Nowadays, there are a multitude of “learn piano online” apps or programmes, designed to show you how to learn the piano without a teacher.
These tools each have their merits and disadvantages. Some tools are better than others for certain things.
One of the newest of these tools is called Flowkey. It's an app that you download to your PC, iPad or phone, that teaches you how to play songs on the piano. It contains numerous featured songs, in any category you could think of; classical, pop, R+B, even jazz and video game music.
Flowkey is mainly aimed towards beginners. However, there are lots and lots of advanced pieces of music for those who want to play them but aren't yet able to read music well enough.
Flowkey is free to try out. If you want to commit long term, it's €9.99 per month ($10.99 USD) if you purchase a yearly subscription. Compared with a real piano teacher, this is very affordable.
Flowkey works with any type of piano by any manufacturer. It will work with:
It can do this because it uses your device's microphone, listening out for the notes you play. However, you can also connect it to your instrument through USB-to-MIDI if you have a digital piano or keyboard.
How Flowkey Teaches you to Play Piano
Flowkey will help you learn new pieces, without the aid of a teacher or having to buy sheet music. It is aimed toward players who are not comfortable reading sheet music by themselves.
It does this in a pretty unique way. It provides you with a video of a pianist playing whatever piece you've chosen, along with the sheet music.
It uses either your piano's MIDI interface or the microphone on your device to listen for the notes you're playing. It won't continue until you play the right notes.
When the video of the pianist plays, the notes they're playing are lit up to help you find them if you don't read music well.
There is a huge range of music included with Flowkey. The free trial account will offer access to a limited number of songs and lessons, including an “introduction to the piano,” but if you commit to a subscription, you get access to over 1500 songs and access to all courses and lessons.
Flowkey is available for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android.
When you first start playing with Flowkey, it asks you a few questions to personalise your learning experience.
These include whether you've played the piano before, what type of piano you have and whether you can read sheet music.
Because of this, Flowkey can set you up with a very personalised music-learning experience, tailored to your skill level and ability.
However, it doesn't teach you how to read music or learn music theory, and it won't teach you piano technique. This is fine for a complete beginner, but as you improve and want to play harder and harder pieces, technique becomes very important.
The courses included, while great for beginners and intermediate players, won't teach you advanced music theory. If you're looking for this, to play very advanced classical music, something else might suit you better.
However, for most people, Flowkey is more than adequate, and will help them learn to play pieces much quicker than learning sheet music.
Learning some music
Flowkey's interface is really easy and intuitive to use. Once you've gone through the setup, it's easy to start learning pieces.
Simply search for whatever piece you want to play in the search box. For this one, I chose the Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven.
I can select whichever movement I want, and it'll load up the Flowkey player. I can now play along with this piece until I've perfected it, change the tempo, or even change the learning mode so that the player waits for me to play the right notes before continuing.
If there's a section I'm stuck on, and want to keep practicing until I can get it right, I can select the particular section very easily.
Flowkey will then play this section over and over again until I decide I'm happy to continue learning something else. I can even change the tempo, and ask Flowkey to wait for me to play the right notes.
To see a video demonstration of how this works, check out the video below.
Flowkey features two learning modes to help you practice.
Slow Motion Mode
Slow motion mode will play the piece in its entirety for you to play along with.
You can choose to set the Flowkey pianist to play at 50% speed or 75% speed. This makes it easy to check whether you can play a piece all the way through without stopping.
As you become more comfortable with the piece, you can increase from 50% to 75% and then 100% to test whether you can play the piece all the way through.
As the name suggests, in Wait Mode, Flowkey will listen to your playing and wait for you to play the correct note.
This is very useful for the beginner stages of learning a piece. The software will even let you select small sections of the piece to learn. Select one or two bars, put Flowkey into Wait Mode, and it will wait for you to play the right notes.
When you do, Flowkey will move on to the next note and wait for you. It will then repeat the selected section indefinitely, allowing you as much time as you need to learn the selected section before moving on.
This is one of the most useful features of Flowkey, as the app can actively help you drill helpful and productive practice habits without you realising it.
Courses and other instructional videos
In my opinion, this is where Flowkey comes into its’ own. There are numerous courses and lessons included, over and above what you’re offered with the song-learning tool that Flowkey provides you.
Ranging from an introduction to the piano for a complete beginner, that covers posture, hand position, etc, to courses on how to play with both hands, how to play chords, even how to improvise, there’s something for all skill levels here.
I found this section particularly valuable to a beginner, as there is enough here to give them a good grasp of how to learn to read sheet music, as well as concepts such as improvisation, composition, and even technical training through playing scales.
This is, however, not the best way to learn to read music on your own. To do this, you’ll need a teacher.
This section won’t be for everyone, but it’s likely that you’ll have an aspiration to become proficient at at least one of the topics included here, and chances are the content Flowkey provides will be more than sufficient.
The courses Flowkey offers aren't for advanced pianists, but for beginners they are really useful to get a grasp on basic concepts.
Songs and repertoire included
This is one of the areas whereby I was most impressed by Flowkey. Flowkey contains an almost endless number of songs in different categories and genres.
At the time of writing there are over 1500 songs included; it's really unlikely that you'll run out of music to play any time soon!
What Flowkey provides is invaluable. It gives you total freedom to learn how to play pretty much any piece you want. I mean, just look at the categories here:
In my experience, it’s very possible that a beginner learning the piano with an experienced teacher will find themselves being told which pieces to play without any say in the matter.
This leads to learners becoming frustrated and unmotivated because they have no passion or interest in what they are playing. Often they will take pieces to their teacher that they have an interest in playing, but the teacher will dismiss this music, often citing that “it’s too hard,” or that “this won’t feature in your exam.”
This is, I believe, one of the major reasons that so many people quit playing the piano. You won’t ever have this problem with Flowkey, because you have the complete freedom to choose whichever music you want to learn.
In each of the categories, you have the option to switch between difficulty levels. You can even choose more than one at a time, and it will display the songs within that level of difficulty.
You can then filter by category, or even use the search function to check if your favourite song is included.
Pricing and Subscriptions
As previously mentioned, Flowkey uses the “freemium” model, meaning that you have the option to sign up for free to try the programme out. There is no time limit; you have access to the free content for as long as you like.
However, the free options are limited. You only get access to a small portion of the tutorials, plus a very limited selection of songs.
With the free option, you also get access to Flowkey support should you have any problems. You'll usually get a reply from them within a day, not including weekends.
Should you upgrade?
If you've enjoyed the free version (which I encourage you to try out first before buying) you should look into upgrading to the paid version. This is because you get so much more content than the free version, and the price is very competitive.
You'll get access to over 1500 songs (at the time of writing, more are being added every day), which include Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata, as well as numerous themes from movies and TV shows.
You'll also get full access to Flowkey's excellent courses, such as music theory training and improvisation classes.
Here's the list of prices to help you make up your mind.
€1 = $1.08 USD, £0.85 GBP, $1.44 CAD, $1.61AUD, 77.47INR.
Conclusion; is Flowkey worth it?
My views on this are pretty clear. I think for the price you pay, Flowkey is a very useful tool that can help a lot of people, who may not have the funds or the ability to access a real piano teacher.
While there is a risk of getting into bad habits, Flowkey might also prevent you from progressing beyond a certain level as a pianist. Using Flowkey to learn music is all well and good, but eventually you’re going to want to learn how to use music.
Being able to read music well is, always has been and will remain the quickest way to learn a piece. Flowkey can do this to a certain extent, but you’re ultimately going to want to get a teacher to show you how to do this if you’re serious about your piano playing.
However, this takes time and money. For those who aren't looking to become a professional concert pianist, Flowkey is an excellent choice.
I think Flowkey is probably the best way to learn piano on your own. If you’re completely new to the piano, want to learn and are unsure of whether you’ll stick at it so you don’t want to sign up for a teacher, Flowkey will be very useful to you as you pick up the basics.
After this, if you're still playing, you ought to look into getting a teacher.
My FINAL verdict; should you sign up?
Should you consider subscribing to Flowkey?
Piano Reviewer's Rating
4/5 Stars: Excellent