A few weeks ago, I was contacted by the development team of flowkey, which is a new app on the App Store.
The goal of flowkey is to be a “grown up” solution to learning piano. The app tracks your progress, but not in a traditional “gameification” way.The app has several modes for learning music, which include “flow” (it listens for correct notes as you play the piano–both hands or a single hand), slow, and practice modes (full speed, no active listening/pausing on the part of the iPad). In the flow mode, the goal is to get each note right before you move to the next note. You set the iPad on your piano (in my case, a digital piano), and you play. In every mode, there is a video of the piano that shows all 88 keys and which keys should be pressed. There is no on-screen piano keyboard to play on the iPad (like some other piano apps), although the company is examining the use of Core MIDI in the future (think in terms of attaching a keyboard to the iPad rather than setting the iPad on a piano).
I am not a fantastic piano player, and as such, I am probably part of the target audience for this app. Most of the scores were playable at my novice level of playing. I experienced some issues when the program wouldn’t hear a note, and I would have to play it repeatedly to get the program to move on (remember the days of SmartMusic when it wouldn’t hear a specific note to move on?).
The app is a free download and comes with some free content, but full access is subscription-based. From the App Store description:
flowkey is free to download and use. There are several songs included in the free version. Get access to all songs and new songs every month with flowkey Premium, which is available through an auto-renewing subscription. A one month subscription is $19.99, a three months subscription is $38,99 and a yearly subscription is $119,99. If you choose to subscribe, you will be charged a price according to your country which is shown in the app. The subscription renews automatically unless auto-renew is turned off at least 24 hours before end of the current subscription period. Your iTunes account will be charged for the next subscription period within 24 hours prior to the end of the current period. The current period of in-app subscriptions cannot be canceled. You can turn off auto-renew at any time from your iTunes account settings.
I think flowkey is, at the least, worth a download and checking out, particularly if you find apps like PianoMaestro or Piano Dust Buster not challenging enough or are looking for a touch more “grown up” solution. I can’t speak to the subscription model, as I do not take piano lessons nor do I buy piano music. As such, perhaps $120 a year is a fantastic bargain. My fear is that many users that are accustomed to $5 iPad apps will be scared away at that price.
In my interactions with the company, I suggested the possibility of uploading a MusicXML file and having a digital pianist (like a player piano) show hand positions (or just correct keys) with an uploaded song, which would make the app even more useful (scan your music, and then practice with flowkey as a rehearsal tool).
Over the years, I have had a lot of requests from piano teachers for apps, and the list has always been small (and sometimes those apps have gone away, like Pluto Learns Piano). That is why it is wonderful to be able to bring flowkey to your attention. Again, it is a free download and worth trying–perhaps you will find that it is worth a longer subscription.