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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 79 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