Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Review of PianoWithWillie

JazzEdge  Review
My family is no stranger to the amazing piano program that is HomeSchoolPiano. After all, we reviewed it last year! This year, piano teacher extraordinaire Willie Myette and JazzEdge bring us PianoWithWillie. This program is not for the beginning piano student. Instead, in over 3,000 lesson chapters, students are able to continue to develop their piano playing skills and to work in a particular style. They can even learn composition and improvisation. Each lesson is classified as Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, or Professional, so you don't run the risk of ending up in over your head by choosing a lesson for which you're not qualified. With the Studio Membership (the monthly membership we reviewed), you have access to all of the lessons and can do any lesson you want at any time, but if, like Therese, you are only an Intermediate player, it is probably an exercise in futility to attempt a Professional lesson!

At first blush, PianoWithWillie is slightly overwhelming. There is just so much there! Fortunately, all of the lessons are tagged with several categories. For instance, lessons are either "Fun'dational" (song, style, and concept) or "Foundational" (rhythm, technique, and reading). You can choose to work either path. You can create a "Piano Plan" by selecting lessons to add to a plan, or you can consult with PianoWithWillie, take an assessment, and have them direct you to the right Piano Plan for you. 

Basically, with this program, the sky is the limit. The key is to spend some time on the site familiarizing yourself with all of the options so that you know how you want to proceed. If all else fails, though, just dive in and being a lesson. The lessons look like this:

Each lesson gives you the title, the run time, and a description. Because the lessons are streaming only, you are given a price to download. Don't that throw you. If you have purchased a membership, you have access to all lessons. The price shown is just what you would pay to have the lesson stored permanently on your computer. All the tags for the lesson are also given. Finally, with the buttons to the right, you can either add the lesson to a Piano Plan, or add it to your favorites. 

When you are actually watching the lesson, it looks like this:

In the lower left-hand corner, your instructor talks to you and plays a keyboard. Right in front of you, you have two keyboard views. The instructor's hand is on the lower keyboard, while on the upper keyboard you see the note highlighted as it is played. You really have the best of all possible worlds!

In addition to the streaming lessons (which can be streamed on all devices, incidentally!), there are also downloads that accompany PianoWithWillie. The first thing you get is a 53 page "Piano Success Playbook" which is designed to launch you on the right path to, well, success with the program. If you opt in to the email updates, you will continue to get many downloads and extras emailed to you.

Therese (13) began by reading through the "Piano Success Playbook." She has had piano lessons for several years, so the information in the book was pretty much review, but I wanted her to begin at the beginning. After that, I let her just play around on the site and watch and do the lessons she wanted. She would set my iPad up on the piano and follow the lessons that way. It turns out that Therese is the kind of person who prefers in-person lessons. I met some resistance getting her to work with this program, which was SO FRUSTRATING because there is so much amazing material here to work with.  Because of my experience with Therese, I think that PianoWithWillie is an amazing option for people who don't have the advantage of having live piano lessons. PianoWithWillie really plays a necessary role in this regard. There is something on the site for everyone at every level. I especially love that you can learn improvisation. Being able to improvise is one reason my dad (who takes Therese to piano) wanted her to learn how to play in the first place. Learning that skill is invaluable. PianoWithWillie truly does act in place of a piano teacher and it allows you to move beyond the beginner level. 

Therese's piano teacher is moving in six weeks, so I am very grateful to know that PianoWithWillie is there for her, just as I am thrilled that my younger children are learning piano for the first time with HomeSchoolPiano. If you have a need for piano instruction in your home, I cannot recommend JazzEdge's offerings enough.
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