Unless you happen to have some Mozart in your makeup, learning to play the piano takes effort. Even trying to do it using classical learning methods doesn’t always make the job easier. That’s because not everyone learns the same way or has the same aptitude for music. A lot of the traditional learning methods were also devised for people who wanted to play classical compositions with faithful precision, whereas people now have different aims, like banging out an adapted rock ‘n’ roll tune when the mood takes them.
Fortunately, there are different learning methods being offered these days besides the traditional ones. We’re going to be talking about one of the better examples in particular here: the Piano For All learning technique by Robin Hall, an experienced piano player and instructor.
What Is It?
Piano For All is a multimedia eBook course advertised as “the ingenious new way to learn piano and keyboard”. The course commences with rhythm-style lessons that instruct the student in the piano-playing styles of Lennon, McCartney, Lionel Richie and Elton John. It then progresses into courses on ballads, blues, jazz, ragtime, improvisation and even composition later on.
There are 9 books in all, with video and audio media. A total of 600 pages make up the course, along with 200 video lessons for audiovisual instruction, and 500 audio lessons. Hall offers this course with a 60-day money-back guarantee for dissatisfied customers at a great price, too. The following are the 9 eBooks’ titles:
- Party Time: Play By Ear – Rhythm Piano
- Blues & rock ‘n’ Roll
- Chord Magic
- Advanced Chords Made Easy
- Ballad Style
- Jazz Piano Made Easy
- Advanced Blues & Fake Stride
- Taming the Classics
- Speed Learning
The eBooks can be downloaded or purchased and delivered in DVD form. All media is integrated into the eBooks, so clicking on an audio file in an eBook will play that file directly — there is no need to open separate computer programs for the eBook and media files. Lessons can contain diagrams,
exercises, memory tricks, and more. The eBooks are also compatible with PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices.
What Makes It Different?
The description above should already indicate the clearest divergence of Hall’s teaching method from the usual styles. With most of the other techniques, you get started with public domain, simple songs like ‘Chopsticks’ or even ‘Jingle Bells’. Hall starts students off by breaking down popular tunes from contemporary singers instead.
His obvious purpose is two-fold. First, using pop songs is more likely to catch the student’s interest. Secondly, it gives the student quite a bit more cachet in his piano-playing when one of the first things he can play for an audience is more complex than “Chopsticks”. Students can potentially feel greater achievement per concluded lesson as a result of that, which gives them the confidence and renewed interest they need to continue.
The curious thing about Hall’s nine-book course is that it manages to eschew so much of the traditional learning method without beggaring the learner. Students still get a fine foundation in piano playing despite its unconventional progression — they just happen to learn it in a different way from the usual.
The first 4 books in the course establish the base on which the rest build further stylistic refinement, and they do it in highly-accessible fashion, using pop songs and jazz tunes that most people not only recognize but love. Furthermore, the books deconstruct piano-playing and music in an adaptive, strongly visual and pattern-based manner.
Where traditional teachers show you how to do notation first on paper and then on the keys, Hall goes about it instead by showing diagrams and audio-visual exercises. The actual written notation is shown last. It’s like learning a language by using it from the get-go, as a sort of learning exercise, as opposed to studying its form through a textbook or grammar class first.
This won’t work for everyone, of course, but as anyone who’s learned a language by simply immersing himself in it and trying it knows, it works for a lot of people. Casual learners in particular will enjoy this method, as it requires less conscious memorization of them than practically-learned familiarization. In fact, Hall’s course is best described as an informal method of learning the piano.
That doesn’t mean it’s an ineffective method, mind. It says something that the eighth book in the series actually focuses on playing some of the most popular classics, for example. It won’t teach you how to play Lizst well. Unless you have inborn and nurtured talent, nothing in the world can teach you that. But it can show you how to work your way up enough classics to at least give Lizst’s stuff a go as you get better.
So does Hall’s technique work? As already noted at the start of this review, it really depends on the person’s learning style and aptitude. In the main, though, it does seem to produce pretty good results.
Most of the people trying it find themselves well satisfied with their progression when using it, not least because each part of the course actually delivers performance-quality songs to the student.
‘Chopsticks’ is all well and good, but most people want to be able to impress their friends with something from Lennon as soon as possible. Hall’s method lets most people do that. It’s a great reason for trying to learn piano: you can have something to brag about quickly, without going through years of study.
There are hardly any other teaching techniques that let you do this. In fact, off the top of my head, I can’t think of another one — and I’ve gone through a decent number, since the piano’s been one of the things I’ve wanted most to learn.
Hall’s technique in Piano For All lets you get farther faster than most others, and it stays enjoyable in the doing of it. That’s as good an argument as any to give it a try if you’re frustrated with the traditional techniques, as is the 60-day money-back guarantee.