As many of you know, I really like to offer my readers the chance to win a prize. So the post today explores an alternative method of learning the piano with the added bonus of an opportunity to ‘win’ a complete download of this interesting online piano course. Online piano methods are becoming increasingly popular and are very cost-effective; they provide those whose funds are insufficient to afford regular lessons, the chance to learn to play. This particular method was written by American music educator, Joseph Hoffman, and the first sixty lessons are available from his website for $45 (lessons can also be purchased in various ‘packs’ and bundles).
Hoffmann is a piano teacher, conductor, and composer. He wrote the ‘Hoffman Method’ after struggling to find suitable, stimulating teaching material whilst coaching young players. He has since opened the Hoffman Academy of Music in Portland, Oregon, which now serves over 250 students with a faculty of eleven teachers. Hoffman regularly adjudicates piano festivals and events, and provides training to other piano teachers in the Portland area specifically on the Hoffman Method.
I’m rather sceptical when it comes to learning the piano ‘online’; I believe it is possible to learn something, but, after a certain level, a ‘real’ teacher becomes indispensable. However, I downloaded the Hoffman Method and took closer look.
The course consists of a variety of separate files or downloads. Some for parents, providing information and a guide as to how to help children work through the method (very necessary; it’s virtually impossible for small children to learn unaided, they really do need constant help and encouragement). There are many ‘tracks’ included; some for listening purposes and others which serve as ‘backing’ or ‘play along’ tracks. These are also a good idea; playing along to tracks is an excellent way to establish the rhythmic pulse.
A total of sixty lessons comprise this particular complete download, and it’s easy to imagine beginners tackling one or two per week. Most lessons consist of four A4 pages and are beautifully set out. There are plenty of diagrams, illustrations and ‘fun’, engaging extra activities all encouraging various aspects of piano learning. Hoffman spends much time and effort explaining all the basics courtesy of a Musical Alphabet Snake, and Solfa is used effectively helping learners pitch and sing. Indeed there are many listening tests and exercises which are all extremely useful.
As the lessons progress, so more notes are added to the stave and more complicated rhythms are negotiated. All musical fundamentals are fully explained. Whilst both left and right hand notes are assimilated, it seems that the Treble Clef (music for the right hand) tended to predominate for some time. I firmly believe that both hands (Treble and Bass Clef) must be taught concurrently, otherwise progress is somewhat limited. However, fingerings and chords are carefully examined and by lesson sixty, the pupil should ideally be able to play little pieces of around Grade 1 or 2 (ABRSM) standard.
The best way to test any online method or course is by working through it. So is there anyone out there who would be willing to have a go? All you need to do is leave a comment in the comment box at the bottom of this post. I will select the winner next Tuesday (28th January 2014). Remember, in order to make significant progress, an instrument is necessary!
Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.
For more information, please visit the publications page, here.