Monday, June 1, 2015

Review: PianoWithWillie

Last year my son started taking online piano lesson and it quickly became his favorite school subject.  As I watched him, I once again felt the remorse of giving up piano lessons as a kid.  Now thanks to JazzEdge I have a second chance with another of their online courses—PianoWithWillie.  You may notice from time to time I compare this course with the one my son took (Homeschool Piano).

I received a year long Studio membership to the site which allows me unlimited access to all the lessons currently available.  You may also choose a monthly or quarterly membership plan or purchase individual lessons for download. 

While Homeschool Piano addresses the complete novice, PianoWithWillie assumes you have some basic piano knowledge.  I began by going through the 30 Day Piano Success Playbook—this is a whirlwind refresher course on reading music, rhythm, scales and chords (if you’re truly a beginner, you might not master the names of the lines and spaces of the bass and treble staffs in a five minute lesson).  I also learned to play two original songs and one classic (My Romance by Richard Rodgers).  No need to keep track of which day you’re on~~the dashboard will show you which lessons are completed.

Then comes the advantage of the Studio membership.  I was able to browse through hundreds of lessons and choose what to study next.  The lesson library has a great filter to narrow down lessons by skill level, musical genre, key signature, time signature, etc. (see the picture below).  I’m humble enough to stick with beginner level, next I liked the jazz compositions I’d heard my son learning so I kept that genre (although most of the songs I’ve browsed through were NOT composed by instructor Willie Myette as had been the case in Homeschool Piano).  I ended up choosing to courses: Piano Hand Coordination(55 minutes divided into 7 lessons), Let It Snow~Playing From a Lead Sheet (54 minutes divided into 6 lessons), and Fur Elise for my classical piano roots (Note: the classical lessons are taught by a different teacher). If you were purchasing individual lessons, you’d have to by Part 1 (52 minutes/5 lessons) and Part 2 (29 minutes/4 lessons) to learn the complete composition.

For each lesson I downloaded the zip files that contain the sheet music and audios of the lessons.  Unlike Homeschool Piano, the lesson videos are not downloadable.  I’d watch the streaming of the lesson once and then use the audios to practice on the keyboard until I felt comfortable to move on.  I wasn’t the fastest learner on the block, but that’s my own fault.  With the keyboard downstairs in the basement, out of sight is out of mind.  I really needed to make practice a priority (unfortunately now that I’m the mom in the house, no one else is going to remind me that I need to practice).

The view for each lesson includes a small window with a side shot of the teacher, an overhead shot of his fingers on the keys and a virtual keyboard with highlighted keys and the key names above them.  He plays very slowly and repeats each section of the music over and over so there’s no feeling of being rushed through the lesson (for that matter you can just play the video over and over if you need it).

Playing with lead sheets was totally foreign to me. My lessons growing up involved learning to read music for both hands~~usually learning each hand by itself and then trying to meld them together (no wonder I also need the lessons on hand coordination). Of course once I understood the concept, I could play and lead music~~it may be with just the the root of the chord with my left hand, but I’m learning.

I already have several other Foundation and Fun’dational coursed saved in my lesson dashboard.  Having a piano teacher that’s available according to my schedule is really a wonderful thing.

JazzEdge Review

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