This post is sponsored by Piano Marvel. All opinions are my own.
Piano teachers, let me introduce you to my new BFF, Piano Marvel!
I get asked to write a lot of reviews for piano apps and I’m always happy to check them out. I recently learned about Piano Marvel and it really stands out to me as something a little different than all of the other piano apps. In fact, it looks like one that will stick around in my studio for the long-term.
I was intrigued by Piano Marvel for a number of reasons:
- Like many other piano-learning apps, it includes interactive practice tools and provides immediate feedback.
- Unlike other piano apps, it includes a HUGE library of pedagogically sound piano music.
- It includes a unique piano method designed for a brand-new piano learner.
I wanted to make sure to try out several different features of Piano Marvel, so here are 3 ways that I’ve been using it lately.
Piano Marvel Piano Method
I had been thinking about starting piano with my 5-year old son in recent months. Normally, I’d have one of my assistant teachers work with him in my studio, but with COVID, we’re being pretty careful about keeping distance, so I’ve been holding off on officially starting his piano lessons.
I decided to start showing Paul how to play the piano using the Piano Marvel method that is built in to the app. We include Piano Marvel on his distance learning checklist everyday. I decided to take it pretty slow with him since he is a pretty young learner.
In the method, there are 6 levels and each level is divided into 5 sections, A-E. Each section has 20 exercises, so there are 100 exercises in each level.
We’ve been using the method for about 2 months now. Paul is obsessed with the scoring system that Piano Marvel uses. He is definitely a kid who is motivated by numbers, high scores and trophy graphics.
When first started, I would sit with him for about 5-10 minutes each day and we’d work through a couple of the exercises in the method.
There is a “prepare” mode that helps you get ready for the notes and rhythms used in the exercises and there’s an “assess” mode that scores how well you played the exercise.
In the “assess” mode, you can earn up to 100%, based on how many correct notes you played at the right time. There is a trophy that lights up in bronze, silver or gold as your score nears 100%.
Paul is fully committed to getting all 100%’s, so it takes very little work on my part to keep him going. If he gets less than 100% on an exercise, he immediately wants to try again.
Most of the early exercises in Level 1 focus primarily on note values while playing middle C or bass C. Paul got a little stuck when eighth notes started showing up. I had to convince him to move on to more exercises before earning a 100%. But, he has been able to go back and get those eighth note exercises perfectly once we practiced them a bit more.
Now that Paul is pretty confident with many of the exercises, he loves practicing them on his own. Our current routine is for me to sit with him and try a couple of new exercises. Then he sends me away and he goes back and repeats all of his favorite old exercises independently. In the past couple of weeks, he’s spent over an hour at the piano many days playing all of his favorite Piano Marvel lessons. With his fairly sparse Kindergarten distance learning schedule, I’m happy to see him spend his time this way!
This approach really is perfect for kids like Paul who are highly motivated by numbers and scores. I could see some other kids not being so invested in the system, but it’s nice to have this method as an option. And, Paul did feel stuck on the eighth note exercises for about a week, so I supplemented by showing him a couple of black key songs by rote at that time to keep his interest.
There are videos that go along with each exercise to demonstrate how to play them, but since I sit with Paul as he was learning, we don’t use the videos very often
Piano Marvel For Learning New Music
I wanted to also give my daughter Sophie, who is 8, a chance to learn something with Piano Marvel too. She has taken piano since she was 4, so she is already on a different path with piano method material.
I was browsing solos and duets to teach her and came across Classical Showdown, a duet by Aaron Garner, who founded Piano Marvel.
I watched a demonstration video of it and loved how accessible it was for young learners, but that it also sounded really mature.
I showed it to Sophie and we did a combination of learning by rote, reading the sheet music (printable sheet music is included for many songs!) and practicing using the interactive features on Piano Marvel. It was really helpful for her to play along with the app so that she could get her rhythms just right before we practiced together.
It only took Sophie a few days to memorize the entire piece, so it turned into a fun little Christmas break project for us to learn it and practice it together.
Here’s a video of us playing Classical Showdown together.
Piano Marvel For Drilling Music
When I was exploring the library of Piano Marvel, I was impressed with how many classical pieces are included. I found several pieces my students are currently working on.
This week in piano lessons, I had a couple of students use Piano Marvel during their lesson time to drill tricky spots in their music.
One of my students was kind of stumbling through the notes, while the other had learned the notes, but was struggling to play with the correct rhythms.
In both cases, we were able to isolate the trouble spots on Piano Marvel, slow down the tempo and focus on one hand at a time. My students circled through their tricky passages many times.
Just like the method portion of the app, the individual pieces also grade the student on a scale from 0-100%. Both of my students were able to see increasing progress on the passages they were practicing – their score consistently got higher with each attempt, which was really encouraging to both of them.
Even though my students don’t currently have the app to practice with at home, they both left their lesson feeling confident about how to practice.
I can tell Piano Marvel will be a regular practice tool in my studio. I find it so helpful to use during lessons. Once my studio returns to group lessons after the pandemic, I’m sure Piano Marvel will also become a regular practice or sight reading station during our groups.
So far, I’ve been really impressed with the results I’m seeing with Piano Marvel and I’m excited to continue using it. Here’s why:
Piano Marvel is meant to be used with a teacher. Many apps are marketed as a replacement for a piano teacher. When I try to use them with my students, I find that it sends a really mixed message. Of course, I don’t want to pass my students off to an app. But, I love having tools and technology that support my teaching.
Piano Marvel offers a variety of learning modalities. One reason that a lot of apps don’t stick in my studio is because it seems like they work really well for one type of learner or for pretty specific scenarios.
I love that Piano Marvel has resources to support all kinds of learning modalities.
- Most songs and the method include printable sheet music so that students can work off the screen as needed.
- The interactive features measure and assess if the students are playing the correct notes and rhythms and provide instant feedback.
- There is an extensive sight reading program included that students can work through to improve and assess their sight reading skills.
- On-screen interactive features and feedback combined with teacher instruction is the best of both worlds.
- Piano Marvel can isolate small, logical phrases or sections of music so that students can learn music bit by bit.
- There is a strong auditory component. Students hear the music as they are playing it and there are audio accompaniments for each song.
- There are video demonstrations and instructions for many exercises and songs.
Watch this video for a quick tour of many of these things in action:
Piano Marvel includes 1000’s of well-known piano arrangements. This feature alone makes Piano Marvel worth it for me. I definitely plan to continue using many of the interactive learning features with my students. But, if I only wanted to access the sheet music library, I would still find value in the monthly or yearly subscription.
I’ve noticed a lot of piano apps include arrangements that veer away from original compositions or that are written by unknown arrangers that aren’t necessarily in tune with current piano pedagogy practices.
Piano Marvel includes a mix of classics in their original form, Piano Marvel arrangements with solid pedagogy and arrangements by well-known piano composers such as Melody Bober, Dennis Alexander, Kevin Olson, and Mona Rejino.
Many of Alfred and Hal Leonard’s complete method books are on Piano Marvel. There are tons of popular movie songs and student favorites, such as River Flows In You Yiruma.
Piano Marvel has a lot of motivating features. For students who are motivated by score cards, leaderboards and numbers, Piano Marvel is an awesome tool! There is a feature to track monthly minutes practiced and ways to set goals around this number. You can see your progress and scores in a number of different areas. You can track your practice streak and find yourself on a leaderboard compared to all of the other Piano Marvel users.
Related: Motivation Medicine
Piano Marvel offers a lot flexibility for teachers. I like that there are many options for effective ways to use Piano Marvel. It’s not a one-size-fits all app that students are expected to follow. Instead, teachers can utilize the parts that suit each student the best.
I plan to continue to use Piano Marvel as a stand-alone piano method with my son and I’ll likely offer it as an option for other new students.
I’ll also suggest that some of my students get their own subscriptions so that they can access the practice features at home. While, I don’t see all of the students in my studio making the most of the subscription option, there are definitely some that would use it and benefit from it consistently.
I also plan to continue using Piano Marvel as a learning tool within lessons and as a practice station in group lessons.
How To Get Started With Piano Marvel
Piano Marvel woks best on a Mac or PC laptops, but it’s also available on iOS for iPads and now iPhones.
Piano Marvel normally costs $15.99/month, but you can use my code, verypiano, to bring cost down to $12.99/month. Or, save even more with an annual subscription at $110.99/year.
There is the option to start with a free account, if you’d like to check it out before making a commitment. However, the free account has a much more limited library and less content than a paid account.
For an optimal experience, you’ll want to use a digital with a MIDI connection. This will enable all of the assessment features and help you to have the most accurate experience with Piano Marvel.
However, if you don’t have access to a digital piano, you can play along with the assess mode on an acoustic piano. You won’t get the same level of feedback this way, but it can still be a useful practice tool.