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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Easy Piano Basics - Review

We are getting some help with our musical skills around these parts.  We got a chance to try on-line piano lessons again with a program called Easy Piano Basics which is the beginner piano program from JazzEdge.

JazzEdge has lots of musical helping programs.  There are more advanced piano lesson options like Piano With Willie  and even Drums with Willie.  In case you haven't figured it out, Willie is the teacher in this series.  His name is Willie Myette and his approach is unique...probably because his own background and how he learned to play music wasn't the traditional approach.  He is able to explain things in a way that we all seemed to be able to understand.

We have tried out some of Willie Myette's programs before and liked them.  So, when we had the chance to try this one, I jumped at it for my younger kids.  The lessons are done in a streamed video that work with your computer or other electronic device.  Like a tablet (problem I will tell you about shortly) or smartphone (don't have one). For this to really work, you will - obviously - need access to a piano or a keyboard. 

This was originally intended to be for V-girl, S-girl and A-man to try, but guess who the student actually ended up being this time around?  Me.

One of the other cool things about East Piano Basics is that it is truly an easy piano course that can be used by kids, regardless of their age, but is also intended to be used for adults....even adults like me that have some musical training under their belts already but, like my friend, Wanda, recently said, "Have let it get away from them."

That was me.  I took lessons for 8 years as a kid/teen.  When I moved out and got my own place, one of my goals was to buy myself a piano.  I did.  I have hauled that heavy thing around apartment to apartment and house to house and have ignored it a little more each and every move me have made.  Which makes Rainman question me every single time about whether it is wise to continue to grunt and groan and keep our fingers crossed that it will survive for every move.  (I could ask him the same thing for all his vinyl record albums that we haul from place to place too!)

I have stubbornly dug my heels in and refused to sell it.  Even though I don't play like I used to - which is annoying and depressing at the same time.  My kids plunk it as they walk be, but, it has really become mostly a piece of furniture in my living room for stuff to get stacked on (sometimes as display....sometimes as a spot to place a empty popsicle stick or empty cup)

Recently A-girl (who has taken lessons in the past) has taught herself some songs on her keyboard.  Which gives me hope that if I give them some of the basic training and knowledge, they will come back to music when they are ready/interested.

So, back to Easy Piano Basics and my original intentions versus reality.

I had intended for my littles to go through this program.  It  is designed for any age beginner player, but was suggested that for students under age 7 that an adult sit alongside them to make sure they were understanding what was being said/taught.

Here is where part of my problem came in with my intent.  Our little Nexus tablet thingie just mysteriously stopped working this winter.  One morning it decided it was not going to turn on even though it was charged.  That is how I used to have them do their lessons....they could sit at the piano with the Nexus up on top.  Watch the lesson and then do the lesson at the same time.

Without my tablet as an option, their only choice was my laptop.  I have been working more lately, so it wasn't free when they were it didn't fit as well at the piano.

So, they took the lessons, but it was sporadic (and it was my fault).  We are given this great opportunity to review items and we get to use them for free.  I was feeling bad about not using this blessing.  So, one day, I logged on to take a look around and just stuck around.

Here is what I loved about Easy Piano Basics from an adult point of view.

They are quick lessons.

They are to the point.

No music theory.

They are labeled clearly with what you are going to be learning.

You could pause the lessons and restart them without issue.  (I do not know what I did before the pause button existed in life with 6 children!)

There is an overhead camera so you can completely mirror what he is doing...and get it right. (It is sort of a split screen.  In the bottom left corner is a "normal" view of him sitting at the piano talking to you.  But, most of the screen is dedicated to the overhead keyboard shots so you can see what his hands are doing as he plays.)

He has an engaging style and uses references and examples that are easily understood.

I tell you, this is a fantastic way for you to really truly just get the basics down.  What the notes are.  Where they are on the keyboard.  What they look like on a piece of music.  How to count in music.  How to hold your hand while playing the piano.

The real basics that it takes before you start

Willie frequently pulls out 8x11 pieces of paper that have staff and notes on them while he is giving a lesson.  Since the lessons are shot with mostly an overhead camera, he just lays them on the keyboard and explains  what you are looking at right there at the keyboard.  He sometimes makes notes and draw little arrows as he is talking and teaching, so you know what he is talking about.  The beauty of this is that with Easy Piano Basics, you have access to PDF files of the sheet music that he uses in all of his lessons, so you can print off just exactly what you were looking at.  The other part of the beauty of this is that it is all large print, so if you happen to be a beginner that now uses bifocals (sigh) you won't have trouble seeing anything. Emoji

I really liked that each lesson is clearly labeled in Easy Piano Basics.  For me, as someone who has played before, there were lessons that I could skip or skim because I still remember those things.  But, other things I knew I was rusty on, so I could search out those lessons and get my refresher course - without having to slog through hours of boring basic stuff I didn't need.  I did more than one lesson each time I sat down and it was still manageable for me.  But, a true beginner could also do one or more lessons in a sitting and still get in their practice time.  (Obviously, practice makes progress, so you are ideally supposed to practice 4-5 days a week for 15-30 minutes.)

I also completely loved the fact that when you opened each lesson there was a little box that told you how long that lesson lasted and what you were expected to spend your time practicing....and how long he wanted you to practice.  

Easy Piano  Basics has a total of 32 lessons.  For me, I was able to whip through them quickly.  But, even for a true beginner, this is a great, easy and totally doable way to learn what those white and black keys are.

I really love Willie and his approach to teaching piano.  I re-learned things I had forgotten and in a few cases had "light bulb" moments where I figured something out that I had never connected before (like how the F clef dots around the F line on the staff).

If you have a piano beginner at your house, try out Easy Piano Basics.  If you used to play piano like me, but have "let it get away from you", try Easy Piano Basics to get you back up to speed....or move on with additional, more advanced lessons with Piano With Willie.   He even actually teaches drums too (I so badly wanted to play drums back in the day - but now, as a parent, I completely understand why my parents turned down that dream!)

This is a one time payment only program for Easy Piano Basics.  That means you download all the material and you have it forever....and can use it with multiple children.  (I will figure out a way we can make this happen with my littles!)  The cost is just $59.95 

I didn't even touch on of the best parts of Easy Piano don't have to drive anywhere!

Other TOS Reviewers got to try out the more advanced Piano with Willie and the Drums with Willie.  So, if you were interested in those too, go check them out here!

I am also trying to get on board with other fancy-schmancy social media, here are some different ways you can connect with JazzEdge and their programs.