has rhythm training exercises".
Should you try Simply Piano?
Yes, without question. While it doesn’t teach you everything (notably dynamics were not mentioned at all during our test), this is nonetheless a brilliant way either to get started, or to break that barrier between playing by ear and actually learning how to play and read piano music properly. With Simply Piano you may well make faster progress than you ever thought possible. We did.