If you have an iPad and you’re looking for an app that will help your kids practice their sight-reading skills, check out Piano Maestro. I’ve been using at home with my two boys and we love it.
Piano Maestro basically turns sight-reading into a video game. Music notes scroll across the screen, and if the app hears you hit the right note at the right time, you get points. Stars appear as each correct note is played, and there’s a little animated guy with a wig who will start dancing along and playing his air guitar (no joking) if you’re doing a good job. You can even set the game to “learn mode” where the scrolling notes will stop and wait for you to hit the right note. The really amazing thing is that this app listens through the microphone on your iPad and can tell what you’re playing! It can be used with an acoustic or digital piano, no wires or additional equipment of any kind required.
I really like Piano Maestro’s large selection of music, which includes an eclectic mix of folk and classical tunes as well as pop songs and movie themes. Each song has an orchestrated accompaniment that will play along during the game. I’d recommend this app for any of my Hoffman Academy students as a great way to sharpen their note reading skills.
One problem we’ve noticed with Piano Maestro is that wrong notes never seem to count against you, and while this is nice for keeping frustration levels down, it creates a loophole in the game. My son Isaac has figured out that if he just rapidly hits ALL the notes in the general area of the note he’s being asked to play, the app will pick out the right note and give him full points. This is where gaming backfires, when getting points becomes more important than making music. I have (for the most part) solved this issue by simply reminding Isaac that the point of this is to actually play music, not just trying to get points at all costs. Quite the novel concept for a competitive 10-year-old.
Another limitation is that Piano Maestro is only available for iPad at the current time. Hopefully they’ll be expanding to other platforms soon.
While Piano Maestro isn’t perfect, it definitely makes basic sight-reading practice fun. My boys will even take the iPad and go to the piano to play Piano Maestro on their own, outside of their regular practice time and without being prompted by a parent. Kids going willingly to the piano to practice sight-reading? This is definitely a good thing.