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With the emergence of online piano lessons, came a competitive playing field. The market is saturated with companies all trying to bring something a little different to the table.
The teaching methods employed by online platforms can never truly replace a professional piano tutor, but in recent years, we are seeing many that come pretty close.
So if money is tight, or you aren’t comfortable in a traditional learning environment, or your schedule is just too hectic, then online piano lessons could be the handy alternative that you need.
We have previously taken an in-depth look at the benefits of both Flowkey and Playground Sessions in separate review articles, but here they are, rounded-up together, in a Flowkey vs Playground Sessions comparison article, to help you work out which one is best for you as a budding musician.
If you’re strapped for time, here’s a brief conclusion on the Flowkey vs Playground Sessions debate…
Flowkey is best used as a supplementary course for anyone who is already taking lessons. On the other hand, Playground Sessions is the overall better option if you are a complete beginner looking to learn how to play piano along with musical theory and knowledge. It’s one-on-one lessons and video tutorials make it extremely valuable to beginners.
Flowkey is a popular source for online piano lessons that it is available across all platforms. It is very user-friendly and easy to navigate. In the upper left-hand corner, you can browse songs by category, there are 20 categories to choose from including moods. There are beginner, intermediate and advanced songs. Each is color-coded in the corner of the thumbnail and you can listen to a preview of it before you decide to learn it.
The song library is massive; there are over 1500 arrangements of licensed pieces. Genres include popular music styles as well as the more eclectic. There is even a selection of film and TV songs included. All songs you have learned or started learning are saved automatically to your ‘my songs’ library.
It offers some basic music theory that includes how to read sheet music notes and introduces simple rhythms to help teach the fundamentals. It does this by giving you the sheet music in a scrolling format accompanied by video footage of someone playing. You do have to pick between looking at either to a certain extent but seeing the notes in practice is certainly beneficial.
The notes being pressed are lit up with colors denoting the natural white and black keys to assist you. You can also add the note names if you want to.
The player has a few different modes, the ‘wait mode’ scrolls the music along at your pace. It listens for you to play the note before moving on. This is great for beginners who are just starting out but does disregard the rhythm and tempo somewhat!
Wait mode can be used with both hands or just one hand at a time so you can break the parts of the music down further whilst you are learning the piece. You can select a certain section of the music and play it on a loop until you have picked it up correctly. This really helps you get to grips with trickier phrases.
‘Slow mode’ is pretty self-explanatory but it does slow the scrolling and video footage at the same time, letting you see the finger-positioning clearly. ‘Fast mode’ is essentially the original tempo.
The app also has great built-in support in the form of live chat. The monthly subscription will cost you $19.99 or you can pay for a yearly subscription at $119.99 working out a little cheaper. They also provide a lifetime subscription offer for $299.99.
Playground Sessions Overview
Co-created by the legendary Quincy Jones, Playground Sessions uses popular songs to keep learning fun and engaging. Subscription-based and available on your computer or iPad, its game-like lessons combine several different elements to ease you into playing a full song comfortably in a relaxed manner.
There are informative video lessons as well as the broken down courses. Under the Bootcamp menu, you will find interactive lessons that teach you the specifics of a concept.
You can listen to a demo of each hand separately or together and the user settings allow you to toggle finger numbering and the metronome on and off yourself. You can even add the note names to the sheet music and change the size of it.
There is a slow setting to help early learners to play the concepts at a reduced tempo. With the instant feedback selected you will see green and red highlights to help indicate which notes you played correctly or incorrectly.
The songs are taught in a skeletal fashion, first teaching you a simplified version and then adding to it as you progress in skill. This is something unique to Playground Sessions which is a good way to grow as a learner. You get to feel accomplished for playing through the piece and then get challenged to kick it up a notch.
The library of songs available is fairly extensive (around 500) but you only get access to five a month, with a monthly or annual subscription. You could get the lifetime pass that entitles you to 40 per month but it is on the pricey side. The songs are labeled rookie, intermediate, or advanced to help determine the level and each one has interactive sheet music to go with it.
There are 166 lessons as well as extra supplemental lessons on the platform teaching from beginner subjects like posture, hand position, finding the notes, reading music, playing with two hands all the way up to the advanced tour concepts which cover 16th notes, dotted rhythms, and improvisation.
38 of the 60 intermediate lessons are based around chords and triads, teaching you pretty thoroughly about majors, minors, their inversions, and progressions.
The app has a community forum where you can share how you are doing. The subscription prices for Playground Sessions are all nominally cheaper than Flowkey. They will set you back $17.99 per month or you can pay an upfront annual fee of $119.88. They also have a lifetime offer payment of $289.99.
How They Function and Teach
Both function by using the MIDI interface of your digital keyboard or piano to register what you are playing. To make use of the dashboard and interactive software on Playground Sessions you will require a digital piano. Flowkey can also use your device’s microphone to listen.
Playground Sessions has a built-in iOS keyboard. Granted it isn’t ideal for replacing the need for an instrument to learn on, it does provide access for users who haven’t got a piano or keyboard to use the tools. With the app, you can use it to have lessons or practice on the go when you are out and about. Ultimately you need to get a digital piano to use it to its full potential but it could be a good way to test the water with kids before you buy a keyboard.
Each has a professional interface and both use interactive features, but both are stimulating and fun to use. They both offer curriculum-based elements as well as song-based learning. They each divide the work into levels respectively. Flowkey uses a 4-tier system and Playground Sessions 3. Each progress logically, and have a good layout easy to find your way around on both the computer and iOs version.
In the eyes of a graded pianist, neither have advanced sessions that are particularly challenging. So they should perhaps not be viewed as such. As learning tools for beginners and even intermediate players, they have plenty to offer.
They teach a little differently to one another. Playground Sessions provides video introductions that try to explain the concept you are about to learn, they don’t show too much so you may have to really study the players’ hands. They have a slightly quirky delivery and the tutors David Sides and Grammy-winner Harry Connick Jr. are likable.
The digital interactive interface is top-notch and can’t be faulted in all honesty. You can tell it has had some money spent on its development. There are plenty of user settings that can be customized and changed throughout and the system provides color-coded feedback to help you gauge your playing.
The latter cannot be said for Flowkey. While the interface is also very high quality and has some bonuses of its own such as the way it provides closeup video footage the entire time of someone actually playing alongside the sheet music and piano keys lit, it provides no feedback.
Flowkey has no metronome and in some lessons, it feels almost like tempo and rhythm have been put aside altogether. Although it has options to slow the footage and scrolling sheet music down to 75% and 50% tempo or even play at your own speed and let it listen to you and respond, you are left to judge what you are doing yourself a little.
The color response system of Playground Sessions at least alerts you to whether or not you hit the right keys. Feedback is important especially if you are learning without anyone present to correct you.
Comparison of Pros
Both have songs that are well-known and popular, including new releases and they cover a variety of genres. Flowkey however has the edge over Playground Sessions in terms of how many songs are available to learn.
When you play along to something you are already familiar with, it helps with the idea of rhythm giving you a head start. But having the option of variety helps keep things interesting in the long-run.
The interfaces have different ways you can learn
This allows the user to find what works best for them as an individual.
You can see your progress
The automatic ‘My Songs’ library in Flowkey helps you keep track and the ‘My Playground’ section of Playground Sessions helps you visualize how far you have come. It gives yous points in stars and badges for completion.
Comparison of CONS
The theory is basic-at-best for both
Although both have plenty of theory and technique videos, the knowledge is wildly all over the place for Flowkey, the beginner fundamentals are thorough and there are plenty of scales and chords delved into, but there is a lot of technique missing.
With Playground Sessions, the theory is slow to progress, the techniques are supplemental and again a little lacking.
Flowkey can function with a mic but it can be problematic. With Playground Sessions, you will miss out entirely on the main functions and interactivity unless you have a digital piano or keyboard to use.
No original sheet music
Both platforms use their own arrangements of pieces for copyright reasons, the version you learn is not like the original composer intended which is a shame for classical pieces.
No dynamics are registered or taken into account with either.
Flowkey Vs Playground Sessions – Final Thoughts
Both are great online online piano lessons, although it should be noted that both have a few gaps in musical knowledge missing.
Of the two, Playground Sessions has more academic merit. It utilizes tools such as a metronome which is a big thing for Flowkey to miss out on, given that it would be easy to program in. It also has a lot more course-related content, teaching chords in more detail than the other. The interactive interface is great, although we like the video closeup alongside Flowkeys scrolling sheet music, it is a good way for anyone who is overwhelmed by the notation to grasp the ideas in a different manner.
Which is truly best boils down to your goals and is subjective. Flowkey has a much better song library, it is 3 times larger than Playground Sessions if you want to be able to play a greater variety of songs then you may lean towards it more.
On the other hand, Playground Sessions lessons cover a lot of theory and should prepare you to be able to play sheet music without the video accompaniment or backing tracks allowing you to source songs yourself in the long-run.
Overall, Playground Sessions is the more complete package for beginner and intermediate piano players looking to gain a deeper understanding of the world of piano, and is probably the best learning program of online piano lessons on the market today!