PianoStudio in Review – Easiest Way To Play Moonlight Sonata Without An Actual Piano


If you’ve glanced upon my iShred review, then you already know how I raved about Frontier Design Group. The piano is evidently the latest instrument these talented developers have tackled for the iDevice. I may not be a professional musician with the piano (mainly because my house simply isn’t big enough for a grand piano), but I can honestly say this is the most complex and intuitive piano application I have ever come across.

PianoStudio Features:

  • Three high-quality piano instruments (Grand 1, Grand 2, Upright)
  • 9 built-in demo songs
  • Built-in Recorder with overdubbing, variable tempo, metronome, and undo/redo
  • Tilt-controlled volume and sustain pedal
  • Awesome phrase editor lets you create repeating patterns or passages that would otherwise be impossible to play
  • Built-in chord library with over 10,000 chords
  • Lots of visual customizations to help you organize and play your tunes
  • 5 banks of buttons per song
  • 9 available button layout styles with between 8 and 40 buttons, plus keyboard-and-buttons style

As with every Frontier Design Group instrumental application, PianoStudio features a unique interface that enables you to play difficult and complex songs you’d never imagine you’re capable of. Instead of being overwhelmed with an entire piano at your fingertips, PianoStudio lets you customize notes, chords, and even short phrases, and assign them to single buttons. There are two types of buttons: 1) The regular note or chord button which is represented by a rectangle with rounded edges. 2) The phrase button that plays a short sequence of notes when it’s held, which is represented by an octogon. Since PianoStudio has a completely different interface than any other piano application, it may be strenuous to know which button to play next. PianoStudio compensates for this by allowing you to add pointers next to a button which shows you what button to play next.

For instance, if I’m playing a note/chord/phrase and there’s an arrow pointing down from the button, then that means the next note/chord/phrase that I’m supposed to play is the button underneath the one that I’m currently playing. Each button can be customized to one of 23 colors, so you’re able to differentiate which notes should be played in a group/together. Every button can also be labeled to say what ever you want on it. Thus, for phrase notes, you can change them to say Melody 1, Melody 2, and so on. If you find you need more space to put notes, then there’s an extra 4 banks that can be filled. The banks are located at the top of the screen and are labeled 1-5. Just tap a number to go to that bank. The banks can also be edited to have a specific button layout.


Without a doubt, the phrase editor is what makes PianoStudio truly special, and allows playing complex songs possible. On the phrase editor, you can create sequences of notes and assign them all to one button. To make a note in the phrase editor, simply tap the note on the piano on the left side of the screen. The volume and length of each note can be individually adjusted.


Any musical application should have a recorder, and fortunately PianoStudio has one. The recorder can be located by holding the cassette tape on the top right corner of the screen. While playing back a recording, the buttons will have a blue circle on them when they are being used. There are two types of blue circles: 1) The regular blue circle means the note was played normally. 2) The translucent blue circle means that the note was held/sustained. The only use of accelerometer in Piano Studio is when you hold a note. When tapping a note then tilting back on the iDevice, the note’s sound will then continue to ring out. The beats per bar as well as tempo can be adjusted from the settings menu.


The app itself comes preloaded with 9 demo songs to try out. To access your songs, press the the top left button of the screen then go to “Songs”. The phrase editor, songs, news (updates from the developers), and help screen can also be accessed from this button. From the songs menu, you can load, rearrange, add, and delete any song. If you load a song, then the notes for that song will be loaded onto the main menu screen, where you play the song. You can also leave comments for each song such as, “If only I went to music school, I could actually play this song on a real piano.”


In total there are three different pianos in Piano Studio. From the settings menu you can change the instrument sound from a Grand 1 to either a Grand 2 or Upright piano. Each piano has its own distinctive tone. Other settings include the ability to turn hold/ sustain on/off and how they can be accessed (H- Tilt= activated when you tilt the iDevice from side to side/ V- Tilt= activated when you tilt the iDevice from front to back).


Easily my favorite feature of iShred was AirPlay mode, where you were able to download, rate, and view songs from users around the world. Unfortunately, Piano Studio doesn’t have this much wanted feature, but hopefully it will in an upcoming update. However, Piano Studio does let you share your songs via Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail. Alas, this feature, which was introduced in the 1.1 update, does not currently work (you get a server error when sending a song). Other than that, Piano Studio is an amazing tool for any striving musician and the possibilities for music composition are endless.

I award PianoStudio with a Grab It rating and applaud it for successfully implementing another instrument into the App Store with such ingenuity.


App Summary
Title: PianoStudio (v1.1) Developer: Frontier Design Group
Price: $6.99 App Size: 16.3 MB
  • Chord library
  • Recorder
  • Unique interface that allows for easy playing
  • Phrase editor
  • Brings a whole new meaning to music composition on the iDevice
  • No airplay feature
  • Share feature does not currently work


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