Monday, June 1, 2015

PianoWithWillie {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Last summer I shared a video clip of Addison playing a piano piece that she learned in the first lessons of the HomeSchoolPiano course from JazzEdge. Recently I decided to try piano playing myself with lessons from PianoWithWillie, another division of JazzEdge. I have a Studio Access membership for an entire year, which means I have unlimited access to stream the video instruction for more than 3,500 lesson chapters.

PianoWithWillie teaches piano skills using online video instruction. I sometimes watched the videos on my regular computer, but most often used an iPad to stream the videos while I sat at the piano. The sheet music was available to download and print.

I remember some of my music knowledge from High School band years ago, but I really don't have any piano experience. I started with the Piano Success Playbook which is a thirty day introduction to piano.

The first thing I noticed about these piano lessons is that they are fun. Willie Myette has a teaching style that's just plain fun. Not only that, he starts with fun lessons. Lauren walked in after my first few lessons and declared, "You're not supposed to be doing sharps yet." Since there was a music nerd (Addison) standing nearby, I argued that I was playing a flat, not a sharp, and that it was perfectly acceptable for my first week of playing.

Because I was playing what sounded like real music, I didn't feel like I was just plinking away at a beginning piano book. I found myself sitting down at the piano for a few minutes here and a few minutes there just to play a bit.

The real heart of the PianoWithWillie program isn't the thirty days of beginning lessons, though. In fact, I cheated a bit and skipped over the last bit of the beginning program so that I could move on and explore the real lessons.

I found lots of options in the Studio Lesson Library -- music of all different genres, fun lessons, foundational (skills and theory) lessons, etc. They were all clearly labeled according to difficulty so I could find something suitable.

Perhaps I overestimated my beginner piano ability. I found a beginner lesson teaching Beethoven's "Fur Elise" and started the video. It seemed very doable when I watched the instruction,  but it is taking me a while to get coordinated enough to play the first four measures. Eventually my husband explained that I had picked a piece that was a bit difficult for someone who had only been playing piano for a few weeks. I have since found a beginner lesson titled "Core Piano" which seems more appropriate for my skill level. There are thirty chapters of short videos (158 total minutes of instruction) in that lesson, and I'm hopeful that I'll be more prepared to learn "Fur Elise" after I finish them.

Incidentally, my husband was listening in one evening while I was learning to do a bit of improvisation. He played piano for years, was an All-State trombone player in high school, and even played a bit of jazz band years ago. He said that this program explained improvisation more clearly than he had ever heard explained before it.

Since I'm a beginning piano player, I've only scratched the surface of what PianoWithWillie has to offer. With more than three hundred lessons and thousands of video chapters, there are lessons suitable for players of all abilities. Someday I'd love to be good enough to do one of the 80s rock lessons -- either Billy Joel's "Piano Man" or Journey's "Don't Stop Believing."

Studio Access membership to PianoWithWillie costs $49 per month or $399 per year. I would recommend it for adults or older students with some musical experience. If you have a younger child interested in learning to play piano, you might also want to look into other JazzEdge options, including Easy Piano Basics or HomeSchoolPiano.

JazzEdge Review

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