5 best piano apps on iOS and Android (2022 update)

03.03.2022 Ben Maloney Music tech

In this 2022 countdown it’s piano apps under the microscope. This is a huge area in the music app market, in terms of size as well demand. 

Piano is the most played instrument in the world, so pianists make up the biggest sector of the global community of practising musicians. And with the instrument being as versatile as it is, the pianist collective has a massive range of musical preferences and requirements.

For these reasons, the scope of app service for pianists is just about as big as it gets in the music realm.

This potential has been answered by the vast number and variety of apps that have been made available to pianists. And it’s being fulfilled more and more completely with every single release, update and bug-fix. 

This article brings together five of the best piano apps in 2022. Apps that, in covering the widest possible remit, should appeal to the biggest possible cohort of pianists looking for the perfect digital solution.

 

Five must-have piano apps
 

nkoda

Best app for digital piano sheet music

All pianists need something to play, and the majority rely on sheet music when it comes to finding, learning and performing their repertoire. If you are a pianist falling into that category, this app could revolutionise your practice. 

The app has licensed the sales and hire catalogues of over 140 separate music publishers, and this includes some of the biggest names in the piano-music game: Breitkopf & Härtel, Faber Music, and so on. It’s all there.

You track it down through the nkoda music library app. And you’re guaranteed to find heaps of stuff you’ve struggled to get hold of. Einaudi, Adele, Debussy, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder. Classical, jazz, rock, pop, soul. From beginner through to advanced material - nkoda covers all bases.

Once you’ve found your material, you play it through the nkoda music reader, a separate app that you’re instantly redirected to. And you can play it anywhere and anytime. 

There you can organise your material, add your own annotations and share them with others - your fellow performers, your teacher, your students. nkoda has reinvented access to and interaction with music. It has the power to transform how you interact with yours, to boost your learning and make you an even better pianist.

Start a free trial now - the library’s available on the App Store, Google Play Store and the Microsoft Store. Click here to download the reader.

 

Features

 

Here’s an outline of the features that both apps offer. Similar bullet-point lists of features are provided for the four other apps listed as well. Use them to discover the unique selling points of each one.

  • Instant access to 140 publishers’ sales and hire catalogues, comprising 100,000+ editions and parts - material available for pianists of all instruments and skill levels in all genres
  • Cutting-edge score-reading facilities suitable for practice and performance, including annotation toolkits and widgets
  • Manage and share personal materials through playlists, offline storage and unlimited uploads

 

nkoda music library

 

The nkoda library is the greatest digitised sheet music resource in the world that's accessible to anyone. It has compiled over 100,000 titles of premium, copyrighted content, and in that collection works for piano outnumber those for any other individual instrument. 

There is simply so much music here. Perhaps you like to play Kenny Rogers country songs, or Bach keyboard suites? Despite your unique musicality, there's guaranteed to be something for you. 

Countless curated playlists encourage discovery - take a look at, say, Essential Piano or Piano Highlights. And by personalising your nkoda experience, in other words letting the app know what you like to play and to what level, bespoke content will be delivered right to your homepage. 

Save any and all of it to your personal library space. Create your own playlists, exploit those annotations. Upload limitless PDF files to your account, so even what you’re after is missing in the library, you can still bring it in from elsewhere. 

 

nkoda music reader

 

Once you click on any of these items, you’ll be rerouted to the nkoda reader app, through which you actually interact with the content. Here you can view, study, annotate, play and perform your piano music - whether that’s material from the library or your own uploads. 

An intuitive user interface, easy (Bluetooth-friendly) page-turning, pioneering annotation tools that can be layered and shared, a dedicated performance mode, offline storage - through all these features, the app strives to simplify and improve every facet of your engagement with your piano music.

nkoda has placed massive emphasis on customisation with their reader. Not only can you annotate freely here with the help of a huge variety of specialised toolboxes and widgets but you can also add and remove them to your kit. This means you can add piano-specific presets to your music - pedal markings, broken chords and so on.

There’s even an option to configure the right screen orientation for your needs as well. Whatever works best. 

As well as the optimisation of features that having an independent e-reader app enables, a reason for the division between library and reader is so that users can isolate and utilise nkoda’s reader without needing to have a subscription to the catalogue. In other words, its complimentary. 

The library may be the heart of the offering, but the reader’s the tool of empowerment. This is what plays an active part in your piano-playing. This is the means by which you actively engage with the materials that in one way or another constitute a key aspect of every pianist’s practice. 

So don’t be put off by the library subscription - nkoda can still help. Download the reader, get a feel for what nkoda can give you, and see if this is a digital space that you and your piano just might be comfortable in.

Perfect Piano

Best app for playing virtually

Perfect Piano (technically Perfect Piano - Learn to Play) is your best option in the virtual-keyboard region of the piano app market. Tonnes of musicians find apps like this really handy, using them to practise on the move, to figure out the key of a song, or to just a make a bit of music whe they feel like it.

Virtual pianos basically enable you to play piano in the absence of the real thing - which is most of the time, as pianos aren’t easy to tote around. Their value is twofold: on the one hand a digital keyboard layout allows you to get familiar with the instrument and practise anytime you like. On the other, you get fixed referential pitches, useful in a variety of situations. 

All digital keyboards tick these boxes, but Perfect Piano stands out courtesy of its highly accurate sound tech and its realistic visual interface. It has a range of samples, playing modes, learning tools, and it supports an entire keyboard, not just a couple of octaves. It’s one of the best on the market, without a doubt. 

Available on Apple and Android devices.

 

Features 

 

  • Virtual 88-key keyboard that boasts a realistic and easy-to-use interface, viewable on one or two rows or in dual-play mode
  • Force touch, keyboard-width adjustment, metronome, compatible with MIDI
  • Choose audio from a range of keyboard instruments such as piano, organ and synthesiser - free plug-ins also offer a broader palette

 

Comprehensive digital piano experience

 

The realism and completeness of the digital piano-playing experience really makes Perfect Piano stand out.

Visually and aurally, the app reproduces the piano-playing experience perhaps more faithfully than any other digital keyboard available for free on app stores. You’re playing with a full 88-key digital piano, which can be rendered on two rows or in dual-play mode. 

It supports multi-touch play, so you can play several notes at once, just as you would in real life. There’s force touch, too, which means that the intensity of the sound produced corresponds to the pressure that you apply. Key width is also customisable, so goodbye to narrow, fiddly keys. These features sound basic but are sadly lacking in most digital keyboards.

If you want the digital piano that most comprehensively reproduces the nuts and bolts of the live piano-playing experience, this is it.

 

Wider functionality

 

But, if you want more than just that, then Perfect Piano still caters, offering an expansive package that fleshes out the digital experience far beyond a high-quality virtual keyboard.

‘Learn to Play’ mode allows you to take on a range of popular tunes which are presented in a range of guidance patterns - like the falling-note format you’ll have doubtless seen in YouTube videos. But if learning is your priority, then you should check out flowkey below, which is probably the best option for you in that department. 

Another cool aspect of the service concerns the multiplayer possibilities. You can chat, compete and make music with pianists from all over the world, and feel part of a worldwide community of players.  

If you really love the interface and experience, then you can even integrate it into your physical practice. Connect a USB MIDI keyboard and link in that way - great if you don’t have an iPad or Android tablet and are forced to play on a smartphone screen. Perfect Piano has the wider multi-functionality to support your digital needs.

flowkey

Best app for learners

flowkey offers such an impressive product that the app actually made it into the best apps for musicians countdown, which looks at music apps in general, not just those for piano-players. It’s unsurprisingly featured here as the best learning app, most suitable for developing pianists. What follows is the review of flowkey that was included in that article.

There are numerous apps designed to facilitate self-tuition for pianists, each focusing on different styles of music or applying a different method to the learning process. 

flowkey is among the newest and best available. Downloadable from Google Play as well as the App Store and developed in collaboration with Yamaha, the app has an impressive range of features to facilitate steady, incremental progress. 

You might suspect that it’s geared towards beginners, as the majority of apps that fall into this category are, but flowkey’s repertoire is surprisingly expansive, and will prove useful for players of all skill levels. This breadth also applies to genre, with all styles well represented - right the way through to video game music.  

 

Features

 

  • 1,500 pieces to learn, encompassing a variety of music genres and playing abilities
  • Video integration allows you to watch an expert play even as you’re playing through your own performance
  • A unique configuration of learning tools are designed to hone your ability, including tempo reduction, looping, and hand isolation

 

Precision learning

 

Yamaha are total experts when it comes to the piano, and this is well reflected in the features that flowkey affords. 

How it works: you select the work you want to play and you work through the material, following a live visual marker. Simple enough, and not necessarily original, but that’s just the start. 

You can activate what they call ‘Wait Mode’, which makes that marker responsive - it listens to you play in real time and waits for you to hit the note before progressing. This is similar to the slow-motion feature, which basically reduces the speed, so you can get used to a piece before playing it at tempo.

There’s also a loop function, so you can concentrate on perfecting particular sections. And you can also isolate the staves and practise the left- and right-hand parts separately, before combining them again. 

Few apps in the piano-practice area of the market can boast quite such an imaginative and refined range of features that can genuinely make a real difference to your development.

 

Courses

 

As any teacher will tell you, educational materials - scales, exercises, studies, etc. - are a must if you’re going to maximise practice as well as progress.

The good folks at flowkey have obviously recognised this as well, and that’s why using the app doesn’t just entail learning specific pieces. 

It also provides a series of lessons that have been carefully structured to usher beginner players through the early learning stages - easily comprehensible, step-by-step courses that span music theory, chord vocabularies and learning to read sheet music. If that’s the kind of learning experience that you’re after - flowkey’s the place to find it. 

The app’s a paid service, but it does offer a free trial. So there’s no reason not to see if their unique approach to learning piano is the one that'll work for you.

Real Piano Teacher 2

Best app for early learners

If flowkey’s our recommendation for pianists looking to get better, Real Piano Teacher 2, an Android-only app, will be best for those who are completely new to the game, kids or adults.  

Where flowkey is sleek and no-nonsense, RPT is imaginative and understandable. Where flowkey will help you to master more advanced pieces and understand more complicated musical concepts, RPT walks you through the initial stages of learning to play. 

It does this through an array of interactive games and exercises. There are hundreds of them, and collectively they'll instil a basic awareness of how music works and how it corresponds to the keyboard.

Some of these are amusing but prioritise education, others are mostly for fun but will still help you learn. There are also freestyle modes in which you can use keys and tiles to noodle on the piano and on a range of other instruments. Add sound effects and beats, record your creations, share and compete with other players.  

 

Features 

 

  • Responsive virtual keyboard allows you to play and record a range of instruments and sound effects - sampled sounds are high-quality and interface is customisable
  • Learning, Game, Magic Keys and Freestyle modes enable you to focus on learning, competition or creativity
  • Share recordings and compete with other users

 

Learning and Game modes

 

There’s a selection of modes in the app, each of which offers a different experience and combination of features. First we’ll look at the Learning and Game modes, the app's most distinctive and worthwhile features. 

In learning mode, you’ll tackle simple, fun musical and keyboard exercises one at a time, in response to instructions. First get to grips with basics such as note placement, fingering coordination, and rhythm, before playing more complicated patterns - all as you get real-time feedback. As a series, these lessons are well paced, and encourage gradual progress. 

Game mode assumes a similar format, but the focus is on having fun and scoring high - whilst learning and developing technique. The lessons become more isolated games that still involve actual pieces of music - Beethoven, Mozart and so on. They stimulate progress through competition, with yourself and others, to attain high scores and achievements. 

 

Magic Keys and Freestyle modes

 

RPT’s Magic Keys and Freestyle modes allow you to strike out on your own, creating audio with a range of instruments, beats and sound effects. Your options open up here - you can play with a harpsichord, xylophone, guitar, strings and more.  

You can use keys as well as tiles to produce the music - whichever format makes you feel more creative. RPT’s strength is reconceptualising piano performance and education so that absolutely anyone can get involved and have a good time, especially if they’re not so confident at the keyboard, or if they think about music in a less conventional way.

Vivace

Best app for learning to read piano notation

Vivace (Vivace: Learn to Read Music, available on Google Play) is the app to opt for if you’re looking for digital assistance in learning to read piano sheet music.

It focuses on teaching theory and notation more conceptually, and less on working through piano pieces and exercises. It’s really geared towards those who plan to engage with the instrument through sheet music, or want to contextualise their playing with a deeper understanding of the mechanics of music. 

But if that’s you, then this is it. Common channels for music education include school tuition and private lessons, and more and more people are going online to find their resources. But the Vivace app presents all that information accessibly, beautifully, and in a way that lets you work through it all at your own pace. 

Then, when you get your head around these ideas, you can take it back to the piano. In fact, because the piano is such a useful referential tool for teaching notation, Vivace uses the grand staff and the keyboard extensively in its lessons, so you’re bound to get more familiar with the relationship between notation and the piano as you go along.

 

Features 

 

  • Illustrated step-by-step tutorials walk you through the essentials of theory and notation
  • 100+ lessons available, categorised according to clefs - treble, alto, tenor
  • Practice mode allows you to combine staves freely, and piano audio supports the learning process

 

Clefs

 

One of the most characteristic things about Vivace’s approach to teaching notation is how it focuses on clefs and key signatures as the essential learning parameters. 

The app recognises that the stave is the most fundamental aspect of sheet music. By focusing resolutely on teaching how the various clefs fix pitches to the stave, it provides the right foundation for learners who can begin to conceptualise music in the right way. It’s particularly valuable for pianists, who will have to get used to reading two or more clefs at once.

 

Key signatures

 

Partnering this is the comprehensive approach to key signatures. They might not admit it, but even advanced musicians begin to stumble when they’re trying to remember which pitches make up the more obscure keys. Vivace’s lessons will foster a complete knowledge of this area, a vital stepping stone towards reading music effectively.

Knowing by heart the various keys and the scales they entail leads not only to fluency in reading sheet music but also a to a more practical musical understanding that will allow you to think, compose and play more intuitively. 

And crucially, the app has developed the software and methods to convey and nurture this knowledge in the best way possible. If notation is a stumbling block for you, it won’t be after Vivace.

Getting started with nkoda app for pianists
 

If nkoda caught your attention among the apps surveyed here, feel free to find out more about it on the What is nkoda music page. If you’re feeling inspired, you can even start your trial right away on the sign-up page

Perhaps it’s just another app to add to your home screen's fast-growing music collection. It would certainly be a good complement to some of the other piano apps on this list.

You might also be interested in some of the piano-specific content on the blog. You might not need Vivace after giving how to read piano sheet music a read. Check out easy piano songs if you're looking for something to play - or, if you already feel like a maestro, the hardest

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