Pluto Learns Piano HD

App review by
Kim Alessi, Common Sense Media
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Effective, engaging musical play-along for young maestros.

Parents say

age 3+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn beginning piano-performance and music-notation reading skills with Pluto Plays Piano HD. They'll develop a sense of pitch and note names (notes move up the musical staff when the pitch climbs; notes move down when pitch descends) and see how they relate to melody. They'll also apply deduction, logic, and prediction as they examine how melodic patterns come together to form songs. Research shows many benefits to music education; not only does music-making help propel other academic and cognitive skills, but it's also a wonderfully rewarding, creative, and expressive activity that can last a lifetime. Pluto Plays Piano HD is a great introduction to get kids interested in learning to read and play music that helps them understand basic, yet essential, musical concepts.

Ease of Play

Overall, Pluto Plays Piano HD is intuitive and easy to enjoy and and has songs of various difficulty levels to encourage kids to develop musical skills. Some songs are easy to play because their melodies are simple and  highly repetitive (such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"). But other songs are tricky, with complex melodies that have big interval jumps and clustered notes; adding to the difficulty are obstacles in Pluto's waters. Kids will really have to pay attention, and have decent hand-eye coordination, to master these songs.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

There's a fair amount of reward-based encouragement in Pluto Plays Piano HD. The free version is limited to a handful of songs, so kids are motivated to earn stars by playing songs and improving their performance. They also earn a star by simply opening the app once each day. Kids can redeem accumulated stars to unlock additional songs, or parents can purchase additional song packs in-app (with prices ranging from $1.99 to $19.99). Kids will encounter a pesky ad by the app's developer as they navigate the activities (which cannot be turned off in the app's settings).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Pluto Plays Piano HD is a well-designed music-education app that teaches kids piano skills and music notation. In the music-notation activity, kids guide Pluto the Penguin along an undersea musical staff toward fish that form melodies of favorite childhood songs, all while avoiding underwater dangers and bad notes. In the piano-performance activities, kids play a mini, in-app piano in follow-the-lit-up-key fashion. Both activities allow kids to earn stars that can be redeemed to unlock additional songs; the app encourages practicing and rewards kids for returning each day with a free star. Starter songs include classics such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," "Swan Lake," "Frère Jacques," "Oh! Susanna," and "Brahms' Lullaby." Parents can opt to purchase additional songs in-app (prices range from $1.99 for an individual pick to $19.99 for all songs).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bynatashab2 January 31, 2016

Great introduction!

I am a piano teacher and vocalist. Needless to say, when I had kids I couldn't wait to introduce them to music. We redeemed this app when my eldest was 2,... Continue reading

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What's it about?

PLUTO PLAYS PIANO HD starts with a music-notation activity. Kids guide Pluto along five horizontal lines of bubbles, which cleverly make up a musical staff, and aim him toward fish that are arranged to make up a song's melody. Play the right notes (yellow fish) and earn stars; bump into wrong notes (gray fish) or underwater obstacles (jellyfish, whales), and stars are deducted and Pluto's health declines. Kids can see note names (C, C#, D, and so on) embedded in each fish, so they get a sense of pitch, melody, and musical form. But the song's rhythm is indicated only by how close or far apart the fish are to each other. A scoreboard shows Pluto's wellness level, the numbers of correct and incorrect notes played, and the number of stars earned. Pluto can't die, but too many ill encounters will yield a "Game Over." Pluto has two piano-performance activities: Practice mode lets kids play songs on an in-app mini piano; Performance mode puts kids on a concert stage and lets them play the mini piano (minus the notation). In both modes, kids are guided by lit-up keys to help them play the right notes, but they have the option to turn off labels and highlights once they're ready.

Is it any good?

Pluto''s bubble-inspired five-line music-staff motif gives kids both visual and hands-on interaction with a song's melody. Plus, kids are exposed to reading note names the whole time. Kids hear and see each song's melody at least twice whenever they play a song, thereby reinforcing the song through repetition. Although the star-based reward system may seem overdone, it encourages kids to practice their musical skills and earn stars, which they can redeem for new songs. The overall production value is excellent -- the graphics are inviting, and the audio quality is superb, too. Kids would benefit, however, if the app had an introduction to the five-finger piano-playing method to discourage the "hunt-and-peck" technique typical of beginners.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the idea of melody. Explain that melody is the part of the song that we sing, hum, or whistle. Sing the melody of some favorite songs and talk about how the notes move up and down and, often, in patterns.

  • Give your kids an introduction to reading music; let them know that musicians came up with a way to write down music using a special "language" called music notation and that notation helps us learn and share songs with others.  

App details

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