Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Using a Play-Based Approach to Learn to Play the Piano with Simply Music {A Homeschool Review Crew Review}

Though both my husband and I feel music is important for the children to study, this subject is one that we have sort of neglected this school year. It has been very hard to fit it into our busy schedule. However, when we learned about the Music & Creativity - Foundation Course from Simply Music several weeks ago, I figured we could fit it into our more relaxed summer schedule. And here is some really cool information, this foundational level is completely free, no strings attached, so you can go and sign up right now. But, don't rush off yet! I would love for you to read a bit more about it and what we thought of it. Then you can head on over and sign up.

So, what exactly is this online piano course all about? 

Neil Moore is the founder of this play-based approach of learning to play the piano. He has been developing this program for the past 27 years, and it has gone on to become multi-national, spanning 100 countries. Mr. Moore himself is originally from Australia (and can I just say, we love listening to his accent as he teaches the video-based lessons). According to Mr. Moore, their claim is that "children, teens, adults and seniors will be playing great-sounding blues, classical, contemporary and accompaniment pieces - immediately - from their very earliest lessons." Students are able to do this through this method as it immerses them in the music from the very beginning. I have to say, I've heard of immersion when it comes to foreign language programs, but this is the first time I had heard it used for music training.

Now, you may be asking how students are immersed into the music right away. Well, prior to Lesson #1, there is a Quick Start lesson where the student is invited to join in with some improvisation on the song "Eliza." You can try this if you wish or just skip ahead by clicking the button at the bottom of the lesson to mark it complete. Then, after viewing some introductory, informational lessons, the student is again immersed into a new song with Lesson #3: Dreams Come True. After watching the online video lessons of Mr. Moore teaching the two different "sentences," the student is encouraged to play first the right, then the left hand parts before playing both hands together and learning the "Tail Piece" to end the song. The student plays along with Mr. Moore alone, and then with the instrumental accompaniment, finally playing with the full song performed with a vocalist. In all there are six sections to this lesson.

Students are encouraged to work at their own pace, not moving ahead until they are ready. They are supposed to remind themselves out loud what they are supposed to be doing with their fingers.They are also told to feel the rhythm of the music and to see the patterns that are played with the diagrams he teaches with. For example, he draws the following a step at a time on his iPad:

I realize this might look confusing. I know it was to us when we first saw it. We were like, how is this music? In order to understand the diagrams in the downloadable Reference Book, you have to actually watch the videos and listen to how he is explaining the way your fingers will be moving in the song. 

Let me try to explain. 

In the above picture, there is a 3 over an arrow pointing left. We had already been taught where to place our fingers and how to play fingers 5, 4, 3, and 2 (pinky, ring, middle, and index). In order to actually play the song, we were instructed to play first the third finger and then play those fingers going down the keyboard. He called that "Sentence One." Next we were taught to play four fingers going up, 1, 2, 3, and 4 (thumb, index, middle, and ring) before ending with the second finger. This is illustrated by the arrow pointing right with the number 2 under it. This is called "Sentence Two."

Then we were taught the fingers that needed to play on the left hand. Finally he brought it all together. The bottom two lines (1, 1, 2, 2 and 1, 1, 2, dot with curved arrows) tell us to play sentence 1 twice, sentence 2 twice, sentence 1 two more times, then sentence 2 before finishing with the one note below and one note above where our fingers are at the end.

And this is what it looks like all brought together.

So far, Tabitha, daddy, and I are the only ones who have successfully played the song with Mr. Moore playing it:

The other children are at various stages of getting their fingers to work together to play the different sentences.

That said, even Tabitha and I are struggling with playing along with the instrumental version with the vocalist included, as she sings some parts using a different rhythm or tune than what Mr. Moore does.

Now, you might notice in all this I didn't mention anything about learning to read music. For some, this can be quite beneficial, as they can feel the music and just play along. For others, this could be a detriment. Honestly, my husband and I are quite concerned about the fact that students aren't taught to read music. Yes, it is wonderful to be able to play these songs. We understand that the whole concept of the program is based on creating a long-term relationship with music. But, we don't understand how a student can advance without the basic knowledge of the notes and correct musical terminology. I told my husband it reminds me of learning to read using the sight word method (which I have quite a few issues with) because a student is able to read or play what they are taught, but they can't advance without the basic knowledge of phonics or, as in the case of this Simply Music course, notes.

Our other concern is that sometimes Mr. Moore's instructions are a bit confusing, especially at first. I know Amelia was quite frustrated trying to follow along with the instructions. However, I admit, she has gotten past that initial frustration and is progressing through the first song.

Don't get me wrong, I think it is great that people can start playing songs right away with this method. And maybe that is what some people need, especially if they are struggling with reading music. I would love to see further into the program to see how Mr. Moore handles the teaching of reading music, as he has stated that it is "in the early stages of learning with Simply Music [that] music-reading is delayed." Unfortunately, the only way to see future lessons is to complete the lessons before them and mark them as complete. Anyhow,  I have every intention of having our family make our way through the program. After completing the Foundation course, I will see if we will want to invest in the Foundation Enhancement, which costs $35. There are also Development and Special Courses (Accompaniment, Composition & Improvisation, Arrangements, plus Blues & Improvisation) which are listed as "coming soon." I'm curious to see what those will entail.

So, if you would appreciate being able to play the piano from the very start, if you have struggled with reading music, if you would just like to see what this program is all about, you may be wondering what you will need and what is provided. Well, obviously the most important thing is to have a piano or a keyboard with at least 48 keys. You will also need a computer or device with internet access. You will definitely want a good connection with a good speed so you don't have to wait for the videos to buffer while you are trying to follow along. You will also want a printer if you plan to print out the material in the Reference Guide, plus there is a Practice Pad you can print out and tape together for you and/or your student to practice their fingering on while listening to the soundtracks.

The Foundation Course contains 20 lessons. These lessons are of various lengths. Some are merely informational, others teach the different songs (some of which are written by Mr. Moore).

Here is the list of lessons available:
  • Quickstart
  • Lesson 1: The Basics
  • Lesson 2: Learning Strategy - Learn Slowly, Small Doses & Control the Events
  • Lesson 3: "Dreams Come True"
  • Lesson 4: "Improvising "Eliza"
  • Lesson 5: Learning Strategy - What to Play/How to Play
  • Lesson 6: "Christowel"
  • Lesson 7: Learning Strategy - Using the Pedal
  • Lesson 8: "Black is Blue"
  • Lesson 9: Accompaniment - "Dreams Come True"
  • Lesson 10: "Night Storm"
  • Lesson 11: "Deep Valley" & "Dark Valley"
  • Lesson 12: "For Augus"
  • Lesson 13: "Ode to Joy"
  • Lesson 14: Accompaniment - "Amazing Grace"
  • Lesson 15: "Jackson Blues"
  • Lesson 16: Accompaniment - "Happy Birthday"
  • Lesson 17: "Hunter's Blues"
  • Lesson 18: Accompaniment - "Honey Dew"
  • Lesson 19: "Blue Jay"
Each lesson gives you access to the video lessons, soundtracks and reference materials you will need for that lesson, but you also have access to all the material from the beginning so you can download it to your computer. You will have access to the PDFs of the Practice Pad, Reference Book, and a book written by Neil Moore titled, Music and the Art of Long-Term Relationships. There is also a Facebook Group for support.

Additionally, Mr. Moore has provided a list of materials needed for the "optimal learning experience." I will say, these are items we could not justify getting at this time. You would need:
  • a headphone jack
  • sustain pedal
  • earbuds
  • headphones
  • and it is recommended for this optimal learning experience to have a touch sensitive keyboard.
In this optimal experience, he talks about having the student wear the earbuds which are plugged into a device playing the soundtracks, and then placing the headphones on top of those. The headphones are plugged into the keyboard so you can hear yourself play along with the soundtrack.

You will definitely want to read Mr. Moore's book. I haven't had the chance to read through it as much as I would like, but my husband, who at first wasn't too thrilled with the program, has read bits and pieces and he now has a better understanding of Mr. Moore's methodology.

Here is what you will find discussed in the book:

Honestly, I am now wishing I had read the book in full prior to starting the program. I think it will help to really understand where Mr. Moore is coming from. 

So, though we haven't been completely thrilled with the Music & Creativity Foundation Course from Simply Music, we have definitely enjoyed being able to work on playing the piano, and we plan to continue through the lessons, now that we understand the program more. 

You can find Simply Music on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube.

Don't forget to click the banner below to see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about the program:

Learn to Play the Piano with Music & Creativity - Foundation Course {Simply Music Reviews}

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1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I think the programs that seem the hardest to understand end up being the best.


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