Skoove is a good introduction to playing the piano if you want to learn it on your own, and especially if you’re attuned to that style of learning. Of course you have to do the work, but that’s the same when you’re learning any instrument.
First Impressions / Setting up
Skoove works entirely in your browser: just fire up whatever browser you’re using, and head on over to the Skoove site. All you’ve got to do is sign up, and you’re ready to go. The first few lessons in each course are free, but to access the others you need to have a Premium account, which costs US$9.95/month.
It’s a piano tutor, so it’s best experienced when you’ve got a piano keyboard attached. For this review, I used an M-Audio Keystation Mini 32, which is a 32-key keyboard controller that connects to the computer via USB. You can use any keyboard controller you’ve got from a 25-key (two-octave) keyboard, to a full-sized 88-key piano keyboard controller. You can even use your computer’s keyboard if you don’t have a piano handy, but I’d advise you to use at least a 25-key keyboard controller (check out this list of keyboards we’ve rounded up).
Why learn the piano if you want to get into production?
One of the biggest hurdles of becoming a producer is learning how to make music – you can take a course on music production (we’ve got a great one here at DDJT), plus you’ve also got to learn basic music theory. Personally, I think the best way to learn music theory is through playing an instrument, and in my opinion the best instrument to learn if you want to produce electronic music and become a DJ/producer is the piano.
The piano is a versatile instrument, and the piano keyboard controller comes in many different sizes and whose sound can be altered either in a piece of software like Native Instruments’ Massive, a digital audio workstation (DAW) like Ableton Live, or even if your keyboard comes with sounds onboard.
Once you learn how to play the piano, you can play virtually any instrument in your production like bass, lush pads, screaming lead riffs, and so on.
You can also use it with a real life piano, or any keyboard not connected to your laptop – it used the mic of your computer to “listen” to the notes, which is quite clever.
I hooked up my Keystation Mini 32, pointed to Skoove, and got to work.
Skoove’s interface consists of sheet music at the top, which shows you the notes on a music staff for a song passage, and then a graphic of a piano at the bottom with a hand. There are prompts that tell you what to do (ie play the piano keys shown below).
Usually, Skoove will play the melody or chords shown in the sheet music at the top of your screen and will ask you to listen to what’s being played. The notes are highlighted as Skoove plays the tune, sort of like a playhead.
When it’s time for you to play the piano keys, the playhead moves along the song only when you play the right note or combination of notes onscreen. If you press the wrong key or keys, the playhead remains stationary and you’ll see the piano graphic at the bottom alert you that you’re pressing the wrong one.
Once you’ve got it right, Skoove tells you so and you can practise it over and over as much as you want. When you’re ready to move on, you just press the Next button. This is generally how lessons in Skoove works, so if you’re the type who learns quickly this way, you’ll get a lot of value from Skoove, especially in the more intermediate courses.
There are eight piano courses in total over at Skoove: The first three beginner courses consist of 48 lessons that’ll teach you the keys on the piano, key fingering, and basic note reading. The next three are intermediate courses that will then teach you time signatures, musical keys, as well as building the major and minor scales. The last two are the Christmas Course, which teaches you holiday tunes, and finally the Keyboard Course For Producers.
It’s this last course that was of immediate interest to me as I wanted to know whether or not it’d be a great resource for those who want to make dance music, but my verdict is mixed: It’s good in that it teaches you more complex music theory and piano techniques like chord voicings and progressions, but at the moment it’s quite limited in scope and, honestly, rather dated.
The music samples that you’ll be playing along with here are classic tunes from Kraftwerk, Massive Attack, and Faithless, which are awesome songs but they’re all tracks that came out in the 90s (Das Model by Kraftwerk is from 1978!) so I don’t think they’re the “best” representations of the current state of production in electronic music.
They’re good foundations, but I’d like to see more contemporary song choices for future lessons (eg Kygo’s Stole The Show would be a good one, as well as Zedd’s Find You, for the EDM crowd). In a way, there’s a missed opportunity here because I’m pretty sure that if they want to get the much younger producers onboard, that means using modern tracks as lessons instead of tunes that their older siblings or (or *gasp* parents) used to rave to before the turn of the millennium.
Skoove is a good introduction to playing the piano if you want to learn it on your own, and especially if you’re attuned to that style of learning. If you’ve got discipline, you can breeze through a few lessons daily over the course of a month or two and, coupled with practising on your own, you’d have a strong foundation for piano playing that you can build on as you venture into production.
However, if you don’t follow a practice routine, you may find yourself wanting an accountability partner who’ll urge you to go through the lessons, some of which will seem like a chore because they’re necessarily repetitious by nature.
I also think that I learn an instrument better when I’ve got a mentor: though I’m an autodidact for everything else, when it comes to learning a new instrument or going deep in one, I’d rather have a teacher in front of me giving me instant feedback. This is what’s lacking with Skoove at the moment, because the only feedback you’re getting is whether or not you’re playing the right or wrong notes at the proper time and sequence.
In all, Skoove is a good way to learn piano if the method works for you. Sign up and give it a try.