Wolfie allows beginners to learn piano with advanced tools

Wolfie screenshot

Chances are you've seen plenty of virtual piano keyboard apps in the App Store, but isn't it far less often that you come across a music app that wants you to use an actual piano, perhaps for educational purposes? How primitive, right? Well that is Wolfie's request. It's an educational music app that teaches students how to play piano and helps instructors teach them as well. Plus, it has technology to guide you along as you play the piano. Not so primitive anymore, huh? Wolfie is a free iPad app with in-app purchases requiring iOS 7.0 or later.

Wolfie comes with an entire catalog of various sheet music to download and learn how to play. There's over 750 choices and your first two are completely free, so choose wisely. More on pricing later.

I've always wanted to learn how to play the piano but just gave up after multiple attempts of trying to teach myself. One of the pieces I downloaded is the classic "Ode to Joy," which the app claims is "Very Easy." Perfect for me. The catalog is organized by difficulty, which should help you pick your own song to learn depending on your level of expertise.

Selecting a piece brings up the sheet music with a number of tools along the top, the most prominent being the Magic feature. Turn this on and with the help of your iPad's built-in microwave, the app monitors your progress as you play the song and highlights the next note so you never lose focus or get lost.

Wolfie screenshot

This is one of the highlighted features of Wolfie and after testing it, I found that it's good but needs work. The cursor wasn't consistently accurate following the notes I played; other times it took a few seconds for it to catch up. Then of course a few times it did work flawlessly. It seems like an issue of fine tuning the technology for a future app update.

Right next to the Magic switch is the Record button, which records the song as you play and saves it to the Recordings tab. Finally, for those who need a visual, YouTube integration means a YouTube video teaching you how to play a song accompanies any sheet music you download. I see this being one of the most helpful features and terrific for users learning to play piano without a teacher's guidance.

Wolfie doesn't forget about its advanced users either: a set of tools for enabling a metronome, adjusting tempo and writing on the sheet music - both scribbles and music symbols - are all available along the top. The app needs a bit more powerful of an undo/redo feature. The capability to fix errors you make is currently limited, but it's forgivable for now. Other features like cursor and note settings, isolated note-taking and statistics are located up in that top navigation bar.

If you want unlimited sheet music downloads, you have to subscribe to Wolfie's Premium service costing $14.99 month by month or as little as $6.70 per month if you prepay $59.99 for 9 months. The subscription model is interesting instead of using the standard pay-as-you-go for sheet music, but I like it and it's sure to pay off for those who have a lot of learning to do.

Wolfie screenshot

Ultimately, Wolfie is packed with advanced features combined with pricing that's not too shabby. Some of them like the Magic cursor need improvement to warrant a whole-hearted recommendation, but for free, Wolfie for iPad is congenial to students looking to build up their piano skills.