Simply Piano is a straightforward platform that aims to teach people the basics and beyond in the easiest way possible. If there’s one thing I hate to see in any platform, it’s unnecessary complications, so Simply Piano sounds promising.
After properly testing the platform, I’ll give my honest opinion and see how it compares to others. Let’s check it out.
About the author
Final verdict on Simply Piano
Sadly, Simply Piano fell a long way short of my high expectations. The platform offers some excellent content, but it’s all a little half-baked. It’s too simple and limited, lacking a clear and sensible structure.
What I like
- Free trial.
- Great song selection.
- Instant feedback.
- Large community.
- User-friendly design.
What I don’t like
- Poor arrangements.
- Poor note recognition.
- Very limited instant feedback.
- Terrible progression path.
- No live content.
Use these jump links to navigate to the desired section of the review.
Simply Piano starts well by giving users full access to a premium account through a 14-day free trial. A premium account gives you all courses, lessons, songs, and other unlockable content.
Most platforms provide a small selection of free material or a restricted free trial, meaning you can only access specific content. While anything is better than nothing, I’d really like to see all learning platforms providing an unrestricted free trial rather than a few handpicked lessons that won’t inspire all potential students the same way.
The only thing I don’t like about the Simply Piano free trial is that you must enter payment details to start your trial. It’s not a massive issue, as users can cancel any time before the trial ends without being charged. The problem is that people forget to cancel, then have to deal with asking for a refund, etc.
Now, Simply Piano might have the best customer service regarding refunds, but the fact is, the thought of it will put some people off before they even try.
I think removing the need for payment details at the start would encourage more people to try the platform, and users who enjoy it will happily pay.
Anyway, that’s an issue for Simply Piano to consider, but as far as the amount and variety of free content are concerned, you get everything; awesome.
Simply Piano provides a range of price plans to suit different users and often offers discounts.Simply Piano: Start your free trial
Getting started with Simply Piano is very easy, and you can start your first lesson in just a few minutes. Once you sort out the account details like your email, payment details, etc., Simply Piano will ask you to answer a few easy questions.
The questions cover things like your current level of experience (if any), your piano goals, and preferred musical genres. You’ll also be asked to select your preferred learning method between auditory and visual – I’ll discuss that more in a bit.
Your answers help tailor the course content to your personal preferences to provide the most enjoyable experience. For example, if you prefer pop music over classical, an exercise might be built around a pop song, whereas someone who likes classical might learn the same lesson around a Mozart piece.
It’s important to stress that your answers won’t increase or decrease the quality of the lessons; you won’t miss out on anything, whatever you choose.
I have a high score here because it’s quick and easy to get started, but if I had to find one negative, the questions could be more in-depth. It’s great when platforms try to personalize the learning experience, and perhaps Simply Piano could have gone a little further.
Simply Piano allows you to play with a MIDI keyboard or a real piano. You can connect a MIDI keyboard to your device or use your device’s built-in microphone for note detection.
Whether you plug your keyboard in or use the microphone, Simply Piano is ready to go immediately without identifying your keyboard type, etc.
There’s also an “On The Go” Touch Mode where you can use an on-screen keyboard to practice lessons and techniques.
In my experience, I have found that Simply Piano’s note recognition is very inconsistent, and I’d suggest connecting a MIDI keyboard directly to your device to avoid this problem.
It was inconsistent in the sense that it was fine most of the time, but when it wasn’t fine, it was absolutely terrible.
For example, you could repeat the same simple chord multiple times, and despite never changing your hand position, it might register some notes as wrong. But, it does so randomly, not every single time.
Other times, the note detection seemed to fixate on a single note and register it as wrong regardless of how you play it.
This problem became very frustrating on several occasions as it prolonged the completion of some very easy lessons/songs.
The Simply Piano interface has some aspects I like and some I don’t, so let’s start with the things I like. I keep coming back to the same word (unsurprisingly), and that word is simple; everything about the interface is simple, and that’s a good thing.
The interface features a dropdown menu containing your profile details, 5-min workout, sheet music, and settings. If you need to update your profile or make any account changes, you do it from that menu.
Otherwise, there are two main tabs: Courses and Songs. When you select Courses, you’ll see all courses laid out sequentially from left to right (easy to hard). You can scroll through the courses and see what you have to look forward to as you progress.
The interface should be easy to navigate for any user, and that’s fantastic.
What I don’t like about it being so simple is that it’s a little bit vague. Unlike some other platforms, you don’t have a dashboard where you can see all of your playing stats at once. You can scroll through courses and see a percentage finish rate for each course, but I’d like to see more than that.
I’d like to see things like total playing time, the total number of correct/incorrect notes, etc. An overview of everything would make it easier to understand what users are good at and where they struggle.
Desktop vs mobile app (mobile/tablet only)
Typically, I’d discuss the differences between desktop and mobile versions of the platform, but Simply Piano doesn’t offer a desktop app or browser version.
Simply Piano is only available via your smartphone or tablet, which will be fine for many users. However, I think it’s a real shame not to offer a desktop option.
Most people considering using Simply Piano will likely have access to a smartphone, but they might not all have a tablet, meaning they are now limited to a relatively small screen.
I tested Simply Piano on an iPhone, and it works fine, but I can imagine some users who might own a laptop but not a tablet becoming frustrated with it or even being put off altogether.
It would be nice (and beneficial to the platform) to see a desktop app in the future.
While the lesson interface provides the core essentials, it lacks the flexibility and control we see from other piano learning apps.
The lesson interface centers around the notation, which, in basic lessons, typically uses the treble clef only but includes the bass clef in more advanced lessons.
Above the notation, you’ll find the available settings, which include:
- Return to menu (change lesson)
- Listen (ear icon)
The Listen function is handy because you can hear the correct performance as often as needed until ready to have a go.
If you hesitate before you start, the app will highlight the current note and display where to find it on your keyboard. Small features like this one are helpful, but they are few and far between.
During lessons that provide a backing track, you can engage Practice mode, which offers reduced tempos of 85% or 95% and a “Wait for me” setting.
If you choose the “Wait for me” setting, the lesson won’t progress until you hit the correct note. Once you’ve had enough practice, you can exit practice mode and complete the less properly.
Unfortunately, I don’t get to discuss too many positives before I start to focus on what’s missing.
Simply Piano doesn’t allow you to adjust the count in, zoom in on notation, select smaller sections to work on, or many other features found on rival platforms. It does provide visual aids like finger numbers, but you can’t control when you do and don’t see those.
The app uses color-coded feedback to show correct and incorrect notes:
- Correct notes – green
- Incorrect – red
- Timing issues – yellow
The system is straightforward enough, but it needs to be more specific. I’ve already said there are issues with incorrect note recognition, but I can put that aside to focus on yellow notes (timing issues).
You can play the wrong rhythm entirely and still get all green notes. You can play early or late and still get all green notes. Yellow notes only occur when you hesitate too long without playing anything, and the app has to assist you.
So, the three levels of success available on each note are:
- Correct with assistance
Simply Piano offers no specifics on poor timing, rhythm, or phrasing, and more importantly, it does nothing to encourage students to correct their mistakes.
It might be easy to use, but the lesson interface is too simple for its own good.
Simply Piano will ask for your preferred learning style when creating your profile. You can choose from the following options:
On the surface, the teaching method is perfect because imitation and repetition are the best way to learn new skills.
Repetition is the cornerstone of every lesson and the best way to learn new skills, but I’d like to see more opportunities for students to be creative (improvise) after learning new skills.
The typical arrangement of courses sees students start with the simplest form of a concept and then move on to add more notes, change the rhythm, and work towards playing with both hands.
I can’t help thinking many good elements are lost in poor execution. For example, adding new note types to change the rhythm is excellent, but it’s almost pointless when the app doesn’t properly judge rhythmic performance.
Another example of a good idea with poor execution is that some courses or sections start with short explainers or reminder videos, and they can be helpful. But, many offer a skip button just a few seconds into the video, and skipping it marks it as complete, just like watching until the end.
One of the things I like about Simply Piano is that you have to complete the Basics and parts of Essentials before you can move on, which prevents students from trying to run before they can walk.
You can’t access the song library until you are someway through the Essentials section, but there are plenty of musical (song-based) lessons throughout.
I don’t like that while it starts with a decent balance of fun and discipline, things become far too vague as you progress. In places, it becomes more like a learn whatever you want to learn approach, and I’ll discuss that more in the progression path.
I constantly applaud the use of instant feedback; I think every platform should have it. Simply Piano provides instant feedback, and it was one of the things I looked forward to testing most.
Frustratingly, I don’t have many good things to say about it. Simply Piano offers the most black-and-white color-coded system I’ve tested so far.
As I said above, the results are correct, incorrect, or correct with assistance. So, effectively, you are limited to right or wrong, and learning to combine technique and creativity is far too nuanced for that. It’s better than no instant feedback, but that’s where it ends.
To quickly summarize the overall feedback, it all lacks detail. As long as you get to the end of a course, it will be marked as complete with no performance-based statistics to show how many times you got it wrong before passing, what areas still need work, or anything else. It’s just done – next, and that isn’t good enough.
After completing a song, you’re given the number of correct notes, scored on timing, and how much assistance you need. I don’t think this feedback is the most accurate, but it’s something, so why don’t we see it for every element of the app and not just songs?
A progress dashboard with historic statistics would be welcomed, too.
Courses and content
Given that I’ve found more negatives than positives, it may surprise you to know that I loved some of the content. The downside, again, is poor execution.
Simply Piano teaches users everything from your very first note to some reasonably advanced jazz chords and many things in between.
There are five courses for beginners: Piano Basics, Essentials 1, 2 and 3, and Music Theory 101.
The Piano Basics course takes you from learning where middle C is to learning your first five notes in a single hand position and finishes with a song. It’s a comfortable and productive start.
The Essentials courses walk you through basic rhythm, chords, and playing with both hands and introduce sharps/flats. It also teaches the student a few songs along the way.
Music Theory 101 provides some technical information on the things learned in the Essentials courses, focusing on things like harmony, intervals, and rhythm.
For some reason, this particular course is labeled as “Optional,” which is quite baffling. I understand that after you reach a certain point, you are free to jump from course to course in any order you like. But, listing the most introductory theory course on the app as optional will only encourage people to skip it.
Intermediate and Advanced
After the beginner stage, there are two paths: Soloist and Chords. The Soloist path focuses on playing melodies, expanding note range, and technique. The Chords path focuses on accompanying songs, chord fundamentals, and different accompaniment styles.
Let’s take a look at a lesson from each section.
I’ve picked the Rhythm 1 lesson from Essentials 1, and in this part, we learn about quarter and half notes. I chose this lesson because it’s the foundation of creating varied rhythms.
Multiple stages require you to play differing combinations of quarter/half notes, sometimes with a backing track. The content here is perfect for an early beginner, it’s not difficult, but it’s productive.
As much as I like this content, it’s let down by the fact that as long as users hit the right note at the right time, it doesn’t matter if they play a quarter, half, or eighth note; they get a clean pass.
In areas like this, the feedback needs to be much better; as it is, students have to judge themselves on whether they played the correct note type, which is terrible for younger learners.
For the intermediate lesson, I’m looking at the “Lead Sheet” course. This course teaches us how to read and play chords and melodies simultaneously.
It’s not the most difficult intermediate lesson, but it’s an important one because playing from lead sheets is a vital skill for any well-rounded musician and a skill that’s often overlooked by some platforms.
You’ll get used to playing chords with both hands, particularly y your left hand. You’ll play with various backing tracks covering different genres and tempos, allowing users to become comfortable with groove and feel.
Once comfortable playing chords in your left hand and melodies in your right, you’ll tackle songs like “I’m A Believer” and “You’re Beautiful”. As I said, it’s not the most challenging intermediate lesson but a pivotal one.
I’ve chosen “The Entertainer” as my advanced lesson for a couple of reasons. It’s a fantastic tune, and Scott Joplin is an important composer who wrote many fun but technically demanding pieces.
The tune is broken into more manageable chunks, and it starts with that iconic intro. Ragtime music generally sounds very busy, which makes it seem complicated, and it is at times.
But, one of the best things about learning “The Entertainer” is it comes with a huge sense of achievement. It’s a milestone song that makes students feel like they can play anything.
I also need to point out that there are definitely holes in the education from beginner to The Entertainer.
The song selection and amount of songs available are both pretty impressive. Simply Piano offers modern pop songs, iconic movie themes, classic rock, classical, and more. The app also makes you work to unlock songs, which is great.
Sadly, I have to say the arrangements are some of the worst I’ve experienced on any platform. Many of the arrangements are clumsy, not engaging, and in an educational sense, could have been put to better use.
It could be much better. On the plus side, printable sheet music is available.
Like most elements of Simply Piano, things start well here. The beginner content is good, and the structure makes sense (initially).
In addition to the good start, some content will appeal to intermediate and borderline-advanced players. The advanced content isn’t truly advanced across the board, but that’s true of most platforms.
The real issue is that there is no clear guidance. Once you get beyond the Essentials courses, it’s just too messy.
First up, we have the Music Theory 101 course, which I already said is inexplicably tagged as optional. Next, we have the content split into two paths: Soloist and Chords.
What I haven’t mentioned yet is that the intro video, which explains the two paths, encourages students to choose either path, stick to one, do both, or zig-zag between the two.
Each path focuses on different skills, but the skills learned through each path complement each other. It seems odd to create two paths and encourage users to choose what they want to learn most rather than integrating all content into one longer, more sensible path.
Undoubtedly, many users will choose one path, get to the end, and not go back to play through the other. Users who do will not be as well-rounded as they should be.
Value for money
On a monthly basis, beginners will get some value from the early content. But, despite having some good intermediate/advanced content, I can’t imagine users not outgrowing or becoming frustrated with the oversimplified nature of the app before reaching the advanced stage.
So, in terms of a yearly subscription, I can’t say it’s good value.Simply Piano: Get started now
Compared to other piano lesson platforms
Simply Piano is one of the most popular piano learning apps right now, but, in my opinion, it’s far from being the best choice. Consider these alternatives.
Simply Piano vs Pianote
Pianote lacks interactive content, but it offers a vast collection of high-quality content, and due to Simply Piano’s flaws, I prefer Pianote.
Simply Piano vs Playground Sessions
Playground Sessions is outstanding in almost every way; I highly recommend it.
Simply Piano vs Flowkey
Flowkey isn’t perfect, but it’s a much better version of what Simply Piano is trying to be.
Who does Simply Piano suit most?
Simply Piano suits absolute beginners or those with minimal experience.