Review: Piano Practice With Wolfie
I’ve recently been exploring a new iPad app for helping students learn the piano called Wolfie. Using a bunch of awesome features including a massive score library, real time practice statistics, and the ability to network with students remotely, this app is trying to take piano teaching into the iOS era in a big way.
I downloaded Wolfie (it’s free) from the app store, and it popped up on my home screen pretty quickly. At 117 megabytes it’s not a tiny download, but it’s also not nearly as massive as many sheet music apps on the market.
When launching Wolfie for the first time, you can pick whether you’re a teacher or student. According to Jen with support at Wolfie, the basic setup is the same whether you’re a teacher or student, except that teachers have an additional tab with “My Students”. As I added students, all of their profiles appeared here. Cool.
Half of the selling point of Wolfie is their massive score library. At 3,000+ scores with more added every day, there’s a bit of everything. There are the usual staples of classical pieces and Alfred books, but there’s also a huge catalogue of modern songs, as well.
Another great feature of the score library is the way they’ve grouped the difficulty of each song into beginner, intermediate, and advanced categories. The people at Wolfie even went one step further and broke each experience level into three rankings, creating 9 separate levels for students and teachers to choose from when selecting songs. One of my complaints with other apps has been that three experience levels just isn’t granular enough to be useful to most students when searching for music, and I was pleasantly surprised to see this problem addressed.
While most of the library is for premium paid users, there’s a free stuff section that allows students and teachers to explore before making the jump to premium.
Wolfie’s offers 5 modes for working with music pieces: annotate, practice, listen, evaluate, and play along. Each mode helps students in a different area:
• Annotate Mode: it’s easy to add text, circle and highlight, and even mark up music with red ink for future practicing.
• Practice Mode: you can play along with the song, record yourself, and add a metronome. In this mode, the technology allows the cursor to follow the student's playing, stops when the student stops, accelerates when the student accelerates etc. which helps the students to focus, improve their sight reading and rhythm skills and be aware of their mistakes.
• Listen Mode: students can use this section to hear a youtube video of the song they’re working on synced in time to the music. They can also listen to recording’s made a by a teacher in sync, as well.
• Evaluate Mode: this was the standout feature for me- Evaluate mode offers feedback for students as they play the song, and give students a grade in Fluency, Pitch, Rhythm, and Tempo. Students also can earn badges, check their time, save a recording, and even challenge friends.
• Play Along Mode: Wolfie will play back the song with students as they play. On some songs you can choose both hands, or only one hand at a time for playback.
Wolfie excels at helping students and teachers keep track of what they’re practicing, how accurately, and for how long. Every time you end a song, you get a detailed infograph of how long you played, what your tempo was, whether you completed the piece, and a lot more. There’s an option for students to express how they feel about their performance using emojis, which is available for teachers to view throughout the week.
Wolfie also keeps track of general practice times, making it an easy way for teachers to see if a student is practicing enough. Another nice feature is that the time is broken down by each assigned song, which makes it impossible for students to not practice all of their music without the teacher noticing. Again, the information is displayed in a friendly, easy to understand infograph, although I wasn’t able to find a complete total of the week’s practice time.
If you want to use all the features of Wolfie, you’ll have to sign up for a premium account. Wolfie is currently running a promotional special of just 6 dollars a month for complete access to 3,000+ scores and the full features of the app, which strikes me as a fair price and very doable even for beginners. As an added bonus, if a teacher pairs with a student using the app, they both get a free month of premium access.
Overall I was impressed with the features of Wolfie. It’s easy to use and has done a great job of simplifying a lot of powerful features so they’re accessible to students and teachers alike. If you’re a teacher or student looking to up your game, you owe it to yourself to try out this app.