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Learn & Master Piano with Will Barrow Review by Dawn Oaks

Legacy Learning Systems
624 Grassmere Park Drive, Suite 16
Nashville, TN 37211

Learn & Master Piano with Will Barrow is part of the larger Learn and Master Series as published by Legacy Learning Systems. The Learn and Master Series is a DVD-based applied instruction course. The course is designed to be easy-to-follow with step-by-step progressions as skills develop. Some of the other courses within the series are guitar, drums, and ballroom dancing.

The student edition kit that we received was quite impressive. It ships with a parent/teacher guide and DVD, 28 sessions with instructor Will Barrow on 14 DVDs, a student lesson book, and 5 play-along CDs. The parent/teacher guide is similar to a lesson plan book in that it provides an overview of each lesson, lists the skills to master, and contains a skills evaluation chart to be checked off as the student accomplishes each of objective.

The course consists of 28 sessions, with each one being approximately 25 minutes in length. Mr. Barrow covers hand and body position, music nomenclature, music theory, introductions to different music styles, and demonstrations of the lesson material. Following each individual session on the DVDs is the session workshop, during which the student is encouraged to play along (or simply pause the DVD while repetitively practicing the skill). All of the music that is covered in the sessions is included in the lesson book. Both the DVDs and the lesson book have excellent views of the keyboard to show proper positioning and keys to strike for the different chord inversions.

With any instructional video or DVD, the personality and ability of the instructor can "make or break" it. Will Barrow is an entertainer in the true sense of the word. His presence at the keyboard, as well as in front of the camera, is completely natural. The only struggle students may run into is his effortless way around the ivories, which will require substantial practice for a beginner to match. The DVDs do an excellent job of showing Mr. Barrow's hand position while playing, and they also provide a diagram of the piano keyboard with the keys that are to be played highlighted. This split-screen approach may actually allow students to learn to play the chord progressions without reading music. The skill of playing by ear is encouraged throughout the course.

The other point to consider when evaluating Learn & Master Piano is the type of piano instruction you are seeking. As a parent with a music background, I initially wanted classical piano lessons for my children. This approach would allow them to play works by some of the greatest composers--from Bach and Beethoven to Tchaikovsky and Pachelbel. My first impression of Learn & Master Piano was honestly disappointing, as it is not grounded in classical music instruction. On second thought, however, the light bulb started coming on as I began to understand what Learn & Master Piano is--a wonderful series of instructional DVDs that allow the non-musician to begin reading sheet music, understand beginning music theory, gain exposure to different music styles, and learn chord progressions that allow for accompaniment of some popular musical pieces. The written music in the lesson book holds to this emphasis on accompaniment and exploring different musical genres. Rather than complex classical scores, the music is much more in the style of jazz lead sheets or guitar music, with the chord progressions written above the score.

Learn & Master Piano with Will Barrow is a comprehensive introduction to what I would refer to as social piano playing. If you like to be the hit of the party, the exposure to different musical styles and a more improvised approach to playing based on chord progressions may be the aspects of Learn & Master Piano that you enjoy. If you love music and just want to be able to sit down and play some chords and make up your own melody by ear, this would be a wonderful course of study.

There really is nothing to lose in trying Learn & Master Piano. Legacy Learning Systems offers an online support center for those experiencing difficulties as well as a money back guarantee. So give the Learn and Master Series a try. Just remember that Rome was not built in a day. Practice, practice, practice!

Product review by Dawn Oaks, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2010