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Bootcamp - Music Theory Made Simple Using Popular Music

If you love listening to music, then you already know more music theory than you think you do. This is why Playground takes popular songs you’re familiar with and uses their beats, rhythms and lyrics to demonstrate musical principles as you go.

  • Over 30 high def video tutorials
  • Co-developed by music legend Quincy Jones
  • Uses pop music to teach music theory
  • Rookie, Intermediate, Advanced lessons

Preview Bootcamp Lessons

If you've never played piano before, you're in the right place. Playground’s Rookie Bootcamp lessons take you through the basics of playing the piano, including basic notation, rhythm, hand coordination, and hearing melodies. All of these lessons use examples from pop music that you already know, so you can connect the theory with practice.


Whether you have picked up skills from the Rookie Bootcamp or if you have already played some piano before, these lessons can help round out your musical abilities. Here we introduce chords - how to play them, read them, and hear them. We also introduce more complicated rhythms, more uses of major and minor scales, and more strategies for figuring out songs by ear. At the end of these lessons, you will be more than ready to start making your own arrangements, to play in a band or to accompany another musician.


Each advanced Bootcamp lesson introduces you to a specialized musical topic, while engaging and developing the skills you learned at the intermediate level. "The Dominant Seventh Chord" teaches you an essential aspect of classical harmony, building on your knowledge of chords and inversions; "Melodies" teaches you how to sing, play, and compose your own melodies to a chord progression; and "Sixteenth Notes and Rests" helps you read, write, and play the rhythmic patterns you'll find in the advanced arrangements, as well as in sheet music from outside the program. These lessons are ideal for aspiring songwriters, classical musicians, and anyone looking for a creative, exciting musical challenge.

Keyboard Skills

In this section of Bootcamp, you'll learn the patterns and techniques you need to navigate the piano. This is where David teaches you how to recognize and play essential keyboard patterns, ranging from octaves and scales to triad inversions and voicings. It's also the place to get advice on the physical skills unique to playing the piano: how to sit, how and when to move your hands, and how to stay comfortable and relaxed while practicing.


Reading music often seems intimidating to beginning musicians, but we make this process painless and fun by using examples from songs that you know and love. Playground Sessions has an easy-to-follow on-screen keyboard where you can match up what you and David are playing to the notation. Starting with a crash course of all the notes on the staff, continuing through accidentals and key signatures, this will teach you what you need to know to start reading any piece of music.

Ear Training

Playground devotes several Bootcamp lessons to learning how to play all parts of a song by ear. David, one of the world’s best musicians at playing by ear, takes you through how to separate the instruments in a recording with your ear, how to find the notes you hear on the piano, and how to hear chords and chord progressions.


In the Rhythm Bootcamp lessons, David walks you through counting and reading rhythmic notation including rhythmic symbols such as dots, ties, and triplets. All of our Rookie lessons and arrangements minimize the amount of rhythmic symbols you'll see, so you can get a hang of counting and playing in time.


Bootcamp is designed by musician and teacher Alex Ness, a music theory professor at New York University, working together with widely acclaimed pianist David Sides and with the consultation of composer, author and music theorist Professor Byron Adams of the University of California and with music legend Quincy Jones.