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!
Each level begins with a written introduction explaining whatever new concepts will be encountered in each level.
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.
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).
- C Quarter note
- D Quarter note
- C and D, Tricky Rhythm
- Half Note
- 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.
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!
- 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!