Playground sessions Review
Piano | Reviews

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 Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Product Rating 4 out of 5
Product Rating 4 out of 5
Product Rating 4 out of 5
Product Rating 4 out of 5
Product Rating 4 out of 5

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.

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.

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.

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.

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-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

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82 Comments

    1. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

    1. 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

    2. 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.

      1. 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

      2. 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.

    3. 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.

      1. 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

    4. I agree with you, I actually prefer that PGS isn’t a rigorous learning software, so, I don’t have an issue with that, I like that it’s laid back and musical. However, I do think that it’s needs more improvement, such as making sure the software is measuring rhythms accurately.

      Other than that, I switched from Piano Marvel to Playground sessions because it has made learning a bit easier and more interactive. What is also interesting about the software is that they give level is arrangement. So, if you want advanced arrangements you can get them through the course or buy them.

  3. 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

    1. 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

    2. 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.

      1. While I agree that PGS should improve the software to measure rhythms, I disagree that they don’t offer curriculum. They have a course tab that you need to go through to really unlock new courses over time. It’s up to you to keep up with it. I recently went through a course and I got an email saying I had unlocked another course. And then if you go through the Rookie tour to an extent, you can unlock stuff, for example, I like Hanon. However for me to get to his work, I have to work my way up to lessons 75 or 76, from what I’ve seen in the forum, this unlocks Hanon’s work. I like that this do this since it offers a sense of progression. So, they don’t give you everything out right, you have to work through the tours and curriculum, which they do give you and order it according to how you should go through it, because their lessons build on the previous lesson. But they don’t make you do anything, so, no it’s not rigid and personally, I like that it isn’t. Although, if I want to get to the other fun stuff, I have to complete the courses and tours to unlock things. So, there is structure. They just need to improved the software’s notation function. I have noticed issues that could lead to anyone who lacks a good sense of counting, to develop poor technique.

        As far as, fake reviews, I don’t much of anything about that. I initially stayed away from it because Quincy Jones name was on it. After leaving Piano Marvel, I decided to try it out, and so far I’m happier with it than I was with Piano Marvel, due to the musicality of the software, it’s laid back, the lifetime membership, and I feel it provides more structure to me. Through the “unlock new courses” approach. However, I am curious about Musiah, I don’t see myself switching, but will check it out.

  4. 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.

    1. 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

  5. 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.

    1. 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

  6. … 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.

    1. 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

  7. 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.

    1. I think it’s interesting that you mention that YS should add smaller steps to give a sense of progress, because PS does just that actually. That’s why it progresses as it does. They structured the lessons and exercises to build off of the previous idea, helping you develop in sight reading and keyboard awareness. They are rather simplified, however, if you want more of a challenge, you’ll need to go through the song library. I just surfed through there today, and they have levels such as, Rookie-Easy to Hard, Intermediate-Easy to Hard, and Advanced-Easy to Hard. It would be good if they did more with music theory, I could use the help, I don’t know if I would want the works organised accordingly though. But other than that, I know I’ve seen more difficult stuff on PS, but since you said you are still doing rookie tour, I can see why it seems like that. Once you come out of that, it should get more difficult considering the levels they offer musically.

      I do agree that they need more Classical and Jazz works in their library. But overall, I think it depends on your skill level. Since I’m a beginner, I find PS challenging to an extent, sight reading is usually the difficulty. I like the course section, since it builds off of the previous level, from an oversimplified(Rookie) version of a song to the Advanced(where I experience challenge) level arrangement of the same song. This help create a sense of progress.

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

    1. 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

      1. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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

    1. Dave,

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

      Rex

  12. 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

  13. 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.

    1. 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 finding a mediocre private teacher that could actually impede your progress.

      Rex

  14. What about the fact that PS teaches you a bit of theory and site reading and Flowkey does not? I would think that a plus in PS’s direction

    1. John,

      Thanks for your input! Both programs have their strengths and weaknesses, if PS works better for you, go for it! I’m sure PS will help a lot of people too.

      Rex

  15. I respect your opinion and review but strongly disagree. I’m 53 and have little or no experience on the piano and I have quit multiple times over the years because I found learning the piano boring and complicated. I purchased the program about a week ago and I am still in the Boot-camp beginning phases, but playing about 2 hours per day and finally I get it, and i’m enjoying the learning process. Around the 13th stage it begins to get tougher, and I have to slow the tempo down to give my brain time to process the new information so my fingers can keep up, but that’s expected since I am a true beginner. It’s about to be November and most of my outdoor activities will be limited due to weather, so I intend on spending several hours per day playing and learning with Playground Sessions to keep me busy until spring. I’m sure there are other great programs out there, but I think I chose the right program to begin my learning process. Totally content with the decision to buy it….Just an opinion from a guy who couldn’t read a note a week ago, but can now play a few simple songs reading sheet music.

    1. Friedrich,

      That’s great! If this program works for you, I am happy to see that. Stick with it!

      All the best,

      Rex

  16. I studied piano for 5 years as a kid. Right now I am a fourth-year student in classical guitar. I can play this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYhRIF-IW0U (“Now Let’s Handel” played by Michael Proksch, the author.)

    I picked an “advanced” lesson at random in PlaygroundSessions and was thoroughly disappointed.

    The lesson began with explaining the time signature of 4 / 4. The author stated that this is “common time,” but did not mention the fact that “4/4” is sometimes written as a “C” instead. What ?

    Then the author stated that 4/4 means “Four notes in a measure (the top ‘4’), and a quarter note gets one beat (bottom ‘4’).” Well, that is technically correct, but is totally worthless information, because of what it leaves out.

    For example, under that explanation, 3/4 time should be the same as 6/8 time.

    Under that explanation, 2/2 time should be the same as 4/4 time, and so on.

    If not, why not ?

    So the explanation fails to get to the essence of the time signature.

    Further, the explanation fails to explain the “beat” structure which the time signature dictates. That is, in 4/4 time, there are 4 beats per measure. But the notes played on each beat are not all the same in loudness. No explanation given on this.

    I am not a negative guy, but I saw no value in the lesson I sampled. Maybe this system is only for absolute beginners.

    END

    1. The Nuts and Bolts of this program is the Boot Camp. The songs are really designed to enhance what you are learning in the Boot Camp. The way the song section is organized is poor. Almost as if they built some of the songs before they actually knew what direction they were heading with the curriculum. They do have recommended songs that correspond to your progress in the Boot Camp and cover the same material your are learning in the curriculum.

  17. Thank you, Rex! This was an extremely helpful review, and I’m glad I read it before I purchased the app/program membership. I will follow your recommendation on Flowkey. Doug

    1. Douglas,

      Different programs do work for different people. PS doesn’t work for me. Try Flowkey and let me know what you think.

      Rex

  18. Rex, I tried the program. I think your assessment is fair.
    To me the songs didn’t seem to be actual piano arrangements.
    They seemed more like simplified tracks that were designed to
    integrate into the keyboard part in the programs larger backing
    track creating an illusion that you are playing more than you
    really are. As for Flowkey I haven’t tried them yet only because
    their music score is not in page format. As soon as Flowkey
    changes that I will try them.

  19. I’m 35, have been learning piano with a private teacher for 1 year. I have K.Kawai. My problem is my lesson is only 45mins and it was very hard to understand what she explained or she didn’t want to answer my questions I googled and watched from YouTube from others and I got it. Do you recommend this app for me? Thanks

  20. My 2 pennies on Playground Sessions.
    As a professional musician of instruments other than piano, I have struggled with the coordination to play with both hands. Although I really could breeze through the Rookie section quickly, I didn’t in hopes that I would develop the fundamental skills to combine both hands. So far so good. If you use the Boot Camp the way it was intended you will find a systematic approach that really seems to work. The Video introduces the new idea and the exercises enforce the concepts. The dumbing down of the arrangements and adding more advanced material with each exercise allows the student to constantly be stimulated rather than just memorizing a section and playing it over and over again. I am sure as a Pro Piano player, Playground was not very challenging but for beginners it does provide the fundamentals in a very systematic and fun way.
    I personally am not a fan of the Song section and will eventually look for another online program to learn tunes once I have developed the skills.
    There are unbiased progress videos on You Tube that are worth checking out. It is really amazing how far some on these people have come in a year (700 hours) of practice.
    I think your assessment is very fair as a 3.5 out of 5.
    I am going break my rating into two parts.
    1. Beginning Piano/ Keyboard Students and rate it a 4.5
    2. Advanced Piano or Beginners looking for Classical Training 3.5

    Would have loved to hear Quincey Jones Teach a couple of sections.

    Jeff

    1. Jeff,

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience and analysis with us! People will benefit from what you shared. It would be cool if Quincy could teach a lesson or two. Harry Connick Jr. is teaching a section, which is really cool about PS.

      Rex

  21. Thanks for the review. I am looking for software that learns me technique and play songs, while keeping me motivated. As am not looking for a piano game.. I will try Piano Marvel as it seems very decent in the options with a large catalog freely available for premium subscribers, while being able to export sheets to pdf.The interface does look outdated, but that does not matter to me..

  22. I am a 57 year old who started up with piano after about a year of lessons as a kid. I found PS okay but as you have mentioned the scores are generally quite simplified and not in the original key. I thought, however, the most frustrating thing was the need to meet the exact timing allowing no room for personal expression. I found HD piano scores much better but of course no sheet music available so need to pay more for them.

  23. Hi Rex,
    I am in the 60 now and a bit of forgetful :-(…I would like to learn modern piano/ keyboard. I had private piano session for two years 25 years ago…I gave it up because I can not get rythym right and had a hard time of site reading.note reading .Now I am a retiree..I would like to try it again
    Is Flow key still best way to learn?, thank you in advance.

    1. Megan,

      I still think Flowkey is more user-friendly for piano dummies like me. But PS has a number of students benefiting from it as well. So, you have to make the decision yourself.

      Rex

  24. Good day,
    I am a beginner looking to find the best app/program to learn on, and really appreciated this review.
    My main concern with Playground Sessions was the arrangements, I listed to a few of the songs, and find that some of the notes are correct, nor the timing particularly accurate, sometimes to the point that one doesn’t even recognize the song.

    I can’t seem to find whether FlowKey has the option of sheet music. i.e. after you have learned a song, can you just pull up the sheet music ONLY (not the play-along stuff), to play/keep/store? That to me is a big advantage of PS.

    Thanks very much,
    Paul

    1. Pauly,

      Every program has its strengths and weaknesses. If you have doubt, you can try both programs and see which one you like. The great thing about these programs is that they have a refund policy.

      Rex

  25. Rex,

    I was a percussionist for 10 years growing up, so I have a jump start from most. I can play songs like Moonlight Sonata, Fur Elise, and simple beginner songs that I slowly dissected from sheet music. But I want to become proficient at reading sheet music and overall piano playing. I consider myself above a beginner, but not much.

    Your recommendation of Hugh Sung caught my eye, since I love classical music and that is my preference to play. The link to your review did not work for me though. He has a 3 month and 6 month plan. Does this mean it will expire in 3 or 6 months, regardless of your progression? Or just that there is 3 or 6 months worth of material that you can complete at your own leisure?

    Flowkey is very affordable, but my goal is to become an advanced piano player. Can I still learn a lot from Flowkey given my current skill set slightly above beginner?

    Thanks again!

    1. Greg,

      Hugh Sung is a great piano teacher formerly from the distinguished Curtis School of Music. His course is one of my favorite too. I haven’t looked at Hugh’s course for a while now. Sorry, I can’t give you more info on that. Yeah, I think Flowkey will be enough for you.

      Rex

  26. Ran across your review after playing with Playground Sessions for a day. Your assessment seems fair, but I think you missed the audio in the practice sessions. They’re helpful, but still not as nice as video for a visual learner like myself. I also feel like the arrangements are oversimplified, though I understand why. Coming from other instruments, or as an experienced vocalist we aren’t starting at the same point as someone with no musical knowledge at all. It’s really odd that they don’t simplify other concepts though and there is a lot of, “I’ll tell you about that later”. But the most annoying thing for me is the one that finds me here. I stumbled onto your review while searching for a way to turn off those emails it sends every time you “unlock“ a new lesson. I know I did that. I don’t need an email to tell me what I already know!

    I did purchase Piano For All, which turns out to be a series of e-books with embedded videos scattered throughout. It does not interface with the key board though. I’m not su how effective it will be.

    Two courses that I have not purchased but have bee impressed by the free content are, “Piano Genius” which is web based and gives you ten free sample lessons that I found really helpful, and a course by Scott “The Piano Guy” Houston who uses a one hour webinar to get you interested. I’d have gone with Scott’s course, but it’s a flat $699 and I can’t swing that right now. His whole thing is teaching to play by ear and from lead sheets. I may revisit him later. I will probably go with piano genius next as his simplified concepts got me past what PS took all of the rookie videos to explain poorly in a single video.

  27. Is this review still accurate in 2020? I’m currently using this software and it seems to have improved; what are your thoughts?

    1. Hana,

      You are welcome to post your observations and new information about this program, so people will get a more complete and balanced view. This review is my own personal opinion after trying it out.

      Rex

  28. Thanks for this review Rex. I am returning to playing piano after… 30 years away from it, so I am in process of doing my homework on the different possible tools. One tool not mentioned in your site or in the comments by readers that seem to be “on the rise” is one called Skoove. Any thoughts?

    1. Lee,

      Sorry, I don’t know anything about Skoove. I will put it on my review list. Thanks for your recommendation!

      Rex

  29. Thanks for your very helpful, detailed review. I took out a lifetime membership of Playground Sessions based on widely published enthusiastic reviews. Once I started using it I came to find it quite inadequate with poor, rushed lessons, little theory.

    It’s interesting that now there are so many more real reviews published by actual users and not people hawking affiliate sales that those reviews seem often consistent in mentioning various inadequate lessons, and technical issues such as failing to monitor note length when playing.

    What irritated me most of all was the gimmicks and heavy accompaniment that drowned out students hen-pecking a few keys. It’s interesting to see Youtube demonstrations of star students still seemingly poking away while elaborate backing music completely hides their feeble playing. I think if you’re trying to learn the piano it would be helpful to actually hear and emphasise your playing.

    I understand Playground Sessions has made some improvements, but as someone with a lifetime subscription, I’ve never heard from them concerning any changes. I think their many dubious, hyped affiliates’ reviews probably sums them up.

    1. Richard,

      Thanks for your comments! I definitely feel bad since this is not a positive review. I hate to talk negatively about other people’s hard work and their products. But this is an objective review for people to make a decision whether to buy or not, so I have to be honest about what I think. PS has an affiliate program, but I decided not to promote them after trying it out myself.

      Rex

  30. As good as flowkey is you need to offer a balanced opinion as you attempt to do with playground session (Which I have never used). I have a 3 month free premium subscription with flowkey via a Yamaha purchased. IMHO Flowkey has a major drawback in not offering a metronome and if you are a fey with sheet music, the scrolling notation is difficult to follow. Try playing at 50% or 75% speed (as offered) with no rhythm to go against (metronome)…im struggling with it

    1. Mark,

      Thanks for your input on your experience with these products! These reviews are my personal opinion. You’re more than welcome to share more about these courses so people can decide for themselves.

      Rex

  31. Hi everyone

    I’ll share my experience with PS, Flowkey and Hoffman Academy as I’ve subscribed to all of them. I think there isn’t a perfect program for everyone. Some people like one, some like another. I personally think that a mixture of all is the best way to go. A bit more expensive, I know. Let me just tell you that I’m a complete beginner. Probably have around 60-70 hours practice only.

    I started with Flowkey and I found the courses to be a bit too difficult for me and also quite boring as I cannot recall playing anything that I liked. I’ve tried learning only the songs from the library but that is also difficult as every song has sections that is far more advanced for my (lack of) skills. And I’m talking about the beginner songs here. Also I’ve read somewhere that because of copyrights none of the Flowkey songs are original arrangements. That is absolutely fine with me as a beginner because I wouldn’t even know if it’s original or not. I’m not entirely sure if that is true or not but I don’t think it makes any difference.

    After I found Flowkey to be a bit lacking in the courses section I’ve decided to look further. That’s when I found Hoffman Academy. I think it is very good and entertaining …. for kids. As a 37 year old adult the way things are explained and presented is quite silly and boring for me. My 5 year old son loves it though. It includes so many lessons that if you’re an adult you have to do a few at a time just to keep yourself up to speed otherwise you’ll play a month with your right hand only. That progress seems very slow for me.

    So.. I continued searching and found Playground sessions. I was so exited that I will start learning with songs I know from day one! Everything seemed perfect. Paid my subscription and started practicing. I’m halfway through the beginner bootcamp while writing my review and I can tell you two things for sure. Playing songs that you like isn’t exactly what you think it will be. It’s more like playing along famous songs. In some of the exercises I couldn’t even recognise the melody I was playing. The backtrack is the song and you just hit some notes along with it. I guess that’s how you learn? I don’t know. I hope that will change in the future when I progress more into it. The second issue is with lag. That little line that moves across the staff to tell you where you are and which note to play and when. It’s great when it works. With easier songs it’s great but if a song is more complicated and with higher BPM it’s lagging. It’s lagging to an extent where even if you hit the right note at the right time it will still come up as a mistake. You can see the whole screen freezing for a moment and hear the backtrack lagging too. Like you’re playing a computer game on an older computer and the graphics card just isn’t good enough. I admit that my tablet is not latest model but I don’t have any of those issues with Flowkey and Hoffman Academy. That problem is forcing me to skip lessons as it gets way too frustrating. I suspect the problem will become worse as I progress further because the songs become more and more difficult.

    So, the bottom line.

    I still haven’t found a perfect program for me and I suspect I won’t find one. I think it’s because of personal preference and requirements. For me (and for other people I guess) the way forward is to use a combination of a few programs. I intend to use all three for now and see how it goes. Even using three at the same time is way cheaper than paying a piano teacher.

    That’s what I think. I hope it helps.

    Dimi

    1. Dimi,

      Wow, thank you so much for taking the time to share your precious experience with these programs. This is great!

      Rex

  32. Hi!
    My name is Marta and thank you so much for your reviews! They always contain a lot of useful information and I am very grateful to you for your time.
    I would like to draw your attention to another application that might be of interest to you – la touche musicale (https://latouchemusicale.com/en/).
    For me, during the training, there were important points: availability and ease of use, availability of a free subscription, and the ability to correct errors during the learning.
    I just started my training and perhaps this application has its pros and cons, so I would be very interested in your opinion if you would have time.
    Thank you again!

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