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Learn-at-Home Piano and Keyboarding (Levels 1 and 2) Review by Donna Campos

Neil Moore
Simply Music
PO Box 160663
Sacramento, CA 95816
800-746-7597 (800 SIMPLY 7)

Simply Music offers a piano and keyboard program for children or adults who desire to learn to play the piano and would like to be able to play great-sounding music from their very first lesson. The DVD-based program is designed for those who would prefer to learn in the comfort of their own home and is ideal for homeschool students. Presented by Neil Moore, the creator of Simply Music, each level contains two discs. The levels can be purchased separately or as a set (at a reduced price). Each DVD contains between 12 and 16 lessons, as well as a few pages that are printable from your computer. There are no other included components. The only other necessity for use of the Simply Music Learn-at-Home program is access to a piano or keyboard. After completing both levels, the student will have learned how to play more than twenty songs, including "Dreams Come True," "Jackson Blues," "Amazing Grace," "The Star-Spangled Banner," "Light Blue," "Minuet in G," and "Greensleeves."

Developed in Australia, this program covers various musical styles, including classical, gospel, contemporary, and blues. It was designed to build a foundation at home that will prepare students for further instruction under a specially trained Simply Music teacher. (The website offers a list of these teachers and their locations.) Lessons will be approximately ten minutes each, sometimes less.

Level One begins with a brief "Welcome" to the program by Neil Moore, who serves as the instructor for the duration of the course. He explains the drawbacks of "traditional" piano teaching methods and then presents Simply Music as a program that teaches students how to play the piano immediately, from the very first lesson. Lesson One offers a simple numbered approach for placing both hands accurately upon the keyboard and a simple explanation for the letter-named keys and their placement (including "middle C"). Then the actual playing begins. The process moves along quickly and smoothly as Mr. Moore teaches the basics. He consistently reiterates and shows finger positions slowly. The program offers video shots above the piano keys to provide an accurate presentation of exactly what he is teaching. At the end of Lesson One he says, "We'll return when, in your best judgment, you're ready to move forward." This leaves the pace of the program in the hands of the student, who may replay a lesson as often as desired and continue practicing until all concepts are mastered.

Level Two works through more songs and becomes more difficult but is still presented in small chunks of information. I expect that our 8-year-old will take more than a year to complete both levels, with short practice sessions three to five times each week. Our 20-year-old is very musically gifted and has taught herself other musical instruments with no outside assistance. She will probably have both levels completed within three to four months.

Simply Music's Learn-at-Home program is available for far less than a few months of one-on-one traditional lessons, and it offers more immediate and better results. Our experience with the program has been excellent, but I am wondering if it might be difficult for some users to find a certified Simply Music instructor. (Our state listed two instructors--one actually in our city and one an hour away. But a couple of states near us had none.) However, as the program grows in popularity, as I expect it will, it is likely that more instructors will become available (perhaps even within the homeschool community). Details about becoming a trained instructor are available on the website.

I was a little disappointed that there were so few printable pages. I would appreciate the addition of more, as I found myself writing out the more detailed points of how to play each song for reference during practice. Also, those who do not have their television and piano in the same room may find it frustrating to be constantly pausing the program and moving back and forth between television and piano.

Our 20-year-old and 8-year-old both enjoyed the program. The concepts are easy enough for a younger child to understand, yet there is enough musical content for an older student to appreciate. His step-by-step process is easily grasped, and it was very encouraging to be playing actual songs after only a couple of lessons. The musical pieces are pleasant, familiar, and fun to learn. The practice becomes enjoyable, not tedious in any way. We found this program to be a very reasonably priced option for anyone who isn't quite sure how much piano he or she desires to learn, or for parents who are concerned that their student will be unable to gain the skill easily. Our son is diagnosed on the autistic spectrum, and this method truly worked for him. He is excited to return to the piano each day and is moving forward successfully. This technique will be a blessing for many homeschool families, and we hope it will also enable families who desire an additional income to look into becoming certified Simply Music instructors. Simply Music offers two opportunities to homeschooling families: success in learning to play the piano and the possibility of teaching it as well.

Product review by Donna Campos, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2007