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
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 Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
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.
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.)
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.
Of course, during training and “practice,” you get to play along with the music score.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
4. 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.
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.
5. 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-experience, read 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:
- Endorsed by the legendary Quincy Jones.
- Popular songs as main teaching materials.
- No boring exercises.
- Video lessons taught by renowned pianist David Sides.
- Hundreds of songs to choose from at the song store.
- All songs arranged to suit your current level.
- Instant virtual feedback after you play.
- Works PC, Mac, and even Ipad.
- Five free songs added every month.
- Quincy Jones is not really teaching the lessons.
- Song lessons don’t have enough video instructions.
- Video quality is not HD.
- Lack of visual aid in the video lessons.
- Lessons without video instructions have insufficient instruction.
- Curriculum is poorly designed.
- Upsell of songs on top of monthly fee.
- 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.
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.