Review & Giveaway: Princess Piano app

iTunesConnectPrincess Piano is an iPhone/iPad app by the developer Dented Pixel.  I recently stumbled upon this app in the iTunes store, and decided to give it a whirl!

When you first open the app, it allows you to login under your own name.  The app’s settings allow you to change players, and to choose the game speed (to make it harder or easier).  The default speed is “100%,” and the range allowed is 20% to 200%.

The game begins with an introductory storyline.  The main character, Princess Piano lives in a Cloud Kingdom.  An evil witch, Beatrice Dafowl, appears, and spreads her magic sleep dust over Cloud Kingdom.  Fortunately, Princess Piano lept from the edge of the Cloud Kingdom just in time to escape the sleep dust.  She fell all the way down to earth, protected by her magic ballet shoes that allow her to dance through the air when accompanied by music.  The ending call to action states: Help Princess Piano dance her way back to the Cloud Kingdom by playing the songs as well as you can!

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Each level begins with a written introduction explaining whatever new concepts will be encountered in each level.

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After hitting “Let’s Start,” a window appears to allow you to choose the difficulty: Beginner, Advanced, or Virtuoso.  These difficulty levels make it harder or easier to advance to the next level.

To begin the level, Princess Piano bounces “1-2-3-4″ and then begins bouncing on each note on the staff.  The player’s job is to play the correct piano key in the correct rhythm as notated on the staff.

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Each level presents a new concept and a new song to play.  The first few levels are simple exercises, but by Level 5, the student is playing simple folk songs.  Below is a list of the first five levels.  There is a total of 28 levels within the app (all treble clef only).

  1. mzl.dgdmmybr.320x480-75C Quarter note
  2. D Quarter note
  3. C and D, Tricky Rhythm
  4. Half Note
  5. Hot Cross Buns

When you score well enough to advance to the next level, you are awarded with a piece of clothing or accessory for Princess Piano.   At any time, the user can go to the “Dressing Room” in the app to create a different outfit for Princess Piano.  The Advanced and Virtuoso levels allow you to unlock extra clothes and accessories.

So, that is an overview about how the game works.  In the Main Menu, there is also something called the Song Maker.  It allows students to drag notes on the staff to create their own levels of the Princess Piano game.  They can even save their compositions and play them again later.

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Here are my summarizing thoughts of “likes” and “wishes” regarding the Princess Piano app:

  • I like the way that the Princess Piano character dances across the notes in the game.  It not only helps students track which note they are on, but the visual of bouncing between beats can also help them develop a good sense of rhythm.  
  • I like that the games allows for different players to login, and the app keeps track of their progress through the levels.
  • The goal of earning more clothes/accessories for the Princess Piano avatar is a great motivator.  Girls in particular will love this!
  • I like that the game uses so many folk tunes.  Sometimes, I hear teachers bemoan that students nowadays don’t know many familiar folk tunes.  Perhaps there is some truth to the thought that folk songs aren’t being sung at home or school as much as they used to — I don’t know.  I learned all of the folk songs I know from taking piano lessons.  In any case, if one of your goals as a teacher is for your students to become familiar with the folk tunes of America and other cultures, this app is your friend!

Wishes:

  • My biggest criticism about the Princess Piano app is the fact that the majority of the folk tunes have rhythm inaccuracies in the way they were notated.  I love that students can hear and learn folk tunes through a fun app such as this, but having them hear them with wrong rhythms defeats the purpose a bit.
  • My second wish is that the musical examples were notated with meter.  There are no time signatures or barlines.  Meter obviously makes a huge difference in the way we hear music!  I almost didn’t recognize some of the folk tunes in the game as I played because of the lack of meter.  As I found out, it’s actually pretty challenging to try to play music without meter — it’s an odd feeling to try to play to a long string of equal beats.
  • My third wish is that the app was more forgiving about the length of notes.  Whenever there were leaps (anything larger than a third), the app told me “Hold for longer” on the note before the leap.  I tried to keep my finger on the piano key until the very last moment before the leap, but still wasn’t very successful in improving my score.  Perhaps this is easier on the iPad, because a larger keyboard would allow you to use multiple fingers.  On the iPhone, this seems like a flaw in the game, especially since it is intended for children ages 5+.   (Update: The app developer has stated that he will likely be fixing this issue in the future!) 
  • Finally, I wish the app included bass clef notes, too, instead of only the treble clef.

Despite those complaints, I must emphasize that this is regardless a pretty good app.  Some music game apps have little education value, but I think Princess Piano has a lot of potential!  I am adding it to my list of recommended apps for parents to use with their students at home.

Princess Piano costs $1.99 in the iTunes store.

Disclosure: I purchased this app myself, and wrote an honest review as always!

Guess what!  The app developer has kindly offered 10 free promo codes for a giveaway!  To enter, please leave a comment below this post before Monday, March 25, 2013 at Midnight EST.  In your comment, please share about your students’ favorite folk tunes to learn during piano lessons.  The 10 giveaway winners will be randomly chosen and announced on Tuesday the 26th.  Good luck!

PG
Joy Morin is a piano teacher in Bowling Green, Ohio (United States) who enjoys keeping her teaching fresh with new ideas and resources. ColorInMyPiano.com serves as a journal of her adventures in piano teaching as well as a place to exchange ideas and resources.

Joy has blogged 912 posts here.

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29 Comments

  1. Diane Conway
    Posted 18 March 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    My students love Hot Cross Buns!! I think it is the most requested folk tune! They find it so exciting to learn it in their method books or to be able to find it by ear on the keys.

  2. Posted 18 March 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    My students are always excited to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, especially the ones who learn easily by ear.

  3. Posted 18 March 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I am just starting out as a piano teacher on the side, so only have 1 student so far! Her favorite folk tunes so far have been on the black keys: “Hot Cross Buns”, “Marry Had a Little Lamb” and “Old McDonald” :-)

    Thanks for the review on the Princess Piano App, I would love to have it!

  4. Posted 18 March 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    My students love playing Old MacDonald and The Wheels on the Bus. This sounds like a great app. Did you play around with making your own level at all, Joy? I think that would be a great feature. Not sure about the lack of bar lines, though. That would definitely be something to get used to!

  5. MJ
    Posted 18 March 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    My students have been learning ‘this land is my land, this land is your land’ and take me out to the ball game.

  6. Posted 18 March 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Mary Had a Little Lamb is easy and most students recognize it– they’re always very proud and excited to have learned it. :)

  7. Juliet
    Posted 18 March 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I came across a lovely variation today – Old MacDonald Had a piano… With a C, C here…’ Etc, pupil really enjoyed that one.

  8. Marion G.
    Posted 18 March 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    My piano students love learning “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” They also love playing music games on my iPad. Thanks for your recommendation.

  9. Claire Westlake
    Posted 18 March 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I am so glad you let us know about this app. I am looking for more for my studio. I also write an article in the DVMTA monthly newsletter about the latest apps and websites. I always appreciate hearing about your new ideas for teaching. Another great folk song is “Lightly Row”.

  10. Melissa
    Posted 18 March 2013 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I love all your ideas and updates. I have an android tablet rather than “i” anything. Do you have any suggestions for apps to enhance my students’ learning?

  11. Gena
    Posted 18 March 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Looks like something my little girl students would love. I haven’t had a student yet who hasn’t loved Old MaDonald, especially with the teacher duet,

  12. Lori H
    Posted 18 March 2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    We like London Bridge and Yankee Doodle.
    Thanks :)

  13. Posted 18 March 2013 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Students (and their parents) are pleased when they can play a folk song they recognize. Some which are playable for beginners are Hot Cross Buns, Star Light Star Bright, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and Old MacDonald. It’s fun for them to play more of Old MacDonald by ear, too.

  14. Ames
    Posted 18 March 2013 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    They always want to know Heart and Soul… ICK! :) But two new students were pleased to have their mom help them with Hot Crossed Buns this week!

  15. Karen
    Posted 19 March 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    My students enjoy Old MacDonald, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and Yankee Doodle.

  16. NancyAP
    Posted 19 March 2013 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    My students seem to really like “Take me out to the ballgame”. We’ll go with that.

  17. Abby
    Posted 19 March 2013 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Hmm… Favorite folksong: does happy birthday count?

  18. Posted 20 March 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I have a project going in my studio in which we are all learning to play Happy Birthday in different keys and difficulty. Folk tunes may be next. This project allowed me to introduce lead sheets and improvising with primary chords. I would like to try the princess app. Thanks.

  19. Melissa
    Posted 20 March 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure if “Jingle Bells” counts as a folk tune, but my students always seem to want to play it!

  20. Justina
    Posted 20 March 2013 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    Mary Had a little Lamb seems to be popular among my students

  21. Veon
    Posted 22 March 2013 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    My students enjoy playing Jingle Bell.

  22. Jill
    Posted 23 March 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Hot cross buns is definitely a favorite and Yankee Doodle is a close second. This ap sounds great. I hope they could add bass clef in the future.

  23. Posted 23 March 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    My students like to play Alouette along with all the others already listed. Yes, my students love to play familiar tunes. Thanks for the app review. I am going to have to blog about apps myself. My students love them and their parents are asking what is the name of that app!

  24. Angela Baker
    Posted 23 March 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    My students love to learn Hot Cross Buns and Happy Birthday.

  25. Stacy
    Posted 23 March 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    My students love Mary Had a Little Lamb and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

  26. Tami
    Posted 24 March 2013 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    My students enjoy learning Yankee Doodle and Aloutte.

  27. Kari
    Posted 3 April 2013 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Mary had a Little Lamb is probably the most played folk tune- and the most hated by parents? I often wish they would play a song they have learned instead of that one over and over and over and over. (:

  28. Posted 12 April 2013 at 1:46 am | Permalink

    I’ve had several students in the past who all taught themselves how to play Beethoven’s Ode to Joy before starting piano lessons, and I have one right now who can hardly have a lesson without doodling the tune whenever given the slightest excuse to do so. I realize Beethoven is a historical figure (not anonymous “folk”), but one of your Words of Wisdom quotes from before was that “all music is folk music,” right? ;)

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