Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Piano With Willie (Schoolhouse Review)

JazzEdge  Review
 
I was thrilled to have the opportunity this month to review PianoWithWillie, one of several music education programs offered by JazzEdge. Last year, we reviewed Homeschool Piano, a fabulous beginning piano program from JazzEdge.  While HomeSchoolPiano is perfect for the beginner of any age,  PianoWithWillie is geared more for the older learner or the intermediate to advanced student. Although Emily used it a little bit, I was the primary user this time.
 
What is PianoWithWillie like?
 
PianoWithWillie is a resource library of hundreds of online piano lessons. The video lessons are streamed over the internet, allowing the student to learn from anywhere with an internet connection. The format is compatible with phones and tablets as well as computers, making it very convenient. I was able to put my Kindle Fire on the piano for my lessons instead of having to carry my laptop to the piano or move back and forth between my desk and piano.
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At first glance, PianoWithWillie may seem overwhelming. It includes over 300 lessons, ranging from beginner to advanced levels. Some lessons teach specific songs; others focus on technique and theory. Each lesson includes multiple videos and sheet music for printing and will take at least several days to complete. You can learn to play a wide variety of pieces, from classical music by Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven to works by pop legends like Billy Joel and Michael Jackson. Do you prefer show tunes, hymns, or jazz? You’ll finds these genres as well.
 
A user of PianoWithWillie can look through the lessons and begin anywhere of interest, but there is a more methodical way to use the site as well.
 
The “Piano Start” section is the ideal place to begin. In this section, you will find videos that explain the program, 30 short piano lessons that teach basic concepts, and “piano foundation” lessons that expand upon the 30-day success playbook. It is suggested that if the student has difficulty with the first 18 lessons in the 30-day success playbook, starting with the HomeschoolPiano program might be helpful.
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Once this section has been completed (or even earlier if you want to see what’s ahead),  taking a quiz to assess your ability, goals, and preferred music styles will generate an individual “Piano Plan,” a set of lessons that include both foundational and “fundational,” concepts. I created one for myself  on Church and Worship Performance, then took the quiz again, changing some of my preferences to create a Jazz and Cocktail music plan. Each of these plans had 4 lessons: 2 that taught songs and 2 that taught theory. These lessons are tailored to the user’s abilities and interests. After working through plans for a while, I realized that I needed more grounding in chord basics, so I searched the lesson database for a lesson that would teach me chord theory and added it to my favorites.
 
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In the lesson videos, the student is able to see both the keyboard and the teacher at the same time. I found this very helpful. It would have been even better to see the sheet music as well, but I either kept the printed music next to the computer or put the PDF up on the screen at the same time. It really is necessary to look at the printed music while the teacher explains it.
 
My Experience with PianoWithWillie
 
I read music fairly well, but I have don’t know how to play by ear (beyond a melody line) or to add the proper chords to a piece of music. The only improvising I have done is through some lessons on HomeschoolPiano over the past year. Sadly, in my many years of piano lessons, I was taught very little theory, just how to play from sheet music. Already, in just a few weeks of practice with PianoWithWillie, I have learned so much! I know how to play major and minor triads in every key, including inversions. I am learning about dominant and diminished chords. I can now actually play from music with just a melody line and chord markings!
 
I’ve been practicing 4-5 days a week, including about 10 minutes of video time and 10 minutes of practicing—not a lot, but feel like I’m making strides forward with just that small time commitment.
 
The neat thing about the lessons is that they are useful for a variety of abilities. Most of the lessons I’ve used have parts that are very easy for me. Then, Willie will jump to concepts that are challenging or confusing. He encourages the student to learn what he can from each lesson, but not to worry about the challenging parts because they will be studied later.
 
Emily has taken a break from piano practice for much of the last year and needed a refresher course, so she has been working through the 30 day  success playbook. The early lessons are a good review for her, but I know the later lessons will be quite challenging. She’s looking forward to learning some Beatles songs soon!
 
I plan to keep working with this program and am happy to have the opportunity to improve my  piano playing skills on my own time schedule. I think it is ideal for the intermediate to advanced player who would like to branch out into new techniques and piano styles. There is truly a wealth of instruction here!

A Studio Membership to PianoWithWillie costs $49 a month or $399 a year—a bargain when compared to private music lessons! A Premier Membership is also available and includes perks like access to additional piano courses and monthly live instruction with Willie.

Connect with PianoWithWillie:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PianoWithWillie
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PianoWithWillie
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jazzedge
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/JazzEDge
Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/jazzedge

Other Crew members reviewed Easy Piano Basics, a piano course for beginners, or DrumsWithWillie, You can read more about those programs at the Crew blog.

JazzEdge Review

I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

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