Whether you just want to tinker on the piano keys or really sound like a pro, the Magic Piano app by Smule will give you that opportunity, and more. This Free iPhone and iPad Music app combines piano playing with a gaming aspect. It also includes an expansive song catalog with 500+ songs covering Pop, Rock, Classical, and Movies and Musicals, among other categories. There are also more songs added daily to keep things fresh. And in addition to these features, there’s a cool satellite view of planet Earth and plenty of social sharing opportunities – but be prepared to work for the Free content in this app that serves up a too many ads.
Smule has a reputation for turning out some awe-inspiring musical apps. Their unique contribution to the app music world comes in the form of glowing light orbs and beams of light that magically appear on your iPhone or iPad screen. You’ll see these when playing your virtual instrument. These lights are also seen illuminating from around the rest of the world through a virtual satellite view. This view shows the location of other Smule players in action as they broadcast their playing for the rest of the world to hear.
All these beautiful beams of light zapping around the world create a truly tantalizing experience. Like their other music apps, the Magic Piano app requires you to tap on your iPhone or iPad screen at just the right time to hit the glowing orbs as they float past the vertical beams-of-light markers. This method is to help guide you to correct finger placement and timing, as well as to pound out a recognizable song.
There are 2 different modes available in the Settings area. The first option is good for beginners because the pitch is always perfect for you no matter where you tap on your screen. This mode helps you to focus on rhythm. Or if you’re brave, go for the second option. This gets rid of the musical crutches and concentrates on finger placement AND rhythm at the same time. So be prepared to have your “key clunking” exposed. When you don’t tap the correct key in the right spot, you will definitely sound out of tune. And choose your difficulty setting wisely before you start. Auto has random difficulty, Easy features a 1 tap that plays all chords for you, Medium has a 2-note maximum for chords, and Hard features 4-finger chords.
As you play, glowing green dots indicate that a 1 finger key note is coming your way. Yellow dots indicate chords are present with 2-4 finger placement, which may require you to use 1-4 fingers depending on your song difficulty setting. If you tap too far right or left, or too fast or too slow, the app will let you know. However, I think the dot color scheme needs to be more intense because I found the colors to be too light to follow, especially in a well-lit room.
And the nearly transparent, spinning keyboard background made it difficult to see where I was supposed to be striking the keys, but not impossible. During the time that I played, there were several incidents (when I hit numerous 3-4 finger chords in a row) that caused the app to freeze up for a split second and the sound to cut out. There were a couple of songs that made me worry that the app was going to crash. If this happens to you, the Developer recommends (in the app help area) turning “off” the Zoom in the Settings area to remedy this.
Magic Piano comes with 3 songs that are total freebies (no work required): Amazing Grace, Fur Elise, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and some starter Smoola to download more songs in the inventory. Plus you got those Free songs added each week. There are 4 main categories when using Magic Piano: 1. Play Game On!, 2. Solo Play freestyle, 3. World Listen to others, and 4. Profile Stats and Achievements. You can play and earn songs totally Free by performing challenges/objectives to unlock songs, purchase songs using Smoola (in app currency) or real-world money for packs of Smoola which range from $2.99 – $99.00 for 220 Smoolas and 10,120 Smoolas.
When you go into the Play area, you’ll find songs are categorized as follows: Suggestions for You, My Songs, Free Songs, What’s New, Songs on Sale, Top of the charts, Pop Songs, Classical, Rock, Kids Songs, Traditional & Folk Music, Video Game Music, Holiday Songs, Movies & TV, Musicals, All Songs. The amount and variety of song choices is truly amazing. Just to give you a taste, there are songs like “Clock” by Coldplay, “Apologize” by Timbaland ft. OneRepublic, and “Colors of the Wind” by Pocahantas (Disney). You can jump right into piano playing with a couple of totally free songs, but most require watching a quick ad before getting the download, or using your limited Smoola to exchange for a song. And of course, you can break out the real money too.
To their credit, Magic Piano does allow you to explore unbothered by any distractions in the Solo area through freestyle playing on a variety of silly piano keyboards; I did not enjoy the Solo Play freestyle area as much as I thought I would. This is where the tinkering aspect comes in. When you get to this screen its mostly black, but when you blindly tap on the screen you’ll hear the piano sounds and the keys on the keyboard appear but nothing to get excited about.
It’s okay but I don’t really see the point of banging around in the dark to play the piano, except that it does create a cool and sort of artsy-graphic effect on the screen with accompanying piano sounds. If you’re looking for more, tap on the circular keyboard icon (upper right) and you’ll discover the rest of the crazy-make-you-dizzy keyboards (a swirl keyboard, circular, and floating dock-type keyboard). If you pinch in or out or slide 1-2 fingers vertically up the screen, this will re-size the number of keys on the keyboard and can change the sounds of the keyboard as well. This silly playtime does tend to bring out the kid in you.
In the Play section, you can play plenty of free songs for pure enjoyment, or turn your piano playing into a gaming experience by playing songs to earn stars, points, and achievements to level up to the next level, or earn more Smoola by watching ads or doing things to earn Smoola in varying amounts. You can earn Free Smoola rewards by: liking them on Facebook (5 more Smoolas for you), watching a video (5 more for you), as well as additional Free Smoolas (of varying points) by watching more videos or completing certain actions such as signing up for things (NetFlix,etc). With the Smoolas you earn or purchase, you can exchange for songs and even change your default Baby Grand instrument sound to something more interesting from the 18 other choices provided like: Classical Guitar, Retro Gamer, Garage Organ, (etc.). These range from 195-495 Smoolas to buy/exchange.
In the World area, I actually enjoyed watching the big world globe spin randomly to reveal where people were playing world wide. It’s nice to be able to stop and listen in on all the different song performances. You can give them a little love with a “heart” vote, and view other users’ profiles and stats. If you like their song, you can obtain it through the “Get this song!” option. Another cool feature here is that you can “Learn” the song and have it played (complete with lights) for you, but the Smoola exhange/buy/watch scenarios continue again here.
Along with the playing, listening, gaming and ad watching, Smule provides for plenty of social opportunities all throughout this iPad application. As a matter of fact, it seems like at every turn there’s a chance to share something on FaceBook, Twitter, and email. Or a prompt to sign in somewhere: like to “save songs and scores” by signing in with Facebook or email. Ugh! Enough already! Don’t get me wrong, some people might love all these features, but for me I just want to play, enjoy, and unwind.
Although I love the ingenuity and musical enthusiasm that Smule apps spark in us all, the majority of my initial experience with this iPad Magic Piano app was one of nagging annoyance because I felt like I was constantly be barraged with a “do this before you can get that” experience that left me feeling irritated. However, there is much to appreciate as well. I did enjoy playing the nice variety and large inventory of songs once I got past the initial ad viewing for each (etc.). I also enjoyed being able to hear and see others play around the world, as well as listening to the many recordings. But honestly, I’d rather plunk down a few dollars up front (not $99.00) and just enjoy being able to freely play and explore these amazing apps by Smule.
Magic Piano iPad App Download Link