In addition to being a computer genius, my husband also received his college degree in piano performance. We have a grand piano sitting in our living room (which means, at present, we have no dining room), and when Evan is awake and not watching “Sesame Street,” Jason practices classical and jazz piano music (and often has a helper who wants to play some music of his own).
Many times I’ve asked him to teach me to play – I grew up in a musical household and was in the band through high school and into college – and many times he’s refused. When I was offered a chance to review the online videos and accompanying teaching materials from Hoffman Academy, I saw it as my perfect chance to finally learn even a fraction of the skill my husband was so amazingly proficient at.
Joseph Hoffman founded the Hoffman Academy in Portland in 2007. Originally just the name for Hoffman’s lessons given to students in his living room, the Academy grew to encompass multiple teachers and its own studio space. In 2010, Hoffman began offering video lessons online, and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, the online arm of Hoffman Academy includes 60 video lessons – all offered for FREE – and additional teaching materials that can be purchased for a reasonable cost.
The online lessons are split across three units, each growing progressively more advanced, and each lesson is between five and fifteen minutes long. A camera position directly over the piano’s keyboard makes it easy to see what Hoffman’s hands are doing as he explains concepts. Hoffman also places emphasis on learning to play by ear and recognize notes versus simply learning to read music. The videos (and the paid supplemental materials) also give tips for ensuring you play with proper hand position and posture, so Hoffman’s approach is truly holistic.
The supplementary materials available for purchase help reinforce the concepts of music theory that Hoffman presents in the video lessons. For unit one, a 36-page booklet was filled with exercises to reinforce the names of notes on the scale and their position on the keyboard (some exercises even involve flash cards you can print yourself to use as you learn). The worksheets are definitely directed at children learning to play, but on a basic level the materials were a good reminder of some of the aspects of reading and playing music that have grown cobwebs in the almost-15 years since I last played an instrument on a regular basis. The lessons are still a bit advanced for Evan – I’ll be happy if he learns the alphabet, then we can move on to applying the letters to notes on the scale – but in the meantime we can get him comfortable with the piano and introduce the lessons when he’s a little older. We can also use the recorded music files included with the teaching materials to help Evan learn the basic melodies of songs the lessons introduce so when the time comes to really play the piano instead of just “playing” the piano, he’ll recognizes the rhythm and notes.
Like any skill, the key to becoming proficient at playing the piano is consistent practice. In addition to the worksheets and recorded music files, Hoffman has also prepared a helpful guide for parents with tips and techniques they can use to keep kid’s motivated to practice and encourage them even when they’re struggling with new or difficult concepts.
Interested in trying out Hoffman Academy?
Leave a comment below sometime on or before January 5th and I’ll pick a commenter at random to receive their own copy of the Unit One supplemental materials (a $19 value)! This contest is closed! But be sure to visit Hoffman Academy’s website and create an account to view all their FREE online lessons!
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.