May 31, 2015

Easy Piano Basics~ Beginning Online Piano Lessons {Product Review}

I am a piano teacher. I am asked all the time if there is an online program out there I could recommend for parents desiring to get their children into piano--who don't have access to a LIVE teacher. My answer has always pretty much been--"no, I'm sorry I don't." I had a chance to review Easy Piano Basics from JazzEdge, and as I waited for it, I wondered if this online piano lesson program would be something that I could recommend to friends and family. I also wondered if it might help get Little Britches caught back up to where he was when we stopped his piano lessons two years ago.
Easy Piano Basics Product Review

Product Information

Easy Piano Basics from JazzEdge, is a gentle introduction to piano created by Willie Myette as a way to help students worldwide explore the world of piano--without having to find, or travel to a "real" piano teacher. Willie (a Berkley College of Music graduate)  wanted to create a program where you can listen to your teacher over and over as much as needed in order to review the lessons and have it broken down into simple lessons for the young and old to complete.
Easy Piano Basics is geared for ages 5+, but children younger than 7 will probably need to have their parent learn along with them. The program is available for a one-time fee of $59.95--and you get access to the lessons---unlimited! All the music you need, is available on the same site for downloading--at no extra cost. As long as you have a device with the internet that can play videos, you can use this program!
JazzEdge also offers DrumsWithWillie and PianoWithWillie (an later beginner/intermediate program)
We were given the Easy Piano Basics program to review.

How Did We Use This Product?

The day we got our email sign in, it was a simple log in and go. The page that pulls up after you log in, is the lessons. Each one clearly numbered and labelled. There is also a place on the right where you can download the sheet music--and each page of sheet music is clearly marked with the lesson that goes with it. It was definitely an "open and go" style!
To get started, I had Little Britches go to the piano and I put the laptop on the back of the piano for him to watch. At first he was moaning and groaning, but he got interested quickly by the video and started paying attention. Baby Britches wants to learn too, so they are both sharing a piano bench and listening to the lessons together. 
They took turns playing what was asked of them. They enjoyed doing it together. From this point on, I had Little Britches do one or two lessons every other day at first. He isn't completely new to the piano, though it has definitely been long enough for him to forget things. We soon got to doing one or two lessons a week to allow for practice time. 

How do you know what to practice? It's written on each lesson underneath the video.
You can see here, that on the lesson page (which this is), there is the video to play (with the option to download--and showing how long the video is), as well as easy to find buttons to take you to the lessons before or after. Under each lesson is the recommended practice routine--it is for AFTER the current lesson is completed.

For us, I simply looked over the practice routine, and then had him do it! We worked it in about 4 days a week. I never had to do more then tell him to practice and he went over and did it. 

Here is a video of him practicing his 5 finger scales:

At this point, we are getting ready to start lesson #14 this week and he is getting more confident with the notes and keys--it's starting to come back to him more quickly.

What Are Our Thoughts About This Product?

Little Britches:
"I like it. It's easy to see what I need to do with his piano right there where I can see his fingers and what notes he is playing. I like him teaching me better than mommy--except mommy has better songs to play. But I am almost ready to get my old book back out. I like the short lessons and he knows more than mommy. "

Bwahahahahaha.

Me:
As a piano teacher, I probably analyze it a bit more critically than others would, so remember that as you read these--especially the cons...

Pros:
*Online Lessons
*Plays on any device that can do videos w/Internet
*Short concise lessons with plenty of review and demonstration
*You can see his fingers play from an overhead camera position AND it lights and names the keys on his demonstration piano.
*It's easy to move to the next lesson
*Lessons are available for downloading if desired
*Practice suggestions are clearly listed under each lesson
*All sheet music is available for easy download to go with the lessons
*Sheet music is clearly labeled with each lesson
*Can review the lesson as many times as needed
*One-time purchase with lifetime access
*Knowledgeable and fun teacher
*Just need a computer/device, and a keyboard/piano

Cons:
*There is no way to tell whether or not you are truly doing it correctly
As a piano teacher, I need to be able to watch my students as they play. It allows me to offer them reminders, and I can stop them if I see something that needs corrected right away. This includes things like hand positioning, and if they are starting in the wrong place. An online pre-recorded teacher, cannot do this.

*You can't "ask" him a question right away
Sometimes, the students need answers right away...but with this program, you will have to contact them for assistance via phone, email, or forum and wait for an answer. Not necessarily the most convenient, but still it is handy.

*32 great lessons to complete, but...
There are just 32 short lessons in this program. At 3-11 minutes each, that only gives you a chance to scratch the surface of piano. This program is definitely an absolute beginner one. There is no full songs by the end--so you need to go into the next program to get into "real" music so to speak. 

*No Real Theory Lessons
I think an important part of piano lessons is learning the "why" of it. This is made up as theory lessons and some of the best way to apply the information you learn, is to not just play it, but put it onto paper and practice learning to identify whole steps, half steps, intervals, key signatures, etc. With this program you are introduced to it, and shown what it is, but I think the important step of practicing that in worksheet/workbook form is missing. It would be nice to have some little worksheets included with the downloads. I find my own students have greater comprehension when they do them WITH the lesson and music. I'm hoping that I would find this in the next level of lessons where actual books are included.

In summary, if you are looking for a high quality program to teach your child, or yourself piano lessons and you don't know ANYTHING, this is an excellent program to start with. It will teach you the absolute basics in 32 lessons. From these lessons, you will be able to jump into any other program--even if you want a LIVE teacher. The cons are more minor in the grand scheme of things and as I said--I'm more picky since I AM a piano teacher.

Would I Recommend This Program?

Yes! I get asked all the time from friends who DON'T live near me, "what can I use for piano lessons? No one teaches it here!". I can recommend this program. The cost is what I would charge for 4 lessons--so it's very reasonable AND unlike me or any other real teacher, this program allows you to watch it over and over--with unlimited usage! It is definitely BEGINNING--as in EARLY beginner. I would make say more geared for 1st grade and up. If your child is less than 7, you will probably need to take it WITH your child. An adult could easily work through this on their own.

Will we continue to use this program?
Yes! It gives me a chance to catch up Little Britches without me having to stay on top of it. I can hear his progress and as a teacher, pick out things I need to help him on or things he needs to re-watch and re-practice. I plan on letting Baby Britches continue watching it with him because he's almost ready to start for "real" too.

Want to Know More?

We reviewed Easy Piano Basics ($59.95) from JazzEdge and you've seen how we enjoyed it. But what about the next level PianoWithWillie or DrumsWithWillie? Why don't you head on over to see what my fellow crew members had to say!
JazzEdge Review
You can stay in touch with DrumsWithWillie or PianoWithWillie on these social media outlets:
DrumsWithWillie

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

PianoWithWillie

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PianoWithWillie
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PianoWithWillie
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I admit. I am happy to have found something to fill in the gap for Little Britches to be caught back up for piano. I love having someone else doing the review and to be able to just listen and be a PARENT instead of the primary teacher. I like the tutoring role. I plan on using these with Baby Britches for "official" lessons in a few months, but for now he's just enjoying the time with Little Britches.
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