Shapes Music review: play along to your favorite pop songs

Shapes Music 1Music is a major part of our lives. We may not even realize it, but music affects nearly everything we do. Whether we are watching movies, riding in an elevator, or dancing to the beat, music is everywhere. Whether you know it or not, you know a little bit about music already.

Shapes Music unlocks that basic knowledge you already have stored in your brain by explaining what you know and showing you how to use it with visual aids. Before you realize what you are doing, you’ll be playing melodic keyboard solos to the hits…


The entire iPad screen is filled with a 29-note keyboard. There are 17 white keys and 12 black (although they are colorless and transparent in this app). At the top of the screen, 12 buttons are laid out. Each button represents the shape of the notes that are used in different songs. For example, when you tap button number one, you will see that the three white notes on the three-section part of the keyboard are used in the song. That is one part of the shape. Additionally, three white keys and one black key from the five-section part of the keyboard are used in the song as well. That is another part of the shape.

Each shape button includes two parts and an anchor icon. When you tap the anchor, you will see which note on the keyboard is the “anchor” note of the song.

The name of the song is temporarily displayed at the bottom of the screen. If you want to see the song title again, or access the apps’ controls, swipe upward from the bottom of the screen. Be careful not to accidentally swipe up your Control Center. When you bring up the song title, you will be able to pause, play, replay, and skip songs. You can also tap the heart icon to add a song to your favorites list. To see a list of all available songs in the app, tap “Playlist.”

When you access the Playlist, you’ll be able to search for songs for each level of progress or browse all available songs. You can also access your favorites list. All songs in the app are connected through YouTube.

In the Settings section, which is next to the Playlist button, you can turn off the visible music video, automatically show the shapes for each song that is played, animate the shapes to show included keys, and allow songs with explicit content.

Shapes Music 3App Use

This app starts with the assumption that subconsciously, you already know a few things about music. Believe it or not, you do. If a song did not “resolve” by going back to its root note, you would think it was incomplete. If notes didn’t follow a preset scale, you’d find it grating and irritating. Nearly all music follows a set of established rules. You may not know what those rules are, but you understand them without having to learn them.

This app teaches you some of those basic rules, specifically the ones pertaining to pop music. Using visual cues, like shapes, you’ll be able to see the anchor note of a song, as well as other compatible notes within the scale.

The first level shows you a single shape and tells you how to play the notes of that shape on the keyboard. You can play the shapes anywhere on the keyboard and play as many notes as you want at the same time. After the tutorial, you will be able to play any first level song in the app.

When you are ready to move on to the second level, tap the number two in the upper right corner of the screen. Then, swipe the pop up window to the left to open it.

In level two, you will learn about the additional 12 shapes. Once you’ve accessed the second level, songs that include all 12 shapes will be accessible to you. On this level, the song’s shape will appear at the beginning. You can hide the shape by tapping it.

On level three, you will learn about the anchor note. This note is the root of the scale that the song uses. You will learn about using an anchor to create melodies that work with a particular song. From this point on, an anchor icon will appear in each shape. When you tap the icon, the anchor note of the song will be highlighted on the shape.

Level four is the final level. Here, you will learn about mixing up the rhythm and adding multiple notes to your anchor in order to create new melodies that work within the structure of the current song. At this point, if you’ve practiced your shapes enough, you will be able to play along seamlessly with any song available in the app.

Playing the shapes in this app is not really the same as playing a piano. First of all, there are only 29 keys and you don’t know where the first note starts. In fact, you are not able to find out what note you are playing at all. You are also not taught proper finger positioning. The purpose of this music learning apps is not to teach you how to play the piano, but to teach you how to better understand the melodies of music.

Shapes Music 2The Good

The tutorials at the beginning of each level are clear and concise. You won’t be intimidated with a bunch of music theory jargon, but you also won’t feel like you are sitting in on a kindergarten lesson.

There are a lot of songs on this list. You can choose to play the video in the background, or hide the video if you find yourself distracted by all the booty shaking.

The Bad

The playlist is not easy to browse through. There are literally thousands of songs, so finding something you like can be daunting. I’d like to see the playlist songs organized into genres.


Shapes Music costs $4.99. Depending on how you look at it, it is either fairly expensive, or relatively cheap. On the one hand, you have access to thousands of YouTube videos that you can play along with on a virtual keyboard and you are getting at least a month’s worth of music lessons. On the other hand, you can’t exactly take what you’ve learned and apply it to a real piano.


In my opinion, this app is just a bit too pricey. It does offer access to thousands of music videos that you can play along to. Plus, you are going to learn a few things about music that you never knew before. However, this app seems like it would have been better if it were priced about two dollars lower. If the idea of learning how to play keyboard melodies to top 40 hits appeals to you, then you should definitely check it out. However, I suggest waiting until it goes on sale. This app is available for the iPad for $4.99. You can download it in the App Store today.

Related Apps

Although related to stringed instruments and not keyboards, On the Music Path is a music lesson app that features some of the greats in the industry. Circle of Fun is an interesting music theory app that teaches you about compatible notes and scales.

Do you know how to play a musical instrument? How do you feel about using the iPad as an instrument?