Simply Music is an online program designed to teach students of all ages to play the piano by ear or sight (not reading printed music). We have access to their (free) program Music & Creativity – Foundation Course. Music & Creativity immerses students in the actual process of creating music while learning. It is a hands-on program that has the student playing from the first lesson.
Miss L, age 13 and with several years of violin in her background, used this program. She has been teaching herself to play the piano by ear for a while now using a 49 key electric keyboard. We had hoped this program would be a good fit for her, teaching her to apply her current musical knowledge to the piano/keyboard.
The online piano program was developed to get the student playing right away. The video instruction features Neil Moore at a piano with a camera angle that shows what his hands and fingers are doing at the keys. This makes it easy for the student to hear and see what he is doing and imitate what he does. He gives instruction with words, drawings to show shape of musical movement, and showing his hands and the keys.
Simply Music is successful in getting the student playing right away. The first lesson is a song composed by the instructor. This simple tune is one that Miss L could do after hearing it once. We then used the provided accompaniment (instruments and vocals for you to choose from) to play along with. For some, this will raise the level of enjoyment – getting to play as the soloist with a professional backup group.
These online music lessons cover a variety of ideas, topics, and styles of music. From simple songs to blues, from gospel to some simple classical excerpts. The discussion is helpful and will slowly move the student forward. Using diagrams, chords, and by showing on the keyboard, the student learns the language of music and begins simple playing examples.
The video lessons run between about 2 1/2 and 16 minutes long. These take the student through various key combinations and songs. There are ideas and concepts covered, also. While many concepts are covered with great explanations, the instructor does not give the formal terms to go along with the learning. For example, when he covers chords, he doesn’t use the quality of the chord, only the name – A chord, B chord. It would be so simple to add that in (major, minor, diminished) and to call it a triad, also.
As you watch the video (you’ll need to register for the free course and have internet access), you will play along on your own keyboard. Once you have played it, have practiced as much as you want, and have used the reference materials (printed and/or audio files of the song and accompaniment), you mark the lesson complete at the bottom of the page and move to the next lesson. You can even move on without marking the lesson complete.
Completing a lesson can take as long as you need it to. If you are loving it and practice all the time, you can move through the lessons very quickly. If you are in the middle yet have a lot going on (as in summertime!), you can work on it steadily and move through a lesson or two a week. Or, you can take several weeks to get your fingers solidly doing what they need to and move on slowly. It is totally up to you.
This program was both exactly what we expected and totally different than we expected. Mr. Moore has a wonderful way of describing music in such a way that you know exactly what he is trying to get across. He truly knows music and how to share it in such a way that the student can understand. He plays music well and his love of music comes through clearly.
That being said, we knew it was likely to be difficult for Miss L to use this program since she has some background in music learning, ear training, and music reading. What she found difficult with the program was actually the style of music. The songs are created to teach a specific idea or hand movement. They are exercises, even though the exercises have an orchestration and/or vocals. It is not a style of music that people will intentionally listen to over and over or use to show off piano skills.
I also felt like the program was missing many opportunities for instruction early on. It would not have been hard to add the formal music terms in at several places. Since I believe music training should prepare people for a lifetime of loving music, the knowledge gained at any given point should be transferable to other styles and performances of music. This transferability seems to be lacking in this program – the knowledge is not transferable to be able to create and perform other music.
Miss L’s Thoughts:
The instructor was very entertaining. Many of his concepts and musical terms were a little below my knowledge, though I have not played piano before. I understand that this program was designed to be used by younger students. I felt like the part I have covered was pretty easy. Where I started at and where I got to was extremely easy. This is definitely not my style of learning.
I think this is a good program and an excellent fit for beginners. Mr. Moore makes music accessible for everyone. He is clear, repeating himself as necessary to really make sure the student understands. He provides hands-on learning that will appeal to many. It is a program that can be tried out for free. So why not give it a try?
Lori, At Home.
Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read about what other families thought about the Simply Music Music & Creativity – Foundation Course. Click on the image below.