As the title implies, Piano for All seeks to take the piano and make it an easier instrument for people to learn. It essentially is a computer-based multimedia course that integrates text lessons with visual and audible elements to create a better learning experience than what’s commonly available through traditional mediums such as books and manuals.
One of the biggest pluses of Piano for All is that it gets you playing popular music extremely quickly. True, the tunes may not be terribly complex, but they’re definitely not “Twinkle, Twinkle” either. As a student, being able to play songs you actually enjoy makes the learning process more engaging, more fun and gives a greater sense of satisfaction.
Robin Hall, the mind behind Piano for All is an Irish piano teacher and artist. Interestingly enough, though we couldn’t find all that much about his musical background and qualifications, we found out a bit about his career as an artist. Robin Hall is actually a proficient cartoonist who has managed to publish multiple well-received books on drawing cartoons. Piano for All customers will even get to see some of his original artwork as some of it makes it into the course (more on that later).
Course Contents: The Piano for All course package contains 10 different eBooks. Linked to these eBooks are 200 video and 500 audio demonstrations, examples, and exercises. When downloading the course, you’ll discover the course size is almost half a gigabyte at 431mb. Note: People on slower internet connections do have the ability to download the course one eBook at a time. So yeah, if you weren’t sure, this is actually a pretty large course.
After basic orientation to the piano, the course begins by teaching how to play basic chords to a variety of rhythms to make popular songs. Gradually, the rhythms become more complex and the chords become more sophisticated. The eBooks are designed to be followed in order and introduce genre-specific piano chords and rhythms as you move through the course. Robin also helps quicken your progress by introducing various memorization techniques and shortcuts along the way. As mentioned, the lessons do use some popular songs in the lessons, but due to licensing fees and legal issues typically aren’t included in their entirety. Unlike most traditional lessons, Piano for All waits until you have a good grasp on ear-playing before showing how to sight-read.
Whereas the first 9 eBooks do the actual teaching of the course eBook #10 is a piano resource depository with a load of tips, tricks and helpful information. You’ll find information on how to setup and connect a MIDI keyboard to your PC, book reviews, as well as lists of songs that make use of the different rhythms taught earlier in the course. Also included with Piano for All is a bonus eBook titled, Increase your Creative Ability by 400%. At first glance this Bonus eBook seems a little out of place but basically it shows you how you can increase your creativity by reducing the stress and other negative emotions in your life. This eBook makes a great read for anyone, whether or not they want to play piano. It reads rather like a self-help book and is filled with original cartoons that Robin Hall created which makes for an entertaining read.
Where Piano for All’s piano lessons really shine is in their ease-of-use and interactivity. Whenever the eBook says you need to see or listen to an external multimedia file (sound or video), all you have to do is click on a little icon embedded within the actual lesson page and the relevant file will begin playing. I can’t tell you how much easier (and quicker) this is than having to dig through a whole bunch of files and folders on your computer to locate the exact file. Other multimedia piano courses such as the popular Rocket Piano course would have really benefited from having a feature like this in their software.
Practice Tip: If you have the choice between practicing along with Piano for All with an upright or keyboard you should probably use the keyboard. The reason being is that you can set up your keyboard right in front of the computer screen and play along with the exercises instead of printing out the lessons and missing out on the multimedia aspects of the course.
Piano for All is not without its shortcomings however, and we’ll mention some of them here. Video/technical quality of the Piano for All is alright, ok even, but really Robin could have made this curriculum soooo much better… The videos are low-resolution, somewhat grainy and the camera is always positioned so the video is at a slight angle as well as being off-center. It’s hard not to notice these things and it does make it a little bit disconcerting to watch (for symmetry freaks like me anyway…). In the video’s audio we also noticed a low hum that persisted throughout all the movies. The fact that Robin’s voice isn’t all that distinct or clear didn’t help matters much. Going back to an earlier point, it's worth noting that because there is over 7 hours worth of video lessons and examples in the course, the video files had to be recorded at a somewhat lower resolution in order to keep the total course size under 500mb.
We found the eBooks and course material itself to be good, but not perfect. There's the occassional typo, at least one dead link to a video file, and references to a few technically incorrect musical terms. Obviously none of this is really deal-breaker material, but just some things we noticed when looking over the lessons.
Robin Hall makes himself readily available via his personal email which he has published on his website.
At the time of this writing, the full Piano for All package can bought for $39.95. (reg. $79.50) You can buy the eBooks separately but it's a rather ridiculous idea since most of the books are priced at $29.95 a pop. There actually are other payment options and package deals available from the ordering page, but they all even make less sense since you always end up paying a lot more for the same package. You can add on a CD containing the eBooks and files to your order, but this is somewhat redundant since you could always backup the course onto a CD later once you’ve downloaded it.
A complimentary 60-day refund is offered by Robin Hall who states that if you aren’t “completely thrilled” with your purchase you can send him an email and he’ll issue a full refund. That’s the kind of guarantee we like to see accompanying digital download products.
There’s a lot to like with Piano for All. The teaching methods are progressive, engaging and make the learning process more fun for students. It’s also extremely affordable in comparison to most piano courses out there. Unfortunately we currently can't give it a full endorsement due to technical quality issues, mediocre video quality, lack of visual learning aids such as light-up keys that you find in other piano courses, and possibly too much emphasis on sounding good and not enough on learning the theory behind how the music all works together. Still, when it comes to budget-friendly downloadable piano courses, it's hard to beat the value that Piano for All provides.Official Piano for All Website
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Publisher: Robin Hall (Self Published)
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