I’m a professional pianist; so I’m not in your target audience. There may well be some system of notation that is superior to the standard that has developed in Western music; but nothing I’ve seen matches the expressive flexibility and compactness of the way music is now notated.

Experienced players read music in a way that overcomes some of the limitations that form the assumptions that are behind these alternative notation systems. Instead of looking at a measure as a collection of individual notes that must be perceived, interpreted and executed in sequence, they take it in as a chunk. (I imagine reading code must be similar.) This is why the density of traditional notation isn’t intimidating - after a while it can be read as a whole.

Whether a system like this could be a pedagogical bridge to formal notation remains to be seen. I’ve encountered such bridging systems before. I’m an admitted skeptic because my orientation to this is that if you want to learn a thing, just start learning the thing. The struggle, within limits, is known to enhance learning.

After reading this thread, I'm amazed that no one has mentioned the work being done on alternative keyboards (and on alternative music notation).

The main point is that the design of the piano has held beginners back for centuries, and likewise has hindered the development of music notation.

Unfortunately the design of the piano keyboard requires that fingering change when you change key. The guitar doesn't do this, neither does the button accordion.

Whatever, a number of keyboards have been developed where the fingering does not change as you change key.

Start here https://www.le-nouveau-clavier.fr/english/

and https://musicnotation.org/wiki/instruments/isomorphic-instru...

Particularly the https://musicnotation.org/wiki/instruments/wicki-hayden-note...

But please start searching and reading on the following topics:

Isomorphic Instruments, the Xenharmonic Keyboard, the Janko Keyboard, Linnstrument, Lumatone, Dodeka, Chromatone, Balanced keyboard.

And for just a glimpse of an alternative music presentation:


I want to try to articulate an idea I see represented elsewhere without dismissing the value of what’s being offered here.

There are many comments to the effect that this is a crutch that will inhibit future learning. I agree with that assessment.

I also agree that such a tradeoff is probably fine for many people, depending on their goals.

I studied music composition in college and then worked in adult world language curriculum. Perhaps a useful analogy is the use of Romanization to teach world languages to native English speakers (romaji, pinyin, etc.)

For languages like Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, etc.) where there is (virtually) no phonetic information in the writing system, it’s just too dang hard for a lot of people to make the leap to pronouncing characters as they are reas by natives. Pinyin or its equivalents are an “inauthentic” but valuable tool, but eventually you have to discard it to progress.

With straightforward phonetic languages like Korean, it’s actually counterproductive to try to bridge people to familiar symbols, because there’s very few resources for the learner until they start mapping sounds to Hangul.

That’d be my argument—-if you find you can’t easily make the leap to reading music and just want to get playing, sure, use this. But know that there’s a whole world of communication out there that you’ll be missing until you abandon this simplified representation and cross the full chasm.

I've been playing piano for a few years (no teacher, on and off) and have always been curious about the topic of sheet music. When you're first learning it's very painful. The notation isn't that bad, sharps, flats, time signatures etc - that part is ok. What _is_ difficult is corresponding a position on the staff to a physical note on a keyboard, especially when you have a treble clef and a base clef.

However over time it becomes easier and easier - and then you wonder is sheet music somehow optimal or is it 'good enough' and has withstood the test of time (also accounting for the fact that there is an enormous corpus of existing sheet music).

The question regarding this app (which looks awesome) is, is this format for reading music better than sheet music at the expert level (for professional musicians). And if not, how can we get that 10x improvement to make the switch from sheet music to something better.

There has always been a very old method to learn music without sheet music. It is called playing by ear. It is incredible that we have a word for that. Because nobody is saying he is learning to talk by ear. Because talking and making music is an acoustic thing, and the natural thing is to use primarily your ear for that. The eye can be helpful, be it sheet music or a midi visualisation like this app. But an eye can not hear music.
I can play piano, trumpet, and trombone, but hardly ever do anymore. I have been able to read sheet music since I was 8.

If the whole concept of this confuses me, and it does, it may confuse people who are eager to learn and get playing (without doing endless scales) and don't read sheet music.

I have no idea what tabs means in this context, though I am vaguely familiar, I think, with it as a guitar term (which you or a commenter came from).

Looking at the graphics on the site (I don't use Apple) gives me no clue how the notes for each hand are displayed "according to how they look on a keyboard."

What am I missing? Will someone who uses Apple, can't read sheet music, has never played any instrument and wants to learn how to play piano be able to figure it out within app tutorials?

One problem I see with your design is that there's no way to deal with rubato, and presumably you can't alter the tempo on the fly as you're playing.

The problem that sheet music solves is providing a static notation that can be read non-linearly for a dynamic piece of art that must be played linearly.

There's also no way to represent dynamics, as far as I can tell? The MIDI file won't give you that information.

Similarly unless you support MIDI 2 clip files (to my knowledge, no one does yet) you're also missing the key signature information, which is kind of important (otherwise the notes have no meaning - you need to infer their function from context, which is ambiguous)

on the one hand, yay. Tabs have made learning guitar stuff incredibly accessible, and dealing with the separate hands of the piano and separate clefs is a PITA. On the other hand... ugh. We've successfully churned out generations of musically illiterate musicians. We've also made it really hard to find the sheet music for a piece instead of the tabs, and the tabs are lacking in SO MUCH information.
It's great to have tools that make easier to learn how to play music, which btw, I feel music should have evolved naturally itself towards something with better high level abstraction (kinda like programming languages). However, my fear with this kind of approaches in music is that you might end up being a simple "typewriter". I mean, you play by pure mechanical memory instead of due to develop a logical understanding of what you are doing. This was the main reason I ditched yousician for guitar. I saw myself just doing a more complex "guitar hero" kind of thing and I don't want that, I want music theory and understanding instead of moving blindly my hands following coloured dots on the screen.
Congrats on the release, looks great!

Reminds me of Synthesia[1], with a better UX but less features!

How do you handle the displaying all notes on a portrait phone per your homepage screenshot? Especially on songs with a large gap between both hands, seems like it would be pretty cramped so a tablet might be the better option.

[1] https://www.synthesiagame.com/

This is really cool! Guitar was my first instrument, then I went on to learn bass, drums, and a bunch of others, but I never bothered to learn how to read music - or, really, sight read. The few songs I know on piano, I learned from an electronic piano that had a display with an image of the keyboard and the keys would change color to tell you which one to play. When I play Maple Leaf Rag for other musicians they're often surprised to find out I can't read music.

So I can definitely see a market for this and will probably try learning another song on piano with it. That said, I do wish I had just learned to read music up front, as I learned my first instrument. I think it would have opened up doors for me, particularly for playing with other musicians (like an orchestra or a jazz band). But who knows how much longer that will be the case - tomorrow's great musicians may learn on an app like this!

Oh, awesome! I'm working on something similar, to put out as a PWA. Seems I had similar aspirations/complaints that you did, but also didn't have an apple device (that I wanted to use for the app).

Yours is a very nice presentation! I like the annotations feature, and the comprehensiveness of the features, even for the stated goal of such simple functionality. A lot of people might leave out percussion loops, or be a bit more stingy with the free tracks.

This may be a stupid question, but I'll ask anyway: does it recognize Midi controller input? In my practice, I've found value in having the notes I play represented digitally, so that I can keep my eyes on the screen (and, let's face it, Rock Band/Guitar Hero is fun). But I didn't see that specifically advertised anywhere, so I was curious!

This is kind of a tangent, but I’ve played instruments all my life and I never really understood how to use sheet music beyond the initial learning of a piece. I always see musicians actively referencing it while playing, but I’ve never been able to read it nearly quickly enough to do so. That also holds for guitar tabs, which I can read more quickly than sheet music (for guitar or piano). For anything remotely complicated, I need to memorize the piece so I can focus on what I need to do with my hands. A chord sheet I can follow while improvising even if I haven’t seen the progression before, but my playing definitely isn’t as good because the mental load of reading, listening, and playing is too much. It’s like having one too many processes open on your computer and the OS / CPU can’t quite keep up
Looks cool design-wise, but who is this for?

Although the upfront cost of learning sheet music is a few weeks of study, it quickly becomes worth it due to gains in speed of learning and sightreading skills.

Maybe this can introduce people to piano and get them playing quickly, but it'll ultimately stunt their development.

Learning piano without reading scores (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin...) is like learning C without bitwise operators and pointers...
Two fatal issues I discovered: - the apple store was so biased, even when I typed in "piano tabs", it couldn't find your app in the top 10 results. I had to type in the name of the entire app: "Piano Tabs: Learn & Practice"

Then I attempted to install it and got this: - "This application requires iOS 15.0 or later". This is a deal breaker on so many apps. I don't trust apple enough to change my iOS version. Note: this happened on a pretty recent iphone 7+

> It changed about a month ago from an up front price to in app purchases and/or a subscription - which has absolutely tanked revenue so far - but maybe it will pick up

This doesn’t surprise me. I abhor all subscriptions. I’ll pay for things once, upfront, but I’d rather do without than have continuous payments.

I agree that sheet music could be improved. The worst part to me is simply that notes are identical symbols just shifted up or down ever so slightly. But based on the screenshots your app does the same thing, just side to side. I think it would be more helpful if each note had a color to it.
Synthesia has done this exact solution for well over a decade now. But there’s also the option to read generated sheet music and adjust the playback and gradung in many ways.


Maybe it's just me, and I'm not particularly good at reading sheet music but -- for piano -- I find all the alternative even worse.

At least this sort of display eliminates the "akshually C𝄫 and A♯ are different"-type cranks.

I applaud tools like this, which give alternative options for people to access the music world. Traditional sheet music is a very competent tool, but it's also a very specific form of translation (of sound, to print). Certainly not the only one, and not even necessarily the best possible one.

I am getting a little off-track here, and I'm probably doing my suggestion few favours by burying it here where few will ever see it, but on a similar track, I envisage music tuition being a huge potential application for augmented reality. The possibilities there are mindblowing.

I recently started looking into cheap electric keyboards that I could use to teach myself piano, and this looks so awesome for learning. I would pay for this app, but unfortunately I don't have any Apple devices.
Does it support midi-in? I've got a small midi keyboard, being able to hook that up to this would be ideal.

And if that's in there, what about a mode - like typing instructors - where the page only advances if you hit the right keys? I think that would be an ideal way to learn the notes, followed by a mode like Guitar Hero where you have to hit the right notes at the right time.

Finally, given that the app is aimed at teaching, I'd add a progression path, have the user start with simple music and gradually progress. Finding rights-free midi files and assessing difficulty might be difficult though.

I've been playing the piano for 55+ years, and still practice daily.

What makes piano difficult isn't reading music notation. You can learn to read music notation in a week. What makes it difficult is the physical challanges.

Skipping music notation may save you a few weeks at the very beginning, but you'll quickly hit a wall and need to learn the physical skills. And if you can't read music, you won't be able to make music with other people.

This is a very, very bad idea.

Having been trained to read sheet music, I definitely wouldn't be your customer. The notation system is so smart, the closer you look at it, that I cannot imagine that it can be replaced with something just as good, especially for the more complex scores.

Definitely some alternative solutions may be good for beginners, but I wonder how they would perform with the Kreisleriana.

Was interested in the concept because weirdly i'm an ok average+ piano player but just suck at sheet reading. Just downloaded it on my M2 mac. It doesn't work? Clicking on a track just show a picture of the track. Clicking on a composer just show a picture of the composer. Clicking on View All just show a page with View All written in the middle.
What's the pricing model here? the AppStore lists a yearly subscription as $10, but then an additional IAP to import songs of $5? It's confusing, and I never install apps when the pricing is unclear. Also, any plans for lifetime, as a lot of people simply don't want yet another subscription.
I think it has potential! However to me the piano is too small and hard to see.

Check the Flowkey app for reference, their piano representation is more sophisticated, but note that it takes half the screen (landscape mode) and there is no wasted space on the ending left and write.

Either way, cool project!

This is really awesome, congrats on shipping. If you don't mind me asking, what do sales look like on average for an app like this? I'm hoping to someday make a "music education app", but I'm skeptical if people would pay for it. Thank you!
That honestly looks amazing. Do you plan to release on Android by any chance?
The pricing model is confusing at first and not very clear until you start trying to use the app (tried the macOS version for now). The App Store description does not mention the subscription and what features it unlocks, and in the app it doesn't trigger until you try to play a song. If you dismiss the window, you actually have to go back to playing a song (and wait) to see it again as there isn't a settings pane or other trigger just to see the subscription page. A few suggestions on that front:

  - Put the pricing either on a splash window after opening for the first time OR in a message tile on the library screen
  - Include certain (full) songs in the free version and give them a badge of some sort ("free", "included", etc.)
  - Put a badge in the toolbar indicating whether you are in a free or paid mode
  - Make it clear if a subscription is valid for iOS *and* macOS or if they are separate (2x the cost) (edit: downloaded on iOS and it's not limiting anything so it must be a universal subscription. Put that early in the description for sure.)
I put a piano in my apartment in 2020, the year the app appears to have been first released. Several people in my household were looking for something exactly like this to practice and never came across it, though we did get suckered into a few $10/month or $75/year subscriptions for other things that ended up barely getting used. If the pricing stays the same but is much clearer to people I believe you could get decent conversion from a little bit of targeted advertising.

Besides that, the import dialog could be less spartan. It is not indicated in the app itself that it takes MIDI files only. Normal users may not know what a MIDI file is at first but you might be surprised at how many would learn and go seek those if given a tiny bit of guidance. Tons of non-technical people have learned to get their hands on playable guitar tabs the same way.

As for the playing interface, I like it quite a bit. Plenty of people will comment about how anything getting in the way of becoming an expert in sight reading is somehow evil (hyperbole) but this is silly. I could easily recommend this app to friends who played Guitar Hero as kids and now want to play along to stuff on the piano or keyboard– hey, we all got older and maybe acquired more "mature" instruments with black and white keys. I used to read standard sheet music for chamber/orchestra but it's been years and frankly it's the least important skill for the type of music that I play. However I do have a piano and once in a while want to play something without getting into a lesson on sheet music especially since what I used to read had far less range than a piano.

App Store note: searching for "piano tabs" the app doesn't show up even after a lot of scrolling. "piano tabs learning & practice" finds it as the top result. I am a fan of the plain name; it's short and self-explanatory to the point that I imagine people do randomly search those terms without knowing about your app. That should be a good thing but in practice it seems the discoverability isn't there which is worth looking into.

I've been taking piano lessons for several months now and I'm still struggling with sheet music notes. I may give this a try! It reminds me of playing guitar hero back in the day :)
How do you only have one review?

This looks super cool and would make me basically immediately able to roughly play quite a few pieces. Need to setup my keyboard and try it out.

Tried to teach my girlfriend to play the piano for a while now. But reading notes was too difficult for her. I can see this be really helpful for newbies!
What we actually need is a program that effectively teaches sight reading sheet music well. That would be the music school winner.
Hmm. Looks like the classic piano roll notation.
Does Casio Chordana play do something similar?
this is beautiful. id love a color changing ability. i use synthesia and you should take notes from that app. Id use your app if you could also show sheet music and let me have greater granularity on how I practice, eg. left and right hand, practicing the notes and then the timing
Does anyone have recommendations for a learn-to-play-on-it keyboard? Not too expensive, but not a toy?
Is this just musical notation or do you hook up a MIDI device so it can point out mistakes?
Hey this is really cool! Thanks for sharing it!
This doesn't teach you how to play piano, this teaches you how to read vertically scrolling notes. It doesn't actually teach you where the notes are on the piano, when key changes are made, or when to play a note strong or soft.

This is gamifying an actual skill without teaching the actual skill. Good for a few parlor tricks but actually learning piano, requires, well, actually learning how to read the sheet music.