May 31, 2015

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Jazz Edge

My husband has a deep love for music and I enjoy it enough that I dabbled in piano lessons for awhile. So when we had kids, we knew right away that music lessons of some sort was a must. Kaytie started piano lessons at five and a half and she fell in love. We haven't always been able to afford her lessons, but she has never let that deter her from learning what she could on her own with whatever sort of keyboard we had in the house. She spends time every day playing and practicing, just for the sheer enjoyment of it. So I was excited to offer her a chance at playing around with PianoWithWillie from JazzEdge.

JazzEdge offers three different programs:

DrumsWithWillie, which are self-paced drum lessons with three skill levels.

Easy Piano Basics which are piano lessons for beginners that offers a foundation... no theory and you don't need to learn to read music.

PianoWithWillie which is not for beginners but offers a lot of instruction at a lot of different levels. This is what we chose simply because Kaytie was not a beginner.

Starting up was easy. We chose an email account and a password and jumped right in. There is a short video to watch to explain everything. Which is necessary because at first the site is very overwhelming. There are so many lessons! So many different music genres! So many options!

First, we downloaded the starting materials. This is a PDF with some handy tips and 30 days worth of lesson plans. However, we didn't read it well enough and tried to do it all in one day! Thankfully, most of it was review and when she started struggling with the material, somewhere in the upper twenties, we realized the mistake we had made and she finished it more slowly. (there was a note in the bottom of each page which we overlooked that told us to just go to Day 20, but we didn't bother to read it... reading the fine print has never been a strength of mine) It was fun, though, even if it was too easy!

Meanwhile, she was able to also work through the 30-Day Success Playbook. This is streaming video, so she needed online access as well as her full sized keyboard. (In order to successfully use this program, your keyboard needs at least 61 keys.) The menu was simple and easy for her to follow on her own, and I basically left her to it.

Also, she took a 22 point assessment which gave her a customized plan for which lessons she needed and in which order she needed to take them. She worked on those each day.

And finally, she just played around a bit each day.

I liked that this was something she could do on her own. When she had a question, she could chat with live support (when they were online) or send them a message (when they weren't), so I didn't have to figure out any answers for her. Since I am not incredibly music nor tech savvy, this was a big plus for us.

We liked how many songs and lessons there were. The sheer size of the site is overwhelming at first, but it would certainly keep the most avid of students busy for a long, long time.

We liked that the video simultaneously showed him talking and the keyboard -- both his hands and the keys he was playing highlighted. This made it so easy for her to know exactly what she was supposed to do.

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In her own words, Kaytie liked:
I liked there were 3 different lesson options. You had your regular lessons, or you could customize your lessons by taking the assessment which created a plan for you, or you could search for different types of lessons as you think you need it. It wasn't quite as hands-on as I would have liked it. It didn't require as much playing as I would have liked. I prefer to learn by actually doing rather than listening. I liked how you could select different chapters of the lessons and songs, so I didn't have to listen straight through from beginning to end but could learn a chapter a day for each lesson or song. 

On the negative side, she struggled a little bit with the style of teaching and the challenge. I don't think she was quite as ready for this as I thought she was. When they say this isn't for a beginner, they aren't kidding. Your student needs to have some experience under their belt before they attempt PianoWithWillie. As much as she enjoyed this, I think she would have learned so much more and soared so much higher if she had been a little further along in her piano lessons. That said,  I definitely recommend it for serious piano students who want to learn and enjoy learning to play lots of styles on the piano!

JazzEdge Review

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