Flowkey is one of my favorite online tools that I recommend to help people learn piano. It is an interactive app that has tutorials for hundreds of piano songs in all levels as well as online courses for beginning pianists.

I’ve written a bit about flowkey before. You can read my full review of it here and an interview with the creator here.

Today I want to share some ideas and resources with you to help you get a good start with flowkey.

Flowkey has some really neat features to help you learn. One of them is that you can select a portion of the music you want to work on and it will loop you through that music continuously. Repetition is one of the best ways to practice music, so this is a really handy feature!

Another awesome thing is that it will use the mic of your device to “hear” the note that you are playing on your piano. You get instant feedback on if you a play a note correctly or not.

As I mentioned, pianists with any amount of (or lack of!) experience can work with flowkey, so I’ll show how to use it best for your own situation.

If you’ve never played the piano before, you’ll definitely want to start by working through the courses. This will walk you through all of the basics of the piano – finding your way around the keyboard, reading music, basic music theory and piano technique. The courses will have you playing a few basic songs and practicing some foundational techniques.

To get started, you’ll just need a flowkey account on any device and a digital or acoustic piano. (If you don’t have an instrument yet, I recommend the Yamaha P-115, which is a portable digital piano.)

1. Beginners

Just like the song tutorials, the courses in flowkey are also interactive. This means you’ll get instant feedback as you are learning.

Watch this quick video to see how it works:

As you’re working through these courses, keep in mind that repetition is a vital part of learning music. Don’t hesitate to practice something more, even if the course automatically moves you on to the next lesson.

The fundamental skills and concepts from these courses are going to stay around for the rest of your piano playing career, so it’s really important to master them and feel confident with them.

Once you have worked through the courses, you’re ready to go to the flowkey library to choose your own song to get started with.

The course material is quite extensive! There are quite a few topics and songs that you’ll work through. I noticed that it’s kind of easy to get lost in all of the different lessons and exercises, so I created a handy checklist for you to help you keep track of what you have completed and to give you a full scope of the material covered. It’s a 3 page chart that clearly lays out all of the material you will work through and it even includes some insider practice tips to help you succeed. Enter your email address below to get your copy!

 

2. For Those Who Already Understand The Basics

If you already know your way around the piano and understand how to read music, this section is for you! Understanding how music works and being able to play it fluently are two different things. Having that basic foundation is an excellent start and now you just need to practice your skills.

Flowkey is perfect for this scenario. There are beginning songs in almost any genre. Most of them are fairly short and have simple parts in each the right and left hand. These songs are perfect for mastering note reading and for getting your fingers used to moving around the piano.

Get to know the coloring system of flowkey levels. The upper left corner of each song icon is a color that represents theses levels:

  • Green-beginner
  • Orange-intermediate
  • Red-advanced
  • Purple-pro

As you are browsing songs, click on a genre that interests you. From there, you’ll see some tabs at the top of the screen for each of these categories. Start with the beginner level, but if it feels to easy, go ahead and move up to the intermediate level.

Find a song you’re interested in learning and commit to learning it. It’s easy to get distracted by so many choices, so decide on a song and stick with it. We are going to break the learning process into 3 steps: observing, working and polishing.

Observing

Listen to the entire song 3 times. First, listen only, next watch the hands over the piano, lastly, watch the sheet music. (Or, if you prefer, watch the sheet music first, then the hands.)

As you are listening, don’t overanalyze. Simply enjoy the music and observe any natural thoughts about the sound of the music. Is it exciting, peaceful, cheerful, sad? Does it remind you anything? How does that make you feel? When you play this music soon, what emotions, feelings or thoughts do you want associated with the music?

Don’t start thinking of the logistics of playing the song until you’ve answered all of these questions, at least internally. Also, don’t assume that the music is too complicated for you or that it will be too hard to play. This is why you’re learning it! Approaching music with a sense of worry or doubt isn’t very productive.

Next, listen 2 more times and observe the hands on the piano and the notated music. At this stage you’re ready to start thinking through the logistics of how to play the song. You’ll want to notice the direction the notes are moving, if one hand is holding longer notes and the other is moving more, if certain sections of the songs seem more complicated than others, etc.

Working

When you’re ready to start learning you have 2 options about how to go about it: break the music into small pieces or look at the full scope of the piece first.

Many people will prefer to break the music into small, bite-sized pieces. A lot of music naturally breaks into 2 or 4 measure sections or phrases. However, it is common for musical phrases to begin and end in the middle of a measure. As you are learning the music, find natural endings to the musical line, even if they don’t correspond with the end of a measure.

One thing that makes flowkey unique is that you are able to memorize the music as you go. Since you are working in small sections, it is likely that you will be able to learn your small section of music really well before you move on to the next small section. This means that by the time you get to the end of the song, you will probably know the entire song really well, if not have it memorized.

Alternately, some people like to see the bigger scope of the music and have a better sense of the continuity of the music before digging into the small pieces. If this is the case for you, practice playing through the whole song several times. Do not use the wait mode, just catch as many notes as you can and strive to keep up with the music. When you are doing this, it is likely that you will have to stop playing completely at some points and jump ahead to catch back up. This is a good thing! Forcing yourself to read forward and keep playing is really important when you are playing the piano.

From here, once you are ready to break your music into small pieces, highlight a small section of music. It can be as small as you want, but I recommend playing at least 1 -2 measures or 1 phrase of music. Once you highlight that section and hit play, flowkey will continuously loop over your section until you choose to stop. This is a really awesome feature because as we mentioned earlier, repetition is key! If you don’t feel confident with the notes use flowkey’s “Wait-Mode” feature to learn the notes. This feature will use the mic of your device and allow flowkey to hear what you are playing. If you play an incorrect note, flowkey will wait until you play the correct note before it allows you to move on.

Once you feel really confident with this section of music, highlight the next section. Start right where you left off and find another good stopping point. Learn this section in a similar way that you learned the previous section.

Once this new section starts feeling easy, go back to the beginning and put the 2 sections together.

Continue this process – learn a small new section of music, then add it to the rest of your learned sections and give it a test run.

You can see how this process works in this video:

Polishing

By going back to the beginning and putting everything together, you will discover spots that you may not really know as well as you thought. It’s normal to want to keep moving forward, but it’s more important to master the music before you go on, so take the time to go back and relearn things that may have slipped.

Learning to play the piano is not something that you can cram for, learn overnight or rush through. Consistently working on music over time is what truly gives you your best results. Work on your music everyday. Don’t be discouraged if you have to spend your time reviewing and relearning material you have already worked on. This is normal and to be expected.

Consistent practice will allow you to slowly inch forward in your music and eventually you will learn it all.

Keep in mind that many pianists spend months practicing and mastering the same music. You may learn some music very quickly, but other music may be a more long term project. Enjoy the process and the progress you experience as you learn!

I also highly recommend sitting down and taking your newly learned music for a test drive shortly after you’ve learned it. Once you finish your practice session, take a break, do something different, then come back to the piano and see what you still remember.

I created a practice guide that will help you make the most of your flowkey experience. It will help you think through your goals, how to prioritize your practice time and it has a handy chart to help you track your progress. You can get it in your inbox now. Just enter your email address below.

 

3. For experienced players

The flowkey library is an awesome resource for anyone who has is looking for more piano music to learn.

There is a huge variety in the levels and styles of music, so any pianist is bound to find something appealing.

One issue with having so much music at your fingertips is that it can be distracting. It’s really tempting to spend a lot of time playing around with a song for a few minutes, then moving on to the next song. I admit that this happens to me a lot when I sign in to flowkey. I want to try a little bit of everything, so I don’t focus and actually learn anything.

To prevent this from happening, make a list of about 5 songs that you want to learn the most. Pick one to start with and commit to learning it. Put your blinders on and don’t consider moving to another song on your list until you’ve spent a considerable amount of time working through your top choice.

Chances are, you’ll come across something tricky and lose interest in the song you picked. Don’t give in to the temptation to give up on it! Work through it. You’ll be glad you made that effort.

Experienced players will actually work through the music in a similar way to those who already know the basics. One main difference is that as an experienced pianist, you are likely already in touch with how you learn best. This means that you can probably take some shortcuts to learn your music more efficiently. If you know that you play well by ear, you’ll probably do well listening to the piece several times. If you’re a very visual learner, you’ll likely enjoy watching the sheet music scroll by and observing patterns that repeat within the piece.

For me personally though, I love how flowkey challenges me to practice outside of my comfort zone. As a musician, I’m a really strong reader and I thrive with written sheet music in front of me. Practicing with flowkey has given me an opportunity to learn by trusting my ear and by observing some of the topographical patterns that I notice when I tend to watch my hands rather than keeping my eye on the page.

Conclusion

I hope flowkey serves as a valuable tool to help you learn and enjoy the piano more! I’m really impressed by the quality of the online courses. As a piano teacher, I appreciate how simple and concise the lesson are.

Be in touch if you have any questions about flowkey. I’d be glad to help!

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