This post is a sponsored post in partnership with Skoove. All opinions are 100% my own.
I’m always on the lookout for great online resources to help people learn their favorite piano songs.
I wish I could pull up a chair at the piano and give you your own personalized lesson every week. But, time, distance and money are often factors that make in-person piano lessons a challenge. Instead, I try to find the best online alternatives that make learning the piano from fun and easy and keeps your personal goals in mind.
Skoove recently reached out to me and invited me to explore their app. It’s a really great and affordable option for someone looking for an alternative to piano lessons.
As a piano teacher, I’m pretty picky about online piano programs that I recommend, but Skoove checked a lot of my boxes of things that are priorities for me with online learning. Check it out if you’ve been wanting to learn to play piano.
What Is Skoove
Skoove provides online interactive piano lessons for aspiring pianists. It features a number of guided courses and piano song tutorials for all levels of piano players from beginners to experienced.
Skoove is available on Mac and PC laptops, newer iOS devices, Chromebooks, and Windows tablets.
Skoove can be used with an acoustic or digital piano or MIDI controller. It’s also possible to use it with the keyboard of your laptop, although I wouldn’t recommend that as an effective way to learn piano.
Unlike YouTube videos and many online tutorials, Skoove will recognize the notes you are playing as you learn and give you feedback based on how well you play them. If you are using an acoustic piano, the microphone of your device will allow Skoove to hear you. On a digital piano, your USB or MIDI cable will help your piano communicate with Skoove.
How It Works
We’ll talk more about how to get set up below, but first, here’s a snapshot of what happens once you start learning piano with Skoove.
Each song or lesson is broken down into these steps:
1. Get to know the song.
This first step gives you a chance to absorb everything going on in the song. At this point, you don’t have to do anything other than listen to the song and observe what is happening in the music. At all times you have a dual view of the score as well as hands on the piano keys.
The score has a blue line that passes over the notes as they are played to help you follow along. A lot of piano apps use sheet music that scrolls across the screen. I strongly prefer the blue line in Skoove because it is more authentic to how we read sheet music. It can be really challenging to read notes while they are moving. It’s nice that Skoove keeps the notes still and replaces the music after every line so that your eyes can read line to line like they do in standard sheet music.
The piano keyboard video shows hands playing the keys and the keys are also highlighted as they are played to help you visualize the notes on the piano.
2. Learn they keys.
This portion of the lesson usually appears several times in most lessons – once for each hand and again for both hands together. This step is where some of the neat interactive features of Skoove come in to play.
Since Skoove can hear your piano via microphone or cables, it will respond to how well you play the keys.
Now, instead of the blue line passing over the notes, it will wait until you play the correct notes. Once you have played the correct notes, it will move on to the next notes. The notes that you have played are highlighted in red, yellow or green to indicate how accurate your timing was.
On the keyboard, you’ll see hands set up on the correct starting notes and there are usually a couple of pop-ups with reminders such as what finger to start on or special things to observe in the music.
This part of the lesson will loop over and over to give you plenty of chances to learn the correct notes.
A really cool feature in Skoove is that it personalizes your lessons by recommending the next best exercise based on your performance of the previous exercise.
3. Play in time or play with the band.
Once you have completed the “learn the notes” step, you’ll move on to “play in time” or “play with the band”. This is where you put it all together. The blue line will no longer wait for you to play. Instead, it’s your job to keep up. There is an orchestrated accompaniment playing along with the piano part so it’s really fun to play along with. This step will also loop so that you can practice it until you are confident with it.
How To Get Started With Skoove
The basic version of Skoove is completely free, however it only provides a limited number of courses. To access the Basic Plan, you’ll just need to create an account and you can get started right away. Skoove will ask you a few questions to help you determine your leveling and how to get set up. The Basic plan will give a taste of how things work, but you probably won’t get too far on this plan alone.
If you want to make the most of Skoove, definitely go for the Premium version. This will give you full access to all of the courses and tutorials. As of November 2019, the Premium version is $19.99/month, $39.99/3 months or $119.99/year.
Access Skoove on your laptop, tablet or phone. I tried it out with both my laptop and my iPad. I much preferred the interface of the iPad app. I like being able to rest my iPad on the music stand and a touch screen at the piano is a lot simpler than using a tracking pad. Plus, it seemed like I couldn’t access everything from my laptop. However, the navigation was really straight forward on my iPad.
If you’re using an acoustic piano, Skoove will ask you to play a key to make sure the microphone is accessed properly so that the app can “hear” what you are playing.
If you’re using a digital piano, you could use the same set up as an acoustic by accessing the microphone. Or, you can use USB or MIDI cables to connect your piano to your device. When I use music apps at the piano, I really like connecting a digital piano because I find that it gives the most accurate feedback. My keyboards have MIDI connectors so I use this cable to plug the piano right in to my iPad. And, this option allows you to use headphones if you need to practice silently.
Once you’re set up, Skoove will ask you about your previous piano experience. You’ll have the option of selecting that you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced.
The beginner level assumes you know nothing about the piano. It helps you get set up at the piano, teaches you your way around the piano and introduces note reading and other musical skills. It’s a great starting place if you’re ready to learn to play piano from scratch.
The intermediate level is for pianists that already have a little bit of piano experience but are looking for some guidance on how to progress or who just want to learn some fun piano songs.
The advanced level teaches more complex songs and concepts and is ideal for people returning to the piano after an extended break or who already have some music background. I don’t find this level to be a true “advanced” piano level, but rather it is the most advanced of the three options in Skoove. The songs presented in this level are more in line with mid-late intermediate songs in piano repertoire.
You can easily switch between levels so that you can backtrack or jump ahead if needed.
Within each level, there are predetermined “lessons” that you can follow. The lessons all show you how to play a portion of a well known-song and also include a concept that you are learning through the song, such as chords, music theory terms or notation.
Once you’ve selected your level, you can also choose to browse all of the available songs in that level if you prefer not to follow the lessons in order. This is a fun way to learn because you can find the songs you enjoy the most and work towards your own specific goals.
Each level also contains several specific courses to help you further explore certain topics. For example, the beginner level has a theory/sight reading course that would help you master more skills beyond the basic lessons. Some of the courses feature specific styles of piano such as pop, classics or boogie woogie.
Who Is Skoove For
Skoove is useful in a number of different applications:
- Anyone brand new to the piano will get an excellent start with Skoove. The lessons are clear, easy to follow and paced well for beginners.
- Adults who took lessons as a kid or who have played another instrument will find Skoove lessons to be helpful.
- Busy teens who are wanting to learn piano would do great with Skoove.
- Piano teachers can use Skoove in a piano lab setting so that piano students can work independently as a supplement to piano lessons. I tried Skoove with some of my piano students. They got to use Skoove after their regular piano lesson and had fun learning snippets of their favorite pop songs.
- Class piano teachers can incorporate Skoove into their curriculum so that students can work at their own pace.
Pros & Cons of Skoove
- Skoove is visually attractive. It has a really clean, nice appearance and I love that the sheet music does not scroll across the screen. The app is really easy to navigate and use.
- Songs are paired with music concepts so that you’re learning to play piano in addition to understanding how music works. This is something you won’t find on YouTube.
- Skoove combines aural, visual and kinesthetic learning modalities to suit all types of learners. I prioritize having a balanced approach to music when teaching and I always appreciate when online options do as well.
- Playing along with orchestrated accompaniments teaches you to play musically and artistically.
- Skoove is reasonably priced at approximately $10-$20 per month.
- If you’re looking for complete piano tutorials of well-known songs in their original form, Skoove might not be for you. Most lessons only include excerpts of the songs or simplified arrangements, so you don’t necessarily learn the entire song. This might not bother you, but I know some learners are hoping for more complex tutorials.
- Notation is not presented super clearly. As someone who works everyday to teach people to read music, I felt like the early lessons on notation may be confusing or incomplete for someone with absolutely no background in music.
- As you’re learning songs, you can’t pause the song or slow it down. Instead, it will loop over and over. If you hit the stop button, it backs up to the beginning of the section. This could be frustrating if you’re stuck on a small part of the music. (I was consistently missing 1 measure of a song I tried and it would have been nice stop and study the score a little more closely so I could fix my mistake. I eventually got it with a lot of repetition, but I could have fixed it quicker if I could stop or slow down.)
Is Skoove For You?
As a piano teacher, I see a lot of pedagogical value to Skoove and definitely recommend as a way to get started with piano. I really love that each lesson incorporates fundamental music concepts and skills. You won’t just be playing the notes but you’ll also understand how to interpret music and apply your skills to other music you’d like to learn.
The Skoove app has tons of smart features that make it interactive and engaging, but also really helpful. With online learning, it’s easy to let mistakes slip by, but Skoove gives you instant feedback to help you improve continuously.
The play along tracks help you to play musically and expressively to help you avoid a mechanical sound.