Wondering what Piano Sessions is all about and if it's worth the investment?
This Playground Sessions review is here to help. I've spent the last couple of weeks on the platform and put what I've learned into practice.
I've also spent a ton of time reviewing other piano learning websites out there so I can compare and contrast with what else is on offer.
I’ll be going over all the info you need to know and share my own experiences and opinions of the site.
So let’s get started!
If you’re short on time then here are the highlights:
You will learn:
- A variety of exercises and songs to help you understand new musical concepts
- How music is notated, and where to start reading it
- Chords and their inversions
- Rhythm, syncopation, counting and subdividing
- Playing with both hands, and practising with your favourite songs
- Learning music by ear
- Chord voicings and transposition
- The dominant 7th and how it works
- Getting started with new styles and improvisation
- An excellent interface with lots of helpful tools and visuals
- Engaging and knowledgeable teachers who guide you through the steps
- A range of technical exercises, including famous songs, to test your knowledge
- The opportunity to learn songs individually to add to your repertoire
- Wonderfully comprehensive content
- Designed for a wide-ranging audience
- Set up is a little convoluted, and requires a midi keyboard to properly work
- Could go into a bit more depth on both theory and style
Length of course: As long as you need it to be. Altogether there are 176 lessons in the Playground Sessions boot camp. These are divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced sections. Some of these lessons include videos ranging from 5-10 minutes, others just contain practice sessions that you can take as long as you like to complete. On top of this, there is an increasingly expansive song library.
Best for: Pianists looking to develop as all-around musicians, rather than just a few songs. Although you’ll have the opportunity to expand your set-list, Playground Sessions is much more interested in developing your general musicianship and theoretical knowledge. There is content for all levels, but I think that for beginners in particular this is a great place to start.
Overall: I was delighted with my experience with Playground Sessions. Going through the boot camp, I was impressed by the content on offer. If you start your piano-playing journey here, you can be sure that you are getting a uniquely strong foundation in music that’ll make your life easier. On top of this, other assets like the interface, the engaging in-person teaching style and the wonderful practice exercises all come together to make Playground Sessions one of the best piano sites out there.
In this review I’ll be covering:
- All about Playground Sessions
- My review of Playground Sessions Courses
- What I liked about this platform
- What I think could be improved
- Who I think this platform is for
- The cost and any potential alternatives and most importantly…
Is Playground Sessions worth it?
What Is Playground Sessions?
Playground Sessions has its origins in New York in 2010. But the present incarnation made its real debut in 2014.
Founded by entrepreneur Chris Vance, the site has gone on to work and collaborate with legendary pianists and some of the biggest names in the music industry including Harry Connick Jr, David Sides and Quincy Jones.
These massive names have been involved with the project both in front of the camera (or piano) and behind the scenes.
The company was designed with the influence of the Rosetta Stone language lessons, combining this with a video game-style interaction software for learners.
Using a MIDI keyboard, students can learn with the interactive software and connect with other students around the world.
By 2018, it had been said that the company had delivered over 18 million practice sessions, averaging about 1 million per month.
How Does Playground Sessions Work?
Playground Sessions teaches you all you need to know about playing the piano, including many of your favorite songs.
It works as an app and is downloadable on multiple devices.
There are different membership options, including monthly, annual and lifetime subscriptions. Each provides you with the same content, including a step by step boot camp guide through the piano, and a bank of songs to learn.
There are one or two preview lessons with Playground Sessions, so you can have a watch of them. If you like what you see, the next step is to purchase a membership.
Rather than working on the site, you download the application. After opening Playground Sessions on your device, you’ll see a tab at the top with various pages including:
- My Playground
- My Songs
- Song Store
My Playground is the page where you can gain an insight into your progress with the site,
Bootcamp aims to guide you through all stages of the piano, from beginner, through intermediate and finally to advanced.
These boot camp lessons are led by multiple instructors, including David Sides, and legendary performer Harry Connick Jr. They are divided into video lessons led by the teachers above, and individual practice sessions.
To watch a lesson, click on its icon. To complete practice sessions, you must first plug in a MIDI keyboard. You are then free to play along to the music and backing track of the exercise. Playground Sessions is able to recognize the notes you play, and correct notes will show up in green.
On top of this, there are several other courses, and a vast and expansive song library with lessons devoted to learning literally every song you can think of.
You can purchase these lessons individually, but with Playground Sessions membership you get 5 songs for free, and after that buying them is a lot cheaper.
There are also forums for you to explore as part of the Playground Sessions membership.
My Review Of The Playground Sessions Courses
To compile this review, I’ve taken every video lesson in the beginner, intermediate and advanced boot camp, as well as most of the practice sessions.
I’ve also had a look at one or two other courses on the platform, including the lesson for the song Imagine by John Lennon.
This is the basis of which I’ve divided the review of courses below.
This is the first place you’re directed to after the introductory videos in Playground Sessions, so we’ll start here.
Most people learning the piano on the internet are beginners, so companies need to get this right.
Whilst I’m not technically a beginner myself (depending on who you ask) I was still impressed by this portion of the boot camp.
You will learn:
- The five-finger position
- The basics of staff notation and rhythm
- How to start playing with both hands
- Hand position changes
- Accidentals and what they mean
- Early practice techniques
- Starting scales
- The C Major scale
- How to orientate your ear
- Beginners get to actually learn new music
- The personable teaching style that puts you at ease
- Helpful visuals that enhance rather than distract
- Comprehensive but digestible content in each video
- Lots of opportunity for self-practice
- Efficient teaching that covers a lot of ground
- Applies potentially challenging concepts to popular music
- Could trust the audience a little more with technical concepts
- Set-up and interface may seem daunting to a total beginner
Length of Course: There are thirteen video lessons in the beginner boot camp tour. On top of that, there are around 40-50 practice materials you can go over in your own time. Each video lasts around 5-10 minutes.
Best for: No surprises here. The beginner's section is naturally best suited to beginners. That means anyone who has never touched a piano but has any remote interest in learning. Maybe a bit of knowledge would put you at ease with using the interface, but it is designed for people with no experience.
Overall: I loved these first lessons, and found them to be a great introduction to the rest of the site. The topics covered here are essential for learning the piano, and each one is approached in a descriptive, clear and helpful manner. Using Playground Sessions, you will develop rapidly, as musical concepts and notation will become increasingly clear with each practice session you try.
There’s a lot to get through with the beginner lessons and practice sessions, and when you’re ready, you can move on to the intermediate section.
This is a notoriously difficult group to define. Depending on who you ask, 1 month, 1 year and 1 lifetime of playing piano can still land you in this category.
Despite the difficulty with which anyone can pin down this group, I was still delighted with the approach taken here.
You will learn:
- How to build and invert chords
- Chords in notation and hearing chords
- How to use the pedal
- Key signature tips
- Triplets, swing and syncopation
- Chord voicing and progression
- Progresses nicely from the beginner course
- Introduces broader concepts that make you a better all-around musician
- Allows you to try advanced repertoire
- Teachers descriptively break down potentially challenging concepts, and then you have a chance to practice them
- Useful visuals, such as footage of the inner workings of a piano
- Illuminating examples of music used
- More technical terminology and content would be helpful
- Different teachers mean there’s a bit of a disconnect in the style of teaching and terminology employed
Length of course: There are eighteen video lessons included here, again around 5-10 mins. Intermediate videos tend to be a little longer as there is more to break down in terms of analysis. Again, this is accompanied by 20-30 practice lessons.
Best for: Beginners who have flown through the courses and are ready to move on will be the most comfortable. This is because it progresses very naturally from that part of the boot camp. If you struggle with concepts like chord voicing and progressions, this is a great place for you to learn.
Overall: Again, another stand out part of the boot camp. In some ways, I’m an intermediate pianist myself, so this is probably the section I’m best placed to comment on. And I was personally ecstatic with what was taught here. I was able to approach new concepts like voicings and using the pedal (which I always struggle with). It never felt out of my comfort zone, but I’m pretty sure I had learnt something new after each video, even if it covered a concept I had some familiarity with.
Even if I can pass off as an intermediate, there is absolutely no metric that would describe me as advanced.
You might wonder, why do advanced players even need lessons? Surely they’re past that point in their piano journey.
But when it comes to music, everybody has something to learn. No matter how long you’ve been playing, how talented you are or how much you know, there is always room to evolve and expand your knowledge.
I have to admit, this is a weaker section of the boot camp, at least compared to the first two. The quality doesn’t dip at all, I just felt there was more that could’ve been included.
You will learn:
- How to play 16th notes
- All about melody
- What is meant by dominant 7th
- Playing in different genres and styles
- How to improvise
- Fun! No matter what level you are, I’d recommend the improvisation lesson just because it’s so cool to watch
- Explores different styles and genres pianists might not be familiar with
- Give attention to melody where other teachers tend to just glance over it
- Your lived experience informs how you play; an essential aspect of music that’s discussed here and not really anywhere else
- Could’ve gone into a lot more depth with the theory explanation
- Different styles and genres are very America-centric
- Could do with more lessons and content in general
- Not massively aimed at advanced players
Length of course: There’s a lot less content here, which I suppose makes sense as advanced players require the least amount of attention. There are only 6 video lessons, with about 20 practice sessions.
Best for: Honestly, I’d say this is best aimed at intermediate players, especially ones who have gotten a lot out of the other boot camp courses. This doesn’t feel like much of a step up in ability. Advanced players who struggle with playing in genres like jazz and soul might also get quite a bit out of this.
Overall: It’s hard to know what to include in an advanced course. As I said, people in this group have developed all kinds of abilities and they can’t possibly all be catered for. However, I did feel like there was a lot more that could’ve been done here. The quality of the lessons didn't change and I still enjoyed what I learnt. But there could’ve been a lot more technical explanation, music theory and tips for the other aspects of playing piano e.g. composing, putting on a live show. It was a great intermediate course, but I wouldn’t call it advanced.
Other Playground Sessions Courses
I would say that the boot camp is the main selling point of Playground Sessions, but if you’ve completed it there is still a lot on offer that you should stick around for.
These courses include:
- Both Hands Practice
- 50 Easy Melodies
- Holiday Medley Challenge
- The Entertainer Challenge
- Für Elise Challenge
- Chords Practice – Triads
- 1 Octave Scales
- Hanon – The Virtuoso Pianist
On top of this, there's a vast and expansive song library with lessons devoted to learning literally every song you can think of, from a wide range of time periods, styles and composers.
You can purchase these individually, but with Playground Sessions membership you get 5 songs for free, and after that buying them is a lot cheaper.
After a little browse, the song I spent the most time learning was Imagine by John Lennon, taught and arranged by David Sides.
This lesson was divided into several components. After an initial overview, David Sides broke down the right (melody) and then the left hand (accompaniment) for each part of the song:
Intro, Verse, Pre-chorus and Chorus.
I loved these lessons for all the same reasons I enjoyed the intermediate boot camp. The interface was super helpful, using a split-screen to show me the sheet music, keyboard (with the correct notes highlighted) and my instructor.
The teaching itself was also a real highlight. David’s videos came at appropriate moments to explain each new section of the song, and what fingering and music I should be playing. But then it was up to me to repeat that in the practise section after each video.
It felt like a great balance between being guided through the song step by step and guiding yourself independently.
In a real lesson, a teacher will often highlight when an important point in the music comes up to illuminate a broader musical concept, and I felt that was lacking here. There was a lot of points where the chords and style we were playing were directly related to the content of the boot camp, but those comparisons were never drawn.
I felt that was a bit of a missed opportunity, but it’s a bit of a nitpick.
Overall, I was pleased with my progress. I couldn’t play Imagine before the lesson, and I can now. What other testament do you need?
What I Liked About Playground Sessions
It’s a deep anxiety among many piano enthusiasts that the increase in online teaching means there’ll be major gaps in the knowledge of students who aren’t using the traditional face to face method.
But, if Playground Sessions is anything to go by, these guys have nothing to worry about.
I was massively impressed by the quality teaching on Playground Sessions. As someone who's spent a lot of time using piano learning sites, I’ve noticed that a much more popular method is to not have a teacher and let students use technology to teach themselves.
Everyone learns differently, and this method can be useful if you are just wanting to quickly add to your repertoire. But it was so refreshing to have a real person sit down at the piano and take you through the magic of the keys step by step.
Each teacher had a warm and inviting tone that I’m sure would put even the most frightened new learner at ease, they all approached the keyboard and concepts with confidence and you can tell that they are all super talented and passionate about the instrument. It shines through.
David Sides is the most common instructor on Playground Sessions. He does a great job of breaking down musical concepts and ideas in an easy to understand way, whilst also keeping the lessons interesting and demonstrating the weird and wonderful way music all fits together.
Harry Connick Jr. is another teacher on the site. A big name in the industry, his lessons are shorter and less focused on theory, with greater attention given to style and feel. He injects this raw, dynamic energy in the boot camp that keeps you motivated, a much-needed boost after practising scales and arpeggios.
I was also impressed by how Playground Sessions use their teachers. There aren’t constants, and most of the practising you do is self-guided. Instead, they are there to help illuminate new and potentially challenging concepts and to motivate you to persist with the learning.
Fostering that teacher/student relationship, even through video format, can be essential to those early days of learning a new skill.
If I’m being honest, I had a bit of a problem with the software of Playground Sessions. We’ll get to that later though. What I can’t fault is the actual interface you learn with.
Playground Sessions makes life easy for all new learners by including videos for all the essentials of learning the piano. This includes an onscreen keyboard, the sheet music and the instructor with their own piano to guide you through.
This split-screen approach means that you’re able to visualise everything clearly, and it helps you to grasp the multifaceted elements of learning the piano.
On top of this, there are other visual cues, such as lighting up the correct notes and highlighting which ones to play which is also helpful. If you use the site often you’ll be quickly able to intuitively draw connections between the sheet notation and the notes on the keyboard.
This means you can pick up skills like sight-reading super rapidly.
There’s also a toolbar at the top of the page, where you have all kinds of tricks at your disposal. This includes tempo adjustment, isolating the left or right hand, adding a metronome, looping a single part and much more.
When practising, it’s always important to fall into some kind of rhythm with how you learn. Some people prefer to breeze through the music over and over, others will slowly learn isolated segments bit by bit. But knowing what works for you can be daunting in the early stages of individual practice.
Using this toolbar, you can figure out what works for you, and the best ways for you to learn new exercises and techniques.
Combines Learning Technique And New Music
I’m sure one of the main reasons you might be interested in a site like Playground Sessions is because, at the end of the day, you want to learn songs to play on the piano.
I don’t blame you. Theory and musicianship are cool and all, but we tend to study them with the end goal of performance. Because few things are better than that round of applause when you play a piece you’ve been working so hard on.
But why not learn both at the same time?
With Playground Sessions, each new musical concept, technique and exercise is illuminated using popular songs and music you’re bound to be familiar with. Instead of keeping the two separate, you’re able to develop skills and techniques whilst learning your favourite songs.
For example, what better way to learn about playing with both hands than by learning a simple rendition of Stand By Me.
I think this is a very clever idea. Most of us spend all of our lives listening to some kind of music, so whether we know it or not, we often develop an understanding of basic concepts like harmony, rhythm and melody without even knowing it or being able to describe it.
By taking something students are familiar with, and using it to demonstrate the main ideas of a lesson, Playground Sessions massively increases students ability to truly get a sense of what that concept is.
Also, it’s a great way to add some songs to your song bank.
I should note that this is only applicable to the boot camp lessons. The song lessons don’t contain much theory, which I think is a missed opportunity.
Where do you even start learning the piano?
It’s been around for centuries, and it’s played by millions of people across the world, each with their unique take on how to best approach the instrument.
The question does not have a definitive answer, but Playground Sessions seem to have a pretty good idea.
I’m mainly addressing this point regarding the beginner and intermediate stages of the boot camp because that’s what impressed me. All the essentials are here that you need to get started.
Playground Sessions start you off slow, with the first lessons on topics as simple as numbering your fingers. This gradually and methodically builds up, covering all bases required for those important early stages of learning.
Each of these concepts is given its own practice exercises which you go through at your own pace, which, as I said before, often link to a popular song. The technology Playground Sessions has means you only progress once you get all the notes right in this section.
I was also impressed by the content of the courses outside the boot camp I checked out.
My lesson on Imagine covered everything I needed to know. The song was broken down into its components of Verse, Pre-chorus and Chorus. Each was given its own special video lesson, first on the right hand and then the left hand. Following this, I had the opportunity to practice for myself.
I thought this methodical approach to the content and the content itself was a perfect way to learn the song.
I was able to get truly comfortable with the structure, the feel and the actual fingering and positioning of each note much faster than I would be able to if I just plonked the sheet music in front of me (I never claimed to be an expert pianist).
There’s certainly room for improvement with the content, which I dive into below. But overall I’d say what they had to offer was a much bigger positive rather than a negative.
What I Think Could Be Improved
Slightly Convoluted Set-up
I’m basically an old man trapped in a younger man's body, so it’s hardly surprising that I had a problem with the set-up. The slightest bit of technological faff is a problem for dinosaurs like me.
So this problem won’t be an issue for most people, but I would still argue that the set-up of Playground Sessions is more convoluted than it needs to be.
The interface operates as a download, rather than on the site. If you get the membership you only have access to five songs from the library, but each song lesson is cheaper if purchased with the membership than without. And all of that is distinct from the boot camp, which is different from the other courses.
It all sounds a bit confusing right. It isn’t that much of an issue as I got to grips with everything quite quickly, and was rapidly learning piano before I knew it. And I’m very impressed by the detail and extent of the content.
But I would say, especially as many users will be beginners potentially daunted by the prospect of learning the piano, Playground Sessions could put some effort into making their interface easier to approach and understand. With that said, the only real problem I had with the whole set-up is that it requires a MIDI keyboard (that you plug into your device) to properly work.
Though I understand this is so you can properly use the note recognition technology in the practice sessions, it just seems strange to me that, given all the content, there wouldn’t be resources or lessons directed at people who don’t have access to a MIDI keyboard.
You can learn along with an acoustic piano, but it does mean missing out on a lot of the practice sessions, or at least not benefiting from the note-recognition technology of the interface.
It’s natural to assume that you need access to an instrument to learn in, but a MIDI keyboard, plus any converters you might need, feels like a very big investment for a beginner to make if they aren’t even sure whether or not they enjoy playing the instrument yet.
Could Have More Depth On Theory And Style
I know I have already sung the praises of the content Playground Sessions has; I promise I’m not being a hypocrite.
This mainly pertains to the criticisms of the advanced boot camp section I mentioned above. I was very happy with most of the content of the beginner and intermediate sections. I felt like most of the major bases were covered directly and understandably.
However, teaching advanced students is a different ballgame. At that stage of playing, people will have developed entrenched and specific strengths and weaknesses in their playing, which is difficult to cater for if you're teaching a mass audience.
Like I said before, the advanced section of the boot camp felt like it was aimed more at higher quality intermediate players. And I just felt like there was so much more depth they could’ve gone into.
For example, why not describe the Circle of Fifths, or go into even more detail regarding harmony. They could’ve talked about modes, the pentatonic scale and so much more. There is a neverending rabbit hole you can dive into with music theory, but I feel like the surface was barely scratched here.
On top of that, why not branch out to the piano's many other facets. Why not use this section to teach how to use the piano to start songwriting. Harry Connick Jr. gave two great lessons on style and improv. But this was very America-centric, and I felt we missed out on not getting a sense of the piano's place internationally.
Furthermore, the song lessons and other courses presented a real missed opportunity to illuminate some theory points. I understand that this isn’t the purpose of these lessons, but learning music is a constant process. Why not take every opportunity you can get to teach a concept.
For example, whilst I loved my Imagine lesson, a simple sentence about the key or time signature would’ve helped new students understand those concepts.
I shouldn’t really be critiquing Playground Sessions for what isn’t there, and I should focus on what is. And what is there is great. But there’s always room for improvement, and I just feel there’s potential to take the teaching on theory and style a little further.
Who Is Playground Sessions For?
Playground Sessions' ideal audience, at least in my opinion, are pianists looking to get a strong foundation in musical concepts, making that difficult leap from beginner to intermediate ability.
Even though the rookie tour is aimed at students with no prior knowledge, I feel that having some very, very basic preliminary knowledge would help, if only so you find setting everything up and understanding the interface a little less overwhelming.
That said, this group aren’t the only ones to whom I feel Playground Sessions appeals. Others will definitely get a lot from the site, including:
- Musicians proficient in other instruments who want a strong grounding in piano
- Self-taught pianists looking for basic and easily digestible introductions to music theory
- Intermediate piano players who struggle to find a source of repertoire
- Pianists who struggle with learning new music alone, and would like a teacher to go over the major concepts with them
- Busy students looking for challenges and exercises they can dip into in their own time
- Learners who prefer understanding new concepts through songs they already know
- Pianists with access to a MIDI keyboard, but no in-person teacher
Even though the specific groups above are well suited to this platform, there isn’t anyone who isn’t bound to at least something from their experience.
That is unless you hate piano, music and learning, in which case I’m amazed as to why you’re still reading this.
With that said, I would note there is a little less for advanced players. Not only in terms of the actual quantity of lessons within the advanced boot camp, but also about the level of the content itself. I would describe it more as aimed at intermediates performing at a high level.
Even so, the quality of teaching and interface, and the sheer number of lessons and songs on offer means it’s still worth checking out.
How Much Does Playground Sessions Cost?
There are three primary options for Playground Sessions membership. Each provides you with exactly the same content in return, including the music boot camp, 5 free songs a month, classical songs to learn and bonus courses.
The first option is a monthly membership which costs $17.99 for a one month access to all of the above. Alternatively, you could purchase an annual membership which costs $199.88 upfront, working out as $9.99 monthly.
The final option is a lifetime subscription purchase, which is currently $289.99 (it has previously been higher) in which you access all the same content, but forever!
On top of this, there are various other gift cards, family plans and other offers. Playground Sessions often offer promotional sales and one-time offers, so head over to their website if you want to see what’s currently on offer (after you finish this article!)
Playground Sessions also operates a 30-day money-back guarantee for anyone unhappy with their purchase.
Alternatives To Playground Sessions
Playground Sessions is certainly one of the oldest online platforms for learning piano, and perhaps one of the more famous. However, since its founding, several competitors have emerged, each offering its own take on how to best teach.
This means we e-learners are a little spoilt for choice.
You can read our detailed best online piano lessons review here. Or read on for a quick comparison.
Pianote is the most similar to Playground Sessions with regards to what they cover. Unlike a lot of their rivals, these platforms prioritize having an actual teacher walk you through each concept, with equal attention given to musical concepts and theory as there is to learn new songs.
Pianote’s main focus is on the Method, a 10 step program designed to help beginners rapidly improve their playing through methodically introducing musical concepts, applying these to popular songs and employing ear-training and theory techniques.
For those looking for an interactive way of learning new songs, Skoove and Flowkey are two other options. With Skoove, you will go at your own pace, rapidly learning new songs as you approach new skill levels.
Although it shares the trait of an expansive song library with Skoove, there is a much stronger focus on developing musicianship generally if you use Flowkey.
With the dawn of the internet age, educators and entrepreneurs have devoted time to setting up platforms for learning an entire range of skills. Sites like Udemy and SkillShare have come to dominate this ever-growing portion of the web.
And given the popularity of this instrument, it’s no wonder that there’s not a shortage of piano lessons to take on this site. If you're a beginner, why not try Pianoforall on Udemy, described as a fantastic new way of learning piano.
And we haven’t forgotten about you more advanced players looking to develop your skills in a more specific genre. You overachievers can check out The Ultimate Gospel Piano Course on SkillShare if you want a challenge.
If the most appealing aspect of Playground Sessions is having a prolific teacher like Harry Connick Jr. why not try MasterClass. This site focuses on having leading experts in their field taking you through their craft in their own way.
There’s plenty to choose from on the music front, but Masterclasses chief piano offering is a real stalwart: Herbie Hancock Teaches Jazz Piano.
What Others Have Said
Education, like music, is very subjective. What works well for me might very well be the absolute worst way for you to learn. So it’s always important to consider other opinions if this review is going to be as balanced as possible, which I would love it to be.
So, I’ve had a look at some online comments and statements on Playground Sessions and visited some of the most frequented places for piano discussion to see what fellow music enthusiasts had to say.
The internet being the unrestricted place it means anyone can say anything, so it’s very hard to develop a consensus opinion on Playground Sessions when everyone's take is so specific to them.
With that said, I seemed to read a lot more generally positive comments than negative ones, with most people feeling the site is worth the investment, even if they would like to see a few changes.
One commenter summed up their opinion with this:
“I have worked my way through most of the Rookie lessons and have really enjoyed the variety of different music they offer and also how to break the pieces down into smaller/simpler parts and/or do hands separate then build you up to the final piece. Now that I have some experience I feel I skip some of those and work through the sheet music at my own pace and then try to play along.” - Reddit commenter
I think this nicely sums up how you can use the tools in Playground Sessions to your advantage, whatever your ability. If you're struggling, you can spend more time working with the videos or in the boot camp.
Comparatively, once you are more confident, both with the software and your playing, you can work through the songs and practice exercises for as long or as little as you like.
Some comments had a less positive spin but still weren’t overtly negative about the site.
“Playground Sessions does offer tutorials that will help teach you the basics and build your skill, but like any app, the big limitation is that it only grades you on pressing the right note at the right time -- you can play terribly, and get a perfect score on the app so long as you were pressing the keys at the correct tempo. They also don't go heavily into music theory: you do get some, but it's interspersed in the videos in small bits, not a focus on its own. None of that is saying it can't be useful, but be aware of the limitations of the tool that you're wanting to use. That said, you can do a free trial of Playground Sessions (I think they give you 30 days free) and see if it's something you like.” - Reddit commenter."
Even though I have a more positive take on what Playground Sessions did for my learning, I agree with a lot of this comment. There is certainly a limitation to the technology in that it’s incredibly difficult to teach essential music concepts like phrasing and style using a computer.
I also, as mentioned above, agree that there could be a greater focus on music theory, and would go even further to say that it needs to be interspersed with the other video lessons a lot more. But, as this person says, if these are major problems for you there is a 30-day money-back guarantee.
It seems, generally, that people were happy with their purchase:
“I've been using Playground Sessions for a few months now, and it's been pretty decent. They have progressive boot camps to teach you the basics and then individual songs you can buy at different levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced). It does teach some theory, but I would suggest learning some on your own anyway, just to get a solid foundation. You'd progress better with a teacher of course, but a teacher would also probably cost ten times as much.” - Reddit commenter
I love the idea of learning music theory on top of what you do with Playground Sessions. With so many resources and concepts to learn, why should you only have one source of musical knowledge?
The idea that platforms like Playground Sessions will never replace in-person teachers is a common one on sites like this. I’m not sure I entirely agree, as I think the pandemic has shown that we have to be creative and innovative with how we learn in the future, even if that means questioning common assumptions about the best way to teach.
Maybe e-learning platforms will never be a suitable stand-in for an actual teacher, or maybe the technology just isn’t there yet. Whatever the case, Playground Sessions is one of the strongest alternatives.
Is Playground Sessions Worth It?
So, the big question.
Is Playground Sessions worth the investment?
It depends on how you learn and what you're looking for.
If you are completely new to piano, Playground Sessions is a great place to start. You will get a strong foundation in the instrument with the content on offer, understanding topics that might seem alien to you now much faster than you thought possible.
And all whilst learning your favourite songs.
I loved the teaching style and approach of the instructors on this site. Everything felt very personable and approachable, and the visuals of the interface mean you’ll understand music notation much quicker than in a much faster fashion than a traditional method.
I wasn’t massively impressed with the aesthetics or technicalities of the setup, but that problem is very specific to me. And, as always, I felt there was more they could cover. But there is always more to cover.
All in all, I found using Playground Sessions a wonderful experience where I was able to learn so much about the piano. And if that experience isn’t one shared by you, don’t worry. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re discontent with your purchase.
Put it this way:
Before using Playground Sessions I couldn’t play Imagine by John Lennon. Now, if a singer was performing that song, and needed me as their accompaniment, I’d happily take that gig.
I’d need to spend a bit more time on the site if they wanted me to accompany anything else though!
Frequently Asked Questions
A one-month subscription costs you $17.99 per month. This is comparative to $199.88 paid upfront yearly for the annual subscription ($9.99 per month), and a $289.99 lifetime subscription.
There is a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with Playground Sessions.
There are 176 courses in the boot camp tour, some of which are videos lasting between 5-15 mins, the rest are practice sessions that you work through at your own pace. On top of this, there are individual songs you can learn and courses to take which vary in length.
There is no free trial but you do have the option to preview certain lessons.
Charlie is a student reading politics at King’s College London. He is also a passionate musician with over 14 years of experience. In his free time, he also enjoys cinema, long-distance running and learning new things.