This post, Online Piano Lessons to Develop Skills, was made possible with the chance to review Studio Access to PianoWithWillie from JazzEdge as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew.
Last year our family was blessed with the opportunity to review HomeschoolPiano. This is a great resource for budding musicians and definitely worth a look. However, once you make it through that program you might be wondering where to go next. While you could just pick up piano books of music that interests you, they won’t provide tips and tricks for how to play each piece.
PianoWithWillie from JazzEdge is a platform for online piano lessons that does just that ~ take you through the process of learning particular songs for a variety of musical styles. Even though I took piano lessons from 5th through 11th grade and again for 3 1/2 years in college, I know that there are some styles that seem to elude me. While I can do a divide and conquer approach on my own, it is much easier and more enjoyable for me to see someone break it all down into bite sized pieces.
How the Online Piano Lessons at PianoWithWillie Work
The first 19 lessons from Piano Start™ repeat material covered in HomeschoolPiano. If they are easy for a student to complete, then PianoWithWillie is right where they need to be. However, if they are struggling or find it is something they understand, they might be better off working through HomeschoolPiano and revisiting PianoWithWillie at a later date.
Rather than starting at a single point and working your way through a full curriculum of material, PianoWithWillie allows the user to filter through all of the lessons available to find what will be the best fit. There’s no sense in someone just finishing a beginner piano class jumping into learning a piece meant for an advanced player. Also, if you do not like a particular style of music, you probably won’t continue the learning process. He separates Foundational (lessons for proper techniques) and Fun’dational (teaching songs, licks and ways to make something your own) lessons. Depending upon your comfort zone, you might spend more time doing Foundational lessons to further hone your playing technique before diving into the more fun pieces.
Sorting to find a lesson which meets your interest and ability is easy to do and might yield more options than you want to consider. Just keep adding filters to narrow it down a bit more.
These lessons are all delivered through online streaming, so a decent internet connection is needed. For each piece chosen to learn, there is a breakdown of video instruction which does the breaking down of the piece for easier learning. There are also music sheets to download and either print or view on a tablet for practicing what is taught in each lesson. The recorded lesson segments show both the digital piano Willie is playing and a keyboard which lights up the keys as they are pressed and shows the note’s name.
Our Experience with the Online Piano Lessons at PianoWithWillie
I have been alternating doing lessons with either my recent high school graduate or rising 7th grader sitting alongside. They have both spent time learning in Homeschool Piano and have the rudimentary skills needed for PianoWithWillie. My now 7th grader has the added benefit of having learned clarinet in a school band this past year and is quickly taking to playing some simpler tunes on the piano.
I really appreciated the content included in the Piano Start™ pdf file, especially when he talks about practice and not giving up. I have one perfectionist son who is quick to give up on a piece that challenges him rather than pushing through. He also makes sure that when going through that section you can skip ahead if things are all super easy for you.
There is truly a great variety of musical selections to learn using the Studio Pass for PianoWithWillie. Most of my formal piano instruction included classical pieces, but not popular music. I can create lesson plans for myself and the boys based on current abilities. Once created, you find them labeled as My Piano Plans under the Piano Success™ drop down menu. I can then pick the chosen lesson which brings me to a screen where you will view the lesson as well as download the necessary sheet music.
Each lesson may contain several chapters (those breakdowns of technique or particular chunks of a piece for showing fingering) which are selected above the imbedded video.
Most of the time, I would view the videos on my laptop and then move to the piano for practice using the printed sheets. However, I can see an advantage for viewing in the iPad browser so you can pause and test things out at the piano more easily. This is the preferred approach for my boys and I can see how seeing the notes highlighted and named while you find them on your own piano is beneficial for learning. My goal at the moment is for at least ONE of us to master playing Moondance by Van Morrison before the summer is out.
PianoWithWillie is a resource I would definitely recommend for a highly motivated independent learner who does not need a lot of feedback from an instructor. The cost is still quite reasonable compared to private lessons and are done in the comfort of your own home.
Do anyone in your house play the piano or wish they did?
What types of music are a favorite to play or something you wish you could play?
Don’t just take my word for how we found this to be. Visit the Drums and Piano with Willie Review post on the Schoolhouse Review Crew website to see what other homeschooling parents thought about this and other self-paced courses.