Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2016
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Piano Melody Free

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Keyboard app offers lots of songs but few instructional opportunities

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (4 Reviews)

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Pros: The range of available songs is impressive, and additional songs are easily unlocked through "good playing."

Cons: Intrusive ads and non-standard musical notation don't lend themselves to insights that will transfer elsewhere.

Bottom Line: A cool -- but limited -- way for kids to learn to play the piano by ear.

Have kids play simple melodies on the keyboard to demonstrate rhythms, intervals, and chords. Kids then can use the app to figure out the melody lines of popular songs or to figure out songs on their own. 

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Piano Melody Free is a keyboard app intended to help anyone learn to play the piano by ear. Students select a song (songs with titles through the letter "C" are included; accurate playing can unlock other songs on the extensive list), hit the play button to listen to the selection, and listen to a series of sounds as the corresponding notes light up on the keyboard. Students then play the same series of notes and hit a check-mark button to get feedback. A dialog box pops up with the result, listing the correct notes (such as "C4," "C4," "G4," "G4," "A4," "A4," and "G4" for "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star") and the notes the student played. If the series played is correct, the student can proceed to the next portion of the song to learn further notes and phrases. 

Individuals can customize their experience to better suit personal ability and pace; they can change the number of notes they hear in each sample, the playback speed, the size of the keys, and the labels on the notes. They can also change which section of the keyboard is visible using a selection tool near the top of the screen. Although few songs require playing multiple notes at once, the keyboard does so capably. 

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Learning to play by ear is a challenging task, requiring careful listening to the instruments in a song to pick out the melody and then -- with an instrument like the piano -- filling out the song with all the harmony and chords that transform a series of notes into a piece of music. The biggest challenge with this app is that it’s not clear that the skills learned will transfer to music-making in the real world. Mastering the skills on offer here is certainly possible, but it feels more like playing a memory game (think the Simon toy from the 1970s) than learning to play the piano. For students who read music, the notation in the dialog boxes could be frustrating; although the series of notes is correct, it gets unwieldy to read and might be better illustrated with common musical notation. 

If a student's goal is to learn the melody line of pop music hits, this app will suit them nicely. It may not be a good fit, however, for anything more complex.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

With a not-so-great visual style and a strange interface full of ads, this isn't an especially inviting app for learning to play the piano.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

An astonishing range of songs and useful features for listening and re-listening make this an interesting approach to learning to play piano by ear.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Provides effective features for adjusting speed, keyboard size, sounds, and more. Play is intuitive and feedback is immediate, if potentially confusing.


Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

(See all 4 reviews) (4 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Tommy V. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Excellent app. Fun and effective way to play the piano by ear. All of our students are exposed to this and have improved.

Excellent app. Fun and effective way to play the piano by ear. All of our students are exposed to this and have improved.
Noticed if you get in touch with the developers and ask for specific songs they will listen.

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