This month’s #TechTuesday focus is on Piano Maestro – an .pp we’ve been using for several years in the Sweet Symphony Studio.
Piano Maestro is an app designed by the folks at Joy Tunes. It helps piano students improve their sight-reading, rhythm, technique and playing with both hands – all while having heaps of fun and enjoying positive screentime.
We know that in today’s world, technology plays a huge role in most areas of life. Lots of children have access to smartphones or tablets on a daily basis. So, why not in their music lessons, too? At Sweet Symphony, we’re always on the lookout for new ways to make our lessons more accessible and enjoyable for all. When we first discovered Piano Maestro back in 2013 it was the start of a beautiful friendship.
There are two ways of using Piano Maestro. Either use the onscreen piano, or use your own instrument. Your iPad’s inbuilt microphone listens to your playing, and picks up when you’ve played the correct notes. As the music flows across the screen, you must play the correct notes at the right time. At the end of each song, you’re marked on your note accuracy and your timing. There’s also an “Assists” feature, which you can use to make the piece a little bit easier. But be warned – use of the assists feature lowers your final score!)
There are three main areas in Piano Maestro – the Journey, the Library and Home Challenge. We’re going to briefly discuss each of these areas below.
Download the app and create a profile. Then you’ll find the Journey section located on the left-hand side of your screen. This is the “learning” section of the app, where you journey through chapters which introduce you to piano-playing. Each chapter gradually increases in difficulty. In order to move on to the next chapter, you must complete enough of the current chapter’s pieces.
This structure means that users can’t simply skip ahead to a level far behind their current capabilities; you have to earn it.
In Chapter 1 you’ll start out by just playing Middle C; by Chapter 9 you’ll be starting to use both hands together as you learn to coordinate your hands and read both staves at once. There are currently 50 Chapters within the app.
The Library is packed full of extra songs, exercises and method books for all students to use. These are all available to use straight away and don’t need to be unlocked in the same way as the Journey. Each piece’s difficulty level is shown, and often the same piece can be found several times over, at various difficulties.
One of the things we love most about Piano Maestro is the fact that included within the Library are several of the tutor books we use as part of our lessons in Sweet Symphony. This includes the Music For Little Mozarts series and the various Alfred method books. This allows us to incorporate both off- and online learning into our lessons, and means students are able to play their pieces with full back tracks and accompaniment, making it a much more enjoyable performance.
As well as songs and tutor books, there are also a wealth of scales, arpeggios and other exercises available in the Library. We use these predominantly with students working towards an exam and set them as Home Challenges (see below). Practising using Piano Maestro can give the student important feedback between their lessons and help keep them on the right track.
Home Challenge does exactly what it says on the tin – it allows our teachers to assign homework for their students using the app. In order for this feature to work, students must connect their home account to our Studio account.
Teachers can monitor and assign Home Challenges remotely from one of our Studio iPads, and we also receive a weekly report telling us who has been practising and for how long!
Is it just for Piano Students?
Although the title of the app suggests that usage is limited to just Piano Students, we have found that other students of instruments can use it, too! Simply make sure your instrument is in tune(!), and look for songs which use only the treble clef.
You won’t enjoy the full range of features like a piano student would, but there are still plenty of pieces that can be used by other instruments.
Benefits to Students
Students practise more when they’re playing music they know and love. Piano Maestro is regularly updated with new music. From chart-topping pop songs to TV themes and musical hits. Last year’s addition of The Greatest Showman pieces was very popular with our Students! There are currently over 2,500 songs/exercises to choose from on the app, and this is increasing all the time.
And it’s not just for children – the feedback received after playing a piece can be used by students of all ages to help inform and improve their playing. In fact, some of our adult students are the most frequent users of Piano Maestro!
One benefit of using Piano Maestro is that it can be used somewhat as a substitute for a real piano where necessary. Perhaps you’re going away on holiday or are stuck in traffic – if you have your iPad to hand you can be practising!
Benefits to Teachers
From a teacher point of view, anything that makes music lessons more engaging and enjoyable for their students has to be a positive thing. Sight-reading is not usually the most exciting part of playing piano. But by using Piano Maestro we can make it a lot more fun and something that doesn’t have to be feared!
For some students, it’s difficult to sit and concentrate at their instrument with their music for an entire lesson. Using apps such as Piano Maestro, we can break the lesson into several different segments, thereby holding the students’ attention and maintaining their motivation and enthusiasm.
Our group lessons really benefit from Piano Maestro. As part of our group activities we set challenges between students to see who can master a piece in the fastest amount of time, or who can successfully sight-read a passage on the first attempt.
This all sounds great – how do I get it?
Piano Maestro is currently available only for Apple iPads (sorry, Android users!) and can be downloaded from the App Store.
The app is free until Chapter 6, after which you’ll be asked for payment details in order to continue.
We value Piano Maestro so much that we’ve purchased a Studio licence which covers all of our students. By connecting to our Studio account, all of our students can enjoy full, FREE access on their own iPads at home.
If you’d like to connect to our Studio account to access all of the features of Piano Maestro at home for free, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you the details you need to get started.