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Playground Sessions Review – Not as Good as You think!

I was pretty excited about joining Playground Sessions, because of all the positive reviews on the Internet.

Hey, with the great Quincy Jones' name on this program as endorsement, how bad can it be?

So I took out my credit card and bought the program for the first month. After trying it out personally, I was rather disappointed.

This is probably the only negative review on Playground Sessions you will find on the Internet.

No offense to all the other reviewers, I will offer my very different perspective in this review. It's good for the readers to see a unique take on the same product, so they can have a more balance view.

(Update 2019: The rating for Playground Sessions is upgraded to 4 out of 5 stars.)

Playground Sessions Review Summary

Product name: Playground Sessions

Website: playgroundsessions.com

Description: A Piano Training Program co-created by legendary musician Quincy Jones for people who want to learn to play the piano. This complete piano training program is based more on playing songs instead of piano exercises.

Price: Very affordable monthly fees

Best for: Beginners to Intermediate players

Product Ratings

Recommended: Yes and No...

Let’s Take An Actual Inside Look!

I will give my best effort to keep this review as objective and fair as possible.

I believe every music program is created with sweat and tears, including this one.

With some of the rather biased reviews on the Internet, readers like you and Playground Sessions itself deserve an objective and fair review.

What I Like a lot about Playground Sessions

First, let’s talk about what I do like about Playground Sessions.

1. Quincy Jones as co-founder

Well, the fact that Quincy Jones is the co-founder certainly helped in making my decision to make the purchase.

playground sessions review

2. Playing songs right from the beginning

Unlike conventional teaching, this piano program is based on playing songs right from the beginning, which I liked the idea a lot.

On the training platform that you install on your computer, you will see that all the teaching materials are actually some of the most popular songs.

They have more than 500 songs available for you on the platform. (Some with extra charges. More on this later.)

Playground sessions review

The songs are all rearranged by the main instructor David Sides to suit the appropriate level of the students.

I like how he designed every training “exercise” within the songs, even if you’re just playing the root note of the main chord.

The way they advertise Playground Session is that “Learn by playing, not practicing!”

3. Video Piano Lessons

Also, the instructor David Sides teaches some of the lessons ( I will explain “some” later ) with video instructions. You get to see how he plays on the keyboard.

The coolest thing is that there is a virtual keyboard below to go along with the video, so you get to see what keys he is playing on the actual piano.

Playground sessions review

Of course, during training and “practice,” you get to play along with the music score.

Playground sessions review

4. Playground Sessions works on PC, Mac, and Ipad

In order to use the program, you need to install the Playground Sessions app on your PC or Mac and connect it with a keyboard.

The coolest thing is that the app comes with an Ipad version which makes it really convenient to use on any keyboard.

5. You get 5 new songs to practice for free every month.

On top of the songs that you get from the basic membership after you join, every month you get 5 free songs to practice. So, you will never run out of songs to practice and learn.

What I Don’t Like about Playground Sessions

As the risk of being too critical and unfair, I will now give you the reason why I think Playground Sessions is a mediocre online piano program.

1. Is Quincy Jones really the co-founder, or is he just putting his name on it?

It’s hard to tell to what level Quincy is involved in the program. One thing that’s for sure is that Quincy is not really teaching the lessons.

Almost all of the lessons are taught by pianist David Sides, and it seems that he is the one running the program.

Playground sessions review

The only time I see Quincy’s face is on the landing page of PlaygroundSessions.com.

With Quincy Jones’ endorsement, it really hard not to have a great first impression.

But that’s about it.

(Update 2019: Harry Connick Jr. joins in to teach the fundamental courses of reading music and playing chords to advanced jazz and improvisation, which is extremely cool. Harry Connic Jr. is really teaching the classes, which serves as actual endorsement to Playground Sessions. I am upgrading the rating of this review to a 4 out of 5 stars.)

2. Playing songs all the way is a bad idea

I loved the idea when I heard that you don’t play boring exercises on Playground Sessions – just songs.

Occasionally, you get a video lesson that focuses on major and minor triad, which is basically chords.

And then David wants you to play the chords, root notes, or whatever he wants you to practice in a song.

In the beginning, you’re not really playing the songs, but practice exercises while the song is playing.

The songs are simplified, rearranged, or dumbed  down by David Sides.

I just want to say – most of the song arrangements are really boring.

The songs are simplified to a degree that there are no substance in the music.

Personally, I don’t see how a student can improve playing these kinds of simplified arrangements.

3. Not every lesson has video instruction.

This is the one that just gets me.

In the Rookie, Intermediate, or Advanced section in the Bootcamp, you get a bunch of song lessons without video instructions.

Playground sessions review

You do get a video when he wants to show you a new trick, but after that, all you get is a music score and some simple written instructions.

Playground sessions review

You’re supposed to read the instructions on top and play what’s on the music score.

In other words, you’re on your own.

In today’s industry standard, you’re supposed to make a video for every lesson.

That’s the least you can do.

But no, if you want more lessons with video instructions, you have to purchase them in the song store for $3.99 each, or you can wait until the next month when they give you 5 more songs.

Playground sessions review

If you are looking for a piano program with a great collection of songs and training materials and a variety of almost every musical genre, I recommend Flowkey – you get everything from the time you join.

3. Quality of video lessons are mediocre.

The videos are not HD, which is not that crucial in a course like this.

I’ve seen online music courses shot in SD quality with great content and instruction that would greatly benefit the students.

Another problem is the lack of visual aids in the videos. If you’re a beginning student, it would be hard to understand just by listening to him.

Playground sessions review

The way David teaches in the videos is not that effective.

Piano is a very difficult and complicated instrument to learn.

You can’t just talk and play while teaching, hoping that students will pick up whatever you’re showing them.

You need visual aids with words, musical notes, or virtual keyboard demo, which is close to none though you always see a keyboard on the bottom.

4. Poorly designed curriculum

While I trust that the creators of this piano course have good intent and purpose for every lesson, the curriculum is really not that great.

I felt like I’ve been thrown a bunch of songs with a lack of video instructions. And the videos aren’t that great either.

I have failed playing the piano numerous times over the past 30 years due to various reasons.

I know that the number one reason a piano student fails is the lack of quality instruction or curriculum from the instructor.

If you want a piano program with a great curriculum and superior design of training platfrom that will give you a terrific user-experienceread my review on Flowkey. You will be impressed with what they have to offer.

The Pros and Cons of Playground Sessions

Let me summed up all the pros and cons for you at a glance:

Pros:

  1. Endorsed by the legendary Quincy Jones.
  2. Popular songs as main teaching materials.
  3. No boring exercises.
  4. Video lessons taught by renowned pianist David Sides.
  5. Hundreds of songs to choose from at the song store.
  6. All songs arranged to suit your current level.
  7. Instant virtual feedback after you play.
  8. Works PC, Mac, and even Ipad.
  9. Five free songs added every month.

Cons:

  1. Quincy Jones is not really teaching the lessons.
  2. Song lessons don’t have enough video instructions.
  3. Video quality is not HD.
  4. Lack of visual aid in the video lessons.
  5. Lessons without video instructions have insufficient instruction.
  6. Curriculum is poorly designed.
  7. Upsell of songs on top of monthly fee.
  8. Poor web designed for the teaching platform.

Finally, My Conclusion. Should You Purchase this course?

As I trust every online music program is created with dedicated effort, I’m sorry to say that I cannot recommend this course.

I give Playground Sessions a 3.5 out of 5 stars rating.

There are better programs out there that students can benefit more from.

Ironically, the best part of this course is the landing page.

After you purchased and see the actual course, you would be greatly disappointed if you are a professional like me.

If you’re just looking for a program to practice piano, by all means, anything can help.

You can try Playground Sessions with 30-days money back guarantee here.

If you are looking for a superior online piano program, I would definitely recommend Flowkey which has the most user-friendly learning platform, neatly designed curriculum, and awesome features for the video lessons.

If you have any questions about this review, comment below. I’ll be more than happy to discuss with you.

Your pal,

Rex

Rex
 

I am a professional singer and vocal coach in Taipei, Taiwan. I have been studying the art of singing for over 20 years. I dedicated my life to helping singers progress and excel in their singing skills, as well as inspire them to reach their fullest potential as performers.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 76 comments
swen - January 21, 2019

Thanks for the honest review, which piano course would you recommend then?

Reply
    Rex - January 24, 2019

    Hi Swen,

    I recommend Flowkey or Popular Piano with Hugh Sung if you want more of a classical feel. See the reply I wrote below to Rusty! You guys asked the same question on the same day. So funny! Hope this helps!

    Reply
Rusty - January 23, 2019

What online piano courses do you recommend?

Reply
    Rex - January 24, 2019

    Rusty, I would recommend Flowkey because they have a very user-friendly interface and platform, very easy-to-use with a lot of cool features. Read this review.

    If you want more of a classical feel, I highly recommend Popular Piano with Hung Sung – He’s taught at the top music school in the U.S.- Curtis Institute of Music. I love how he teaches. So clear and concise. Here is the review.

    Reply
Wendy Godley - January 25, 2019

Thank you for posting this review! It’s the only one I’ve been able to find that doesn’t seem to be directly linked to the company! All the others come across as direct advertising, and therefore were of no use. I appreciate the level of detail you went into.

Reply
    Rex - January 25, 2019

    Wendy, No problem. Glad I can help!

    Reply
Marc - April 14, 2019

Hi Rex, thank you for your honest review. I certainly agree on some points (like the whole Quicy Jones marketing stunt and the mediocre video quality), but to me it seems like you’ve missed some crucial things.

1. You are a professional. I don’t believe this program is meant for professionals but for beginners. Therefore I can imagine that the arrangements are boring to you, but to a beginner (like me) they are quite challanging. And, more importantly, they are fun. And also, I AM improving!

2. It’s not ‘just playing songs all the way’. As you progress through the program, extra courses are added to the curriculum, like Reading Music, Scales, Chords, etc.

3. You don’t pay for extra lessons. You can buy SONGS, whole songs I might add. And some have a video tutorial and some don’t. Also, you get FIVE free song credits each month, and for a beginner that’s more than enough. (Buy the way, all classical songs are free anyway).

4. PS also has a forum, a Facebook community, and YouTube video’s where you can connect with others and get lot’s of information and lessons aside from the original curriculum.

6. Lastly, a personal remark in regard to the video guidance. The idea is that you watch a video tutorial to learn something new, and then you have some lessons to practice what you’ve learned. I personally think that’s totally okay. After all, I’m not in kindergarden anymore, so I don’t need a monkey-see-monkey-do tutorial for every lesson. It’s perfectly fine that you sometimes have to figure things out for yourself. That’s also part of the learning process.

To add a con myself. One thing that I really mis in PS is that the program doesn’t measure note duration. I mean, it measures if you hit the right note at the right time, but not if you hold the note for te required amount of time. Adding this to the program would be a HUGE improvement.

Cheers!

Reply
    Rex - April 17, 2019

    Marc,

    Thanks for your input! I try to be as honest and fair as I can in my reviews. I’m sure PS can help a number of people as every program has different strengths and weaknesses. I’m just giving you my honest opinion about this program after trying it. Thanks for your lengthy input as I believe it will give readers a more balanced view from another angle, so people can make decision for themselves.

    Rex

    Reply
    J.R. - May 14, 2019

    Marc, good write up I’m looking into Playground Sessions so thank you for the info. I have a question, the 5 free song credit per month. Is this for monthly subscribers only? Or, does it apply to lifetime subscribers also? I read something from a P.S. rep on a youtube comment saying you get 10 free song credits to start. Google isn’t turning up much help here, so I’m trying to calculate what it would cost me to jump in. If the lifetime subscribers get 5 new songs a month that would be pretty decent. I know it’s only $2 a song, but that could add up pretty quick.

    Reply
      Marc - May 26, 2019

      Hi J.R., the 5 free songs per month is for every subscription type. I dont know about the 10 free song credits, maybe it’s true, maybe not. But in my experience (as a beginner) 5 free songs to start with and 5 free credits each month is more than enough to begin with.

      If you are thinking about a lifetime subscription you might wanna check the PS website from time to time. They have an offer now and then (usualy around the holidays) where you pay only $230 instead of the normal $290.

      Marc

      Reply
      WFW - April 7, 2020

      When I purchased my lifetime at a discount, they gave me 40 song credits. In addition, you can earn additional song credits as you progress through the courseware.

      Reply
        Rex - April 11, 2020

        WFW,

        Thanks for the additional information!

        Rex

        Reply
    Goncalo Brito - April 14, 2020

    Hello. Marc, I completely agree with you. For the playgroundsessions to be 5 stars it needs to hold the note for the required amount of time. Also, I have an annoying bug that sends a wrong note at the beginning of every note. Besides that it is really good.
    I’m sorry Rex, but how much flowkey pay you to make this advertising?? Not that flowkey isn’t good, I also tried it but playgroundsessions is better. The thing is that you put so many links to flowkey that is impossible you are not making any money with it!
    With that in mind, sorry but I don’t think this is a fair evaluation.

    Reply
      Rex - April 20, 2020

      Goncalo,

      Why do you think an affiliate cannot make honest reviews? PS has an affiliate program too, but I’m not promoting them. Why? Because I like Flowkey better. If you think PS is better, then stick with it. This review is my personal evaluation for reference purposes so people can make a decision for themselves. I’m sure PS can help a lot of people in their piano playing, because every program has its strengths and weaknesses.

      Rex

      Reply
Portia Mokgonyana - April 16, 2019

I just couldn’t believe all the good reviews, thank you for your honesty. I have read about Musiah as well. What are your thoughts on this online learning piano/keyboard program as I have run out of options. I will definitely have a look on your recommendations. Thank you

Reply
    Rex - April 17, 2019

    Portia,

    I have tried Musiah and I like it a lot, but I didn’t stick to the program long enough because I have other focuses in my life. My favorite right now is definitely Flowkey and I recommend that you give it a try.

    Rex

    Reply
    Bill - February 7, 2020

    I have used Musiah, Piano Marvel and Flowkey. Musiah has the most advanced software for learning the piano simply because it measures note duration as well as whether you’re hitting the correct note(s) at the correct time. You can get away with murder on the other apps, honestly I’ve really messed up songs on the others only to find they give me a high score.

    The other main difference with Musiah is it locks you into a specific curriculum. You have to play the songs it provides, in a specific order. You can only move to the next song after you have completed the current song to a sufficiently high standard. This forces you to perfect the skill being taught before moving on. So Musiah is much more rigid and rigorous, which makes sense because it is designed to take the place a piano teacher.

    Personally I like this because if you don’t have a clear curriculum and objectives, the chances are you’ll end up aimlessly noodling around.

    After completing Musiah I really felt my piano playing had improved. These days I use Piano Marvel as an aid to learning specific songs with the aim of taking ABRSM exams, along with the help of a teacher. Piano Marvel has an advantage in that it already has quite a few songs that appear on standard curriculums, and you can learn them at the same time as having input from a teacher. It is much more open ended and flexible than Musiah.

    I rejected Playground Sessions mainly because I didn’t like all the fake reviews out there, but also (like Flowkey) it doesn’t appear particularly rigorous. Sure it’s great to be able to play along to your favourite tunes, badly, but if you really want to improve I feel you need to tackle some kind of curriculum that allows you to gradually build up various skills. And sometimes that means tackling bits of Bach, Burgmuller, Czerny or whatever, even if that kind of music doesn’t float your boat.

    Reply
Philippe - April 28, 2019

Hi Rex,
Have you tried Simply Piano or Piano Maestro?

Reply
    Rex - April 30, 2019

    Philippe,

    No, I haven’t. Maybe sometime in the future I’ll put them in my review list.

    Rex

    Reply
Brent - May 4, 2019

What I liked about Playground Sessions vs other really well made gamified apps like SimplyPiano is it was it allowed me to see the whole piece of music and show real notes or hide them rather than relying on a weird moving staff and learning finger positions over learning notes. I found myself not really learning the notes with something like Simply Piano.

Like you said, it is a HUGE letdown after seeing awesome marketing material. I was expecting tons of video instruction. You‘re left on your own. Not horrible. But that combined with the really poor user interface I‘m inclined to try your suggestion of flowkey. It‘s just not fun to use and there‘s not great content.

Reply
    Rex - May 4, 2019

    Brent,

    Yeah, I was pretty disappointed with PS and couldn’t believe that was all there is to it. What I love about Flowkey is that it is very, very user-friendly. Hope you enjoy it!

    Rex

    Reply
Chris - May 6, 2019

Your posting a negative review and then it’s no surprise you offer an alternative product which links to a sales landing page of which it looks like you’re an affiliate. I think that’s pretty weak. Why don’t you disclose your and endorsee or being compensated.

Reply
    Rex - May 7, 2019

    Chris,

    Of course I am an affiliate. I recommend people programs I’ve tried and believe are good for people’s music education.

    PS has their own affiliate program, but I’m not promoting them to get a commission, because I don’t think they have a good program.

    I try to be as fair and honest with my reviews. I hope you can see that. If you don’t like the posts, you don’t really have to visit this site. You know.

    Rex

    Reply
Chris - May 6, 2019

… maybe you are negative on playground sessions because they have no affiliate program. It looks like both alternative products you mentioned you are an affiliate for.

Reply
    Rex - May 7, 2019

    Chris,

    As I said, PS does have their own affiliate program, but I chose not to promote them just to get a commission, because I don’t think their program is good.

    I am an affiliate. I have no shame of telling people that. And I try to give honest reviews.

    Blessings,

    Rex

    Reply
Dave S - May 22, 2019

Hi Rex. For the most part I agree with you. I’m a big (early jazz) Quincy fan, so I had high hopes. I started with Yousician and have made a lot of progress over the past 2 years. I’m about halfway through that curriculum but needed some variety. I did play a little saxophone a while back so i have some knowledge but not much “talent.” BTW the 5 free songs per month applies to the lifetime purchase about $300 and they are revamping the platform in the near? future. I poked around a bit to find my level. After 9 hours and skipping much of the “pop” material, I’m finishing up the rookie section (song 80). The format, with good background tracks, helps with the timing and breaking the songs into steps helps get up to speed so most songs are passable (as a hobbyist I’m NOT a perfectionist) in short order – a day or two. But its true, the songs are overly simplified so there is not a real “technical” challenge in each one, as with Yousician. On PGS’ scale, I’m on level 15 and have yet to encounter a challenging passage. And there’s not that much content on the intermediate or “advanced” tracks. So either they add lots more content, or I’ll run out the curriculum in a few months – and to be honest, I’m only an advanced novice. So at this point I’m kinda disappointed. Support staff has been excellent, and I’m hopeful for future upgrades. But at this point its highly overrated. Now Yousician, I’m starting level 8 and working on Bach’s Musette. After a month, I’m still making lots of mistakes but its coming together at a slow speed – but getting through it is an achievement. (So i wish YS had better backgrounds and smaller steps so you get a better sense of progress) I wish these program developers would check out the competition and combine features. Re: Sides video instruction. I agree its bare bones and haphazard. The PGS course should have much more video theory organized with songs in sections by theory topic. Check out Pianote for video instruction. (Sorry this is run on but its late at night). PGS on reflection has promise, an interesting platform, but needs a fundamental reorganization and rethink. It gives the illusion of playing but is mostly fluff at present. There may be more meat in the sections I’ve yet to encounter, but simply not enough jazz or classical content at present.

Reply
Kyel Calland - June 7, 2019

Hi Rex
Could not agree with you more I started with playground sessions but as a 51 year old beginner I found the video’s lacked detail and were confusing, I have switched to flowkey which I find a better all round experience. Great review.

Reply
Linda - June 21, 2019

Rex,

I took classical piano as a child and can read music, but am really out of practice. What would course would you recommend and do you always have to start at the very beginning?

Reply
    Rex - June 21, 2019

    Linda,

    I recommend Flowkey. It’s very user-friendly and easy-to-use. It includes material from most of the musical styles you can find. Highly recommend it!

    Rex

    Reply
      Philippe - June 27, 2019

      Hi
      I’ve tried PGS, flowkey, Simple Piano and Piano Maestro.
      I find PGS interesting in the fact that we can have the sheets contrarily to the other program but all his disorganized and the interface is very poor but has an interesting loop function.
      Simple Piano is well structured with a nice user interface and the new beta library is top, but no possibility to print the sheets. But lack of the loop function.
      Flow key has a very good interface to learn songs with the real piano keyboard with the hands which you can go forward and backward. The problem is that the lessons part is poor.

      Reply
Greg - June 24, 2019

I have downloaded 8 pop/rock songs and only one (Imagine) contains song lyrics. I emailed PS and they responded that only a few songs have lyrics and there are no plans to add lyrics. Very disappointing as I had hoped to sing along.

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Dave - July 14, 2019

I’m not that thrilled with it either. Whilst I have learnt an awful lot, the lessons have been quite boring, and the app has a pretty average usability and performance is average. Don’t even get me started on the piano sounds the app comes with. Awful! Unfortunately the iPad app is badly written too staff’s are two small and all feels crammed. Imma going to give flowkey a go. I had high hopes for playground but I really think they need to test their lessons a bit more rigorously and modernise their tech stac a bit

Reply
    Rex - July 15, 2019

    Dave,

    Yeah, that’s exactly what I didn’t like about PS. Flowkey is a refresher. Very user-friendly.

    Rex

    Reply
Mark - October 11, 2019

Hi Rex,
I am Mark , from Taiwan too. I saw your review while i was looking for a good online course for learning piano. I am currently enrolled in Pianote. So i want to ask have you made review about it? And would you check it out and see if Flowkey would still be a better choice than Pianote. Thanks

Reply
    Rex - October 12, 2019

    Mark,

    Thanks for the information! I will consider reviewing it!

    Rex

    Reply
Scott - October 14, 2019

I disagree on Flowkey. the fact that you only get a single line of music with no ability to read a full chart is very off-putting. I asked about the feature to view the score full screen over a year ago and was told they were working on it. Still a no go. I also asked about printing the music and they told me to go to another site where I would have to pay for the score. I just paid for the music why do I have to pay again.

I play other instruments and charts and music reading is not presented this way. it makes it very difficult to find passages on a linear line instead of normal sheet music to practice them.

I am not a big fan of online music course as a teacher is always best. I think Flowkey has some of the best arrangements for songs available but I can not use it because it scrolls music rather than letting you read it.

Reply
    Rex - October 15, 2019

    Scott,

    Thanks for the input! It sounds like you are a more advanced piano player. Music training programs are all designed differently, and different products work for different people. I just think Flowkey has a great platform design and user-experience for piano students like me who like to keep things simple. I agree that a good private teacher is the best way to progress, but they are very, very hard to find. Thus, online training programs are the best alternative, instead of fin