Celia is my "musical" child. All of her brothers love music as well, but more as listeners than players. Celia, however, has been taking violin lessons for four years now, and recently expressed an interest in learning how to properly play the piano. When we had the opportunity to expand her instrument repertoire with lessons with the Easy Piano Basics program from Willie Myette and JazzEdge, she was excited to learn how to do more than just pick at notes.
If you'll recall, we reviewed HomeSchoolPiano last year, and it made a huge impact for Jude. I really liked Willie's teaching style, and thought it would suit Celia as well. This program is a bit different, however. While HomeSchoolPiano is a more rounded program that includes rhythm and ear training alongside mechanics, Easy Piano Basics is almost pure playing technique, with only enough musical theory to support playing. It's a just over 30 lesson "crash course" in how to play the piano.
Depending on how quickly you go through the lessons, actually playing within a week is more than possible! All you need to use these lessons are an internet connection (any web-enabled device will work to stream the videos, or you can download them to save for later) and a piano or keyboard. Celia usually did three or four lessons at one time. Each video is less than 10 minutes and her usual lessons for violin are 20 or 30 minutes (depending on which teacher she is working with), so this length felt comfortable for her. She found that she preferred a larger chunk of learning at once with a group of things to practice for several days, rather than one short lesson each day. Celia is familiar with the mechanics of playing a piano, but had zero technique. She really was playing the piano - not just picking - two days in.
Here's where things got interesting for us. All of my kids have decreased muscle tone, and together have logged thousands of hours in the PT gym. One of the first things Willie focuses on is sitting properly at the piano, and using good posture. Celia discovered that her posture was terrible - she's so used to hunching over (especially to balance the backpack that holds her feeding tube gear). We finally had found a way to give Luke a "final exam" for his PE credit (most of his "logged hours" were in the PT gym/doing his home program). He now was charged with being Celia's "personal trainer."
Sitting at a backless piano and maintaining proper posture is hard, even if you aren't used to slouching to counterbalance a 5 pound backpack for hours on end. If you have a student who needs to "see" how one lesson affects another activity, learning an instrument definitely shows the need for a strong body, and is a good tie-in with physical education.
Back to the piano...
What I'm impressed with is how quickly Celia is making the connections between instruments. Obviously, she isn't playing the violin "two-handed," and after four years, she knows how to play scales on it. However, it was like a lightbulb went off when she realized she could play "skips" on the violin.
She's been practicing them "in real life," too. Her recital piece is Bach's Minuet No. 2. It's filled with scales and skips.
By now, Celia is playing real songs at the piano. I think this is incredibly motivating for her. I know that when she practices her violin, she gets incredibly frustrated by the "exercises." Yes, they are very important for building a foundation, but she's definitely more motivated to practice by playing an actual piece of music. Last year, she learned how to play "In the Sweet By and By" on her violin. Now, she can play it on the piano as well. It's a good piece for her to work on playing with two hands, because it goes back and forth between hands and fingers in addition to simpler passages of just scale work.
While the focus of the program is getting hands on the piano and playing, there still is ample music theory to explain what is going on. The program doesn't get bogged down in all the reasoning, but you learn enough to transfer the information, either to another instrument or to a more in-depth piano study if you choose to learn more than basics.
Most piano pieces are played in a chord format. This basic example of what chords and triads are, and practicing "common" ones helps prepare the student for playing several notes at one time in a repertoire piece.
Before you think, "Oh gosh, look at all the songs she's learned so quickly! Are we going to have to buy a ton of sheet music, too?" The answer is, "Well, no and yes." To use the Easy Piano Basics program itself, the answer is ,"No, you won't need anything extra." Included in the program is a downloadable 46-page PDF book, filled with all the sheet music you will need to learn the piano and to practice the exercises. The "yes" part is if your student wants to increase their repertoire and wants to put lessons to practical use. However, most of the "extra pieces" practice Celia has done has been with music we already have, so if you're learning piano as a second instrument, you likely already have enough supplemental sheet music. If you're new to learning any instrument, or don't have extra music, one or two pieces that are simple but something you want to learn will suffice - you don't need an entire music library.
Very rarely do I comment in my reviews about the price of a program, because "value" is in the eyes of the person holding the checkbook. However, I have to comment on this one. The price tag for this program is currently $59.95. There is no way you can get a private instructor to teach you so much for so little! Even bundling the lessons into half-hour increments as Celia did, from start to finish, you're looking at close to 10 lessons. You can't get quality lessons - that you take at your convenience and pace - for under $6 per hour! In addition, this is a purchase-and-it's-yours program. If it takes ten weeks for something to click (and for some people - like me! - coordinating eyes, brain, and fingers does not come naturally), it's no problem, because there's no "you've got to push through, we're running out of membership time and will have to pay again." Plus, because it is yours "forever," it can be used for multiple students, further increasing the value.
We are extremely happy with Willie Meyette's piano programs. Easy Piano Basics was perfect for Celia's needs, teaching her how to play the piano properly without an overabundance of repeating what she has learned in the past from her violin lessons. For more information about Easy Piano Basics, go to the program website or follow on social media outlets listed below. To read other reviews about Easy Piano Basics and other programs from JazzEdge, click the banner to read the Crew Reviews.
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