Pluto Learns Piano HD

Common Sense Media says

Effective, engaging musical play-along for young maestros.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

Learning(i)

What parents need to know

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
Not applicable
Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism

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
Not applicable
Privacy & safety

Although there's no in-app social media, kids can access the Online World through Pluto's settings feature.  First, kids can connect to the iTunes Store by tapping "Rate This App" (which also presents itself as a pop-up during gameplay) -- but there's no intuitive way for them to find their way back to Pluto. The "Share This App" button encourages kids to tell family and friends about Pluto and will launch a pre-formatted email in the device's email app. Online access cannot be locked or disabled in the app's settings.

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).

What kids can learn

Subjects

Math

  • patterns

Arts

  • music
  • rhythm

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • deduction
  • logic
  • prediction

Communication

  • listening

Tech Skills

  • using and applying technology

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

The app's thoughtful design draws kids in and makes them want to practice piano. Built-in incentives and positive reinforcement encourage kids and keep them playing.

Learning Approach

Kids rely on hand-eye coordination to play the correct note. The bubbly, five-line musical staff cleverly introduces melody and note names (C, C#, D, and so on) while rhythmic instruction takes the back seat.

Support

In settings, kids can learn the app's controls and how to switch between music-notation and piano-performance modes. Although the supports have helpful visual cues, kids will need reading skills to understand directions.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Math

  • patterns

Arts

  • music
  • rhythm

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • deduction
  • logic
  • prediction

Communication

  • listening

Tech Skills

  • using and applying technology

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.

This Learning Rating review was written by Kim Alessi

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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

Device:iPad
Price:Free
Subscription price:In-app song packs range from $1.99 to $19.99
Release date:December 3, 2012
Category:Music Games
Topics:Music and sing-along, Ocean creatures
Size:165.00 MB
Publisher:Pluto Games, Inc.
Version:2.0
Minimum software requirements:iOS 4.3 or later

This review of Pluto Learns Piano HD was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

Write a user reviewThere aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Poll

What are the different ways that you access Common Sense Media ratings and information? (Check all that apply)

Essential Apps Guide