The piano is one of the quintessential musical instruments. Piano variations for classical and popular music pieces abound, and the piano rendition of Great Balls of Fire is absolutely fantastic. More than a few keyboardists in popular bands began with study of the piano, as a matter of fact.
All of that being said, piano lessons aren’t necessarily available to everyone who is interested in playing this instrument. A beginner’s upright piano will cost several hundred dollars at least. The price can be mitigated by purchasing an inexpensive keyboard, which can be had for under $100, but the quality of beginner’s level products is variable at best.
These prices also don’t take into account the cost of a teacher, which can be a significant investment of time. Public schools are offering fewer arts programs such as music instruction each year, as funding for the arts dried up bit by bit.
This is where Piano for All takes the stage. Created by Robin Hall, Piano for All shows students how to learn piano online, with a clever combination of video and book instructions.
Piano Lessons for Beginners
Piano for All is definitely a lesson plan for the beginners. Many music teachers focus on teaching students to sight read from the beginning, going note by note and teaching the correspondence between musical notation and the keyboard. Hall’s plan turns this on its head.
Piano for All lessons start by teaching students to play whole chords, then quickly incorporate rhythms and combinations of chords in order to allow students to play portions of popular songs. In effect, students learn to play by ear first, so they can hear themselves playing music they recognize and enjoy. Musical notation and sight reading are introduced gradually alongside these lessons, instead of coming in up front.
The lessons begin with very simple rhythms that are easy for the student to approach. The complexity is increased lesson by lesson, allowing for a natural degree of progression in the student’s abilities. Shortcuts and memory tricks are included as well, teaching students unique ways to remember their lessons and return to them.
Piano for All is sold as a lesson plan containing 10 eBooks, which include video and audio demonstrations, as well as practice exercises for the student. The file is almost 500MB, though the website does offer the option to download the books individually so that students can begin their lessons while other books are downloading.
Hall wasn’t content simply to include the lessons by themselves, however. The final course book contains a wealth of additional details that can help a student along in their studies. For example, instructions on selecting a MIDI keyboard and setting it up with the student’s PC are provided. This might seem an odd detail, as such keyboards would almost certainly have such instructions available. However, consider how many instruments are acquired secondhand. This “assume nothing” approach offers assistance to students who might have acquired a MIDI keyboard from a friend or family member, and shows a degree of attention to the student’s needs that other courses rarely duplicate. Also included are assorted book reviews, and an additional song list students can use their newfound skills to play and enjoy.
In looking at the books for this course, it’s easy to see they were put together specifically with a multimedia approach. Instead of pure reading or pure visuals, each book is thoroughly hyperlinked. When the book mentions a training video, students click the link and the video pops up. This speaks to an understanding of design that is rare among teachers even in the Information Age. A key design principle is that the more clicks it takes to get to something, the less likely anyone is to keep going until they reach it. This one-click, start playing approach minimizes the effort students have to go through in order to get through their lessons, and it’s easy to see.
The books are intended to be approached in order, and have a broad range of subjects to work from.
The titles listed in the current course are:
- Book 1 – Party Time – Rhythm Piano
- Book 2 – Blues and Rock n Roll
- Book 3 – Chord Magic
- Book 4 – Advanced Chords Made Easy
- Book 5 – Ballad Style
- Book 6 – Jazz Piano Made Easy
- Book 7 – Advanced Blues and Fake Stride
- Book 8 – Taming the Classics
- Book 9 – Speed Learning
- Book 10 – Bumper Resource Book
- Bonus Book – Increase Your Creative Ability 400%
Once again, the subject selection of the books shows an understanding of the way people want to learn. Technical subjects such as chords alternate with styles and genres, allowing students to translate their skills into actual styles and musical compositions.
The bonus book is rather interesting, as it isn’t specifically about piano at all. Instead it covers subjects such as eliminating stress and channeling creative energies. Hall understands that the reason many people want to play piano is that they have a creative impulse and may wish to write their own music. This book encourages their creativity and shows them ways to get into the creative mindset, acknowledging that music is about much more than simply playing notes others have written. It’s a very nice touch, and the book is illustrated with cartoons and images created by Hall himself.
One point that many reviews mention, and I agree with, is the relatively poor video quality. Each video is clear enough to understand, and will show you how to play piano. The effort to get the videos to a reasonably downloadable size have made the videos very grainy, and the videos all seem off center, however. It isn’t going to make the lessons impossible, but it will take some getting used to.
Another concern is that students will need to get a MIDI keyboard compatible with their computer. Granted, investment in equipment is expected from anyone who intends to learn music. It would simply be better if a recommended or easily accessed option to purchase an entry level MIDI board were made clear.
With that being said, the course is only $40 in the end. Few online piano courses, indeed few such lessons anywhere, are available for such a low entry point. The savings on teaching can be put toward acquiring a keyboard fairly easily.
Does Piano for All Work?
With due consideration, I think that Piano for All is a worthwhile choice. Hall clearly has a dedication to teaching in a useful, easily understood way. The course has been made both accessible and affordable, using a multimedia piano online combination. Students who can’t afford regular lessons, or students who find themselves distant from face to face teachers but have broadband access, will find this resource extremely useful. In addition, Hall offers direct customer support via his own email address, and offers a 60 day money back guarantee.
It is the guarantee that really makes the jaw drop, though it’s easy to miss at first. Hall not only offers 60 days and a refund, he states that students can keep their lessons. No promise to delete the product is requested, no licensing setup will terminate access to the material if you request a refund. I can’t readily recall such a generous guarantee on many products, and it’s a pleasure to see someone who believes so strongly in their work.
In short, new students should give Piano for All a try. It has a unique approach, creative charm, and is quite risk-free.