Boasting over 1,500 popular songs, Yousician has been hitting the advertising hard on YouTube, so you’ve probably seen an advert for this app if you’ve ever searched for a musical tuition video. But with a big budget often comes impressive production and that’s certainly the case here. This is one of the better ways to learn piano at home, and it sits high up on our list of the best online piano lessons list. Only a couple of small issues like slight latency and certain aspects of the learning journey prevent this from claiming a higher ranking, and beating out our top pick, Playground Sessions.
One Premium Plus subscription here gives you access to lessons on not just piano, but also guitar, bass, ukulele and even vocals, making this an impressive learning tool for any budding Dave Grohl. It’s a hefty $139.99 for a year, or $29.99 a month, though still a huge saving compared to multiple single instrument plans, and also gives you access to all the songs without paying extra. The Premium tier (one instrument) requires purchase of some additional songs, and only covers one instrument, but you still get all the classes available for your piano. That’s $19.99 a month or $89.99 for a year. Premium Plus plans also come with a free 7-day trial where you can try everything the app has to offer. A representative told us that plans and prices vary per account, region and device, so your price may be different to the ones listed here. As a final note, after cancelling the free trial, we were sent an email begging us not to ‘leave the band’ (nice touch) along with a 25% off code, so worth giving the trial a go first.
If you're buying single instrument it works out cheaper than something like Simply Piano, but for multi-instrument it's more.
Yousician: Lessons and features
The Yousician desktop app only works with microphone audio, so you can’t practice with this one using a MIDI keyboard or silently on headphones. That said, it recognised both a virtual Garageband piano (on a separate iPad) and a slightly out-of-tune 100 years-old upright, with excellent note recognition on each, even clearly discerning between octaves.
The app only asks you to play for 10 minutes each day, though with a premium subscription you can play for as long as you like, progressing down the lesson tree, earning stars as you go. Free subscriptions still let you play, but restrict feedback after your daily lesson.
You soon get to branch out into ‘Classical’, ‘Pop’ or ‘Knowledge and Creativity’ on the lesson tree, allowing you access to the style of music you want to play that much faster, which is commendable. You can still jump from one path to another, saving your progress down each, and the app encourages you to sample everything so that you become a well-rounded musician. The Knowledge and Creativity path is designed to teach you about music theory, rather than just learn to play your favourite songs which is very cool.
Perhaps Yousician’s best feature, however, is the practice mode for every lesson which lets you slow down the tempo manually, or set it to automatic, which changes the tempo dynamically based on how many notes you’re missing. You can even set start and end points on the timeline to practice one particular section over and over again, which is a great feature, and you can rewind the piece mid-session by dragging the bar at the bottom.
You can download the app to a PC, Mac, iPad or Android, and it looks and feels the same whichever format you choose. The presentation is simple but effective and the short instructional videos are unobtrusive, instead letting you learn through on-screen lessons where notes come in from the left and you have to play them at the play-head, turning piano into a rhythm-action videogame. It’s beginner-friendly, beginning with what’s best described as ‘color coded notation-lite’ which lets you see note names and colours corresponding to fingers, which are placed at the correct heights on treble and bass clef staves, theoretically easing you into learning standard notation, which you unlock at Level 3. Just be warned that relying on reading the note names in the colored bars instead of learning notation properly makes the jump to standard notation very jarring when you get there. So our advice is to make the switch sooner rather than later.
Latency isn’t an issue you’d expect on a brand new MacBook Pro, but before long it became clear that notes needed to be pressed distinctly early in order to be recognised as ‘perfect’, while moving over to an iPad Pro saw everything working nicely on time. Most odd - and not an isolated incident if the app’s forums are anything to go by. Either way, there isn’t a calibration screen, so do try the free trial on your chosen device to make sure you’re happy before you spend money.
Yousician: Support and User reviews
There is a comprehensive FAQ section on the website www.yousician.com with everything broken down into sections so you can find what you need quickly. If that fails, then there’s a simple contact form and you can expect a reply within 12 hours in most circumstances.
Should you try Yousician?
Yes, absolutely. It’s a fun and engaging system, and progress is swift. It’s got the most swagger of all the big-name apps - deservedly so considering it works so well. But the initial emphasis on coloured bars instead of standard notation can make this feel like you’re playing at piano rather than playing piano and that may not help you if you’re really serious about the instrument. Also be sure to try the free trial to see whether latency will be an issue for you - otherwise you may be learning to play out of time and that’s a Very Bad Thing.