Playground Sessions Review
How does the “Playground Sessions” method of learning piano stack up against the competition?
FTC Disclosure: Deviant Noise Inc. may receive compensation from some of the companies whose products we review, if you choose to make a purchase through our links. However, we don’t recommend anything we don’t actually believe in.
Last Updated: November 2020
In this Playground Sessions review, we’re going to dive into the piano practice app that is endorsed and “co-founded” by the legend Quincy Jones.
We’ll go over how much it costs, what’s included in your membership, what using the app is like and whether or not it’s the best option to learn to play piano.
Let’s get into it…
Playground sessions isn’t your typical set of piano lessons. Much like Melodics, it’s more of a piano training/practice app.
And it’s evident in the course curriculum. If you’re looking for a traditional approach to learning piano and music theory, this isn’t the course for you.
But if you want to dive right into learning concepts quickly and getting to the “song playing” this might be something you’d like.
But even if all you want is something to help you play songs faster, there are competitors out there. So can I really recommend Playground sessions over other traditional piano lessons or even something like Melodics?
Maybe… Read on to find out.
3.5/5 Stars Overall
Should You Subscribe: If you are looking for a GREAT practice tool then YES, we recommend getting Playground Sessions. It’s song library is huge, and you get straight to playing piano and learning skills/techniques. And since it’s software based, it’s an interactive practice tool that will help improve your time/rhythm/etc. You won’t be wasting a lot of time diving deep into theoretical stuff.
But that’s also where the program actually falls short. There’s not enough emphasis, in our opinion, on the theory and WHY the mechanics of playing piano work the way they do.
And Deviant Noise is all about “play now, read later.” We love the concept of being able to play piano by ear, not necessarily just learning theory of music.
But having said that, it’s still important to have a grasp/understanding of how music works. It’s the only way you’ll be able to improvise or make your own music.
And unfortunately, Playground Sessions falls short in that regard. But so does the alternative piano training software, Melodics.
Both of these tools are BEST used as practice aids. And in that regard, they are FANTASTIC ways to improve your technique and abilities.
They’re just NOT your traditional “piano lessons,” per se.
But beyond that, I’d really recommend ALL piano students try out Playground Sessions – especially if you use it in conjunction with another, more traditional piano lesson.
- $17.99 / month
- $119.88 / year
- $289.99 for LIFETIME access
- One of the best ways to improve your technique, skills and abilities
- Jump right into playing piano
- Endorsed by legendary producer Quincy Jones and taught by Grammy winner Harry Connick Jr.
- Feels like playing a video game, but actually improves your piano playing ability
- Huge song library
- Improves your rhythm/timing and coordination better than normal piano “practice” without it
- Visual feedback while you practice so you can know where to improve immediately
- Helpful community section if you need assistance or get stuck
- Requires a MIDI keyboard or Digital Piano to use
- Not as graphical/”pretty” as Melodics
- Not a ton of “video lessons” that actually teach you theory in-depth
- Limited access to songs in library (only 5 per month for free)
Subscribe to Playground Sessions If…
- You want to be able “play piano” NOW – without going through tons of boring “fundamentals/theory” lessons
- You want a tool that helps you practice EFFECTIVELY, without being boring
- You have a MIDI/USB enabled piano/drumpad or electronic drum kit
- You love the idea of being taught by Harry Connick Jr.
- You want to focus more on improving your PLAYING ABILITY, and not so much on your theory/knowledge
What’s Included in the Subscription?
There aren’t a ton of bells and whistles included in your subscription of Playground Sessions, but that because the main software app is really all you need to improve yourself.
The app itself is compatible with Windows, Mac and iOS so you can use it on phones/tablets as well. Of course, you’ll need a digital piano with USB or a MIDI piano to actually use the software properly.
The app’s layout is pretty basic – it resembles the iTunes app a bit. You get access to:
- video lessons
- interactive “practice” lessons
- song library
- community forum
There are also 3 separate “tours” or learning paths you can take when you first sign up – Rookie, Intermediate and Advanced.
These tours are basically the “learning” areas where you’ll touch on the fundamentals and then do exercises that help you put the concepts into real “playing” situations.
After you’ve done a certain amount of these lessons, you unlock additional courses that supplement the concepts you learn in the tours.
These additional courses dig a little deeper into specific theory, skills and techniques.
There are a small amount of video lessons and then more interactive lessons featuring interactive sheet music.
The Playground Sessions Curriculum
Let’s dig a little deeper into the 3 learning tours offered in the program.
The Rookie Tour is obviously the best place to complete beginner’s to start. It’s got a total of 84 lessons and goes over all the fundamentals – from notes to finger positions and even reading sheet music. It starts with playing one hand, but a little less than half way through the lessons you get to playing with both hands.
The Intermediate Tour builds on these fundamentals with 61 different lessons, mostly focused on piano chords. You’ll learn about major/minor triads, inversions and also delve into some piano chord progressions. But it’s important to remember, that you don’t really get into harmonic theory, you more so learn in the context of chords within songs. Some additional techniques related to pedals and transposing are also touched on here.
The Advanced Tour in Playground Sessions is 21 lessons and covers more advanced rhythms and chord voicings. You’ll learn about other chords as well as arpeggios and musical textures.
You’ll be playing songs throughout all of the different tours basically off the jump. The exercises are integrated into the song lessons. And of course, as you progress through the tours, you unlock additional courses that touch on things like playing with both hands, reading sheet music, famous melodies, etc.
Lessons in Playground Sessions
There are two types of lessons throughout the different sections of this training program – video lessons and interactive lessons. The video lessons are where Harry Connick Jr. will teach you some fundamentals and theory while in front of a piano. Think of these lessons as the “explainer” videos which introduce the main concepts and offer anecdotes.
The other lessons are the interactive “practice” type lessons. With these lessons you actively play the piano along with interactive sheet music that syncs up to your playing. It’s one of the most effective ways to practice piano. If you use them, they’ll help you become better, there’s no doubt. You’re able to slow things down, get instant feedback and skip between simple and more complex arrangements of songs.
The Song Library
The best part of any lesson or training program is the song library available. What songs are you actually able to learn and play? Playground Sessions has a vast library of songs – you’ll find lots of fun things to play whether it’s pop, rock, country, Latin and more.
The best part, however, is that every song in the library comes with interactive sheet music we described above. So all in all it’s a pretty great resource for students of piano.
But there are a couple of issues. Most (if not all) of the songs are simpler arrangements than their “original versions.” So they’re not the exact songs that you may know, but a slightly different version of that song.
Further, with your membership you only get access to 5 per month. After that you have to pay $1.99 per song if you go beyond the first 5 before your next month of membership starts. Not the biggest deal, since that’s still learning more than 1 song per week. But it is a limitation of the software.
More About Playground Sessions
Much like Melodics, this isn’t the best option for you if you’re looking for a traditional piano education. If you want to delve deep into the theory and mechanics of how music works there are better options – like Rocket Piano, Piano For All or Piano Marvel.
Getting a proper piano education isn’t the main goal of something like Playground Sessions. It’s more about taking the basics of playing piano and immediately applying them to real world “playing” situation.
You do learn how to play piano, just not in the traditional ways. There’s a heavy song focus to Playground Sessions.
But despite that, we HIGHLY recommend you try it out for a while because of how GREAT of a practice tool this software is. Regular piano practice from traditional types of lessons are boring and dry. You just go through your piano scales mindlessly… It’s easy to NOT have effective practice sessions when you don’t have software like this.
They’re a chore. But software like Playground Sessions makes it so much better – it’s actually fun to practice. And that’s so valuable since if you don’t practice daily, you’ll never become a good piano player regardless of the type of lessons you choose to learn from.
And that’s why you should absolutely sign up for the program. And give Melodics a try too, since it’s a similar concept with a much prettier interface and playing experience. The benefit Playground Sessions has over Melodics, though, is the song library and the fact that you play to sheet music, bolstering your ability to read music.
All in all, I love this type of software and keep it a part of my regular practice routine. It’s what keeps me practicing even when I don’t “feel like it” – because it’s actually kind of fun to do.
So if you’re looking for a great practice aid that also teaches you popular songs and the basics of piano, Playground Sessions might be the perfect match for you!