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Three-time Grammy award winner and actor Harry Connick Jr. is joining the Playground Sessions (download for iOS or Android) music learning app as a piano instructor and brand ambassador.

Playground Sessions, created by legendary musician Quincy Jones, teaches users how to play the piano. The program dives into keyboard skills, reading music, chords, advanced rhythm, how to play by ear and more.

Connick is a long-time advocate of music education.

"Music changed my life in every way imaginable, and I'm honored to share my knowledge with a global audience and give back," Connick said.

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How it works

The app is fairly easy to navigate and understand. To start, you need to connect your keyboard to your device with a USB or MIDI cable with a USB A or micro USB adaptor.

If you play a note correctly, the key on the screen turns green. If you play a wrong note, the screen key turns red. As you improve, you'll "level up" and earn rewards.

Playground Sessions goes beyond just teaching notes and delves into concepts with music theory lessons. Users can pick between Rookie, Intermediate, and Advanced classes to better understand the keyboard itself, notation and playing by ear.

Students can pick songs from a wide range of artists, including John Legend, Beethoven, the Jackson Five and David Guetta.

Video lessons are led by professionals like YouTube star David Sides and Connick Jr.

"We want to make learning piano as much fun as playing," Jones said on the website.

Playground Sessions generates charts for students to keep track of their progress.

"Playground's piano learning software translates your data into easy-to-read charts so you can see how much time you've spent, how you're progressing, and where you're improving over time," the app's website said. "Of course, these charts will also let you know where more time is needed!"

This year, the app hit 20 million practice sessions and now averages more than one million per month.

"We've successfully taught thousands of people all over the world to play and made it so much fun that they're sticking with it much longer than you see with traditional lessons," a Playground Sessions spokesperson told Download.com. "And for the first time ever, users are saying that practice is fun! Remember practice only makes perfect IF you're practicing."

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Playground Sessions (Credit: Screenshot by Download.com)

Cost

The Playground Sessions app isn't free, but it is reasonably priced for everything it contains.

A monthly plan costs $18, a yearly plan goes for $120, and a lifetime membership is a one-time $290 fee. All the plans include Music Theory Bootcamp, the ability to unlock additional courses, five free songs per month, and the gaming features.

The app offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Other piano apps

Playground Sessions isn't your only option when it comes to honing your skill.

Private one-on-one lessons with a piano teacher can be costly -- whether paying monthly or per session. According to Lessons.com, a match-style site that pairs you with an expert in the field you hope to learn, on average piano lessons can run anywhere from $40 to $60 per hour.

If you take a year of private lessons, on average you'll have paid $600. If you subscribe to Playground Sessions' monthly plan, a year of lessons will cost you $216.

Users also have the choice of other lesson-based apps like Simply Piano (download for iOS or Android) and Flowkey (download for iOS or Android).

Flowkey is the most similar to Playground Sessions in structure and pricing. Flowkey told Download.com that its app is all about the beauty of music.

"We have a 'hands-on' approach so even in our courses on music theory such as reading sheet music, chords and more, you'll find many interactive exercises," a Flowkey spokesperson told Download.com. "In addition to our lessons about music theory we have a vast song library of more than thousand songs."

Each lesson comes with a tutorial video and corresponding sheet music. The pieces range in difficulty, from beginner to professional arrangements. Students can choose from a diverse catalog of songs from genres like classical music, film music, pop hits, jazz, video game music and heavy metal songs.

A Flowkey subscription costs $20 per month, $39 for three months or $120 for a year.

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Flowkey (Credit: Screenshot by Download.com)

Simply Piano teaches songs that to appeal to different musical tastes and skill levels. The app teaches piano basics like reading sheet music and playing with both hands. Students learn step-by-step with sheet music, personalized exercises and tailored courses.

"Simply Piano makes it easy for anyone to achieve their goal to learn piano," an app spokesperson told Download.com. "It was created in collaboration with music educators and experts so you really learn real life skills piano skills (rather than just a game)."

Students can try Simply Piano for three months for $60, six months for $90, or a year for $120. All the subscriptions are recurring.

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Simply Piano (Credit: Screenshot by Download.com)

Apps teaching the arts

Programs that teach the user a skill are valuable, especially apps that focus on the arts. Arts, though mostly taught in schools, are often the first ones under the ax when it's time to cut budgets.

Flowkey said that technology makes it easier for people to learn at home.

"There are so many digital tools to enable exploration, discovery, and creative expression," the app's spokesperson said.

Making lessons available on smartphone devices means learning can be more accessible to everyone.

"[Simply Piano is] removing the barriers for anyone to fulfil their creative aspirations," the app maker said. "Whether you learned as a child or you're picking it up for the first time as you've always had the fantasy to learn, the app is set up so you can learn by yourself helping those that wouldn't have necessarily gone to a teacher to get started."

Flowkey said that it's important to recognize the barriers certain groups of people can face that can make the arts less accessible. The app thinks learning a musical instrument is something no one should miss out on.

"When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time by myself in the practice room, and I would have loved an app like Playground Sessions to be able to learn from professionals and to get a glimpse of their process," Connick said. "It's the positive power of the internet to be able to connect everyone and have no boundaries to learning."

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Shelby is an Associate Writer for CNET's Download.com. She served as Editor in Chief for the Louisville Cardinal newspaper at the University of Louisville. She interned as Creative Non-Fiction Editor for Miracle Monocle literary magazine. Her work appears in Glass Mountain Magazine, Bookends Review, Soundings East, and on Louisville.com. Her cat, Puck, is the best cat ever.