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Complete Materials for all Piano Units: Lessons 1-60 Review by Nikki Hinkle and Heather Aliano

Joseph Hoffman
Hoffman Academy
12660 NW Cornell Road
Portland, Oregon 97229

Hoffman Academy is a comprehensive beginner program for learning how to play the piano. It is
a little like having a piano teacher come right into your home. Your child will receive personal
piano training by author and creator of the program, Joseph Hoffman. Mr. Hoffman introduces
basic piano concepts to your child via technology. The Hoffman Academy is free for any
individual to register and view on their website. The Academy provides you with 60 videos of
educational music instruction. In addition to the free videos you can purchase complete materials
that will aid in your music instruction.  This would include all the piano units: lesson 1-60 which
are ready to download for $45. With this package you will receive Parenting Guide, 84 page PDF of Music Theory worksheets and activities, Song sheets with practice instructions, Piano
listening CD MP3, and Practice CD MP3.

These piano lessons can be used for a young child about K age to an adult. If you are unsure about your child’s age you can go in and view the videos to see if you think your child would be ready to follow along. You or your child needs no prior piano experience to use the lessons.  In addition to the guides and online Academy you will need a keyboard or piano to practice on, a blank Cd to burn your music CD’s onto so you have them wherever you want to play them, and printer for printing out various worksheets and activities.

Let’s start first with the Online Academy. Upon arrival at the website you will be prompted to
create a username and password for your use. This section of the music lesson is provided free to
you the user. You can also enter as a guest if you would like to stay anonymous. Before you set
up your password and user name you might want to scroll to the bottom of the page and click the
newsletter to sign up for email updates and teaching tips to get you started on your music
journey. You can mark the newsletter for wanting to receive 5 emails called Piano Boot camp
which will provide you with some tips for getting started. Once you are ready you can log in and
view the first piano lesson. Each lesson is about 5-15 minutes in length. Mr. Hoffman is very
straightforward with his explanation and expectation of the lesson. The video images are clear
and visually workable for the student.

Once your child has taken the time to watch the video lesson then it is their turn to begin practicing. Children can practice at their own pace but Mr. Hoffman suggests they practice every day so that their music ability progresses. Before a child begins to play a particular song they should be familiar with the song they are about to play. The listening CD provides your child with an anywhere any time CD to listen to so that the songs become recognizable to them. Children are encouraged to listen to the CD in its entirety daily if possible. They can have fun while listening either singing along, dancing or drumming to the beat. My daughter’s favorite is dancing with scarves and my son likes to march around while singing along. Your child will find what they enjoy the most. The biggest thing is to have fun. After a child is comfortable with a particular piece of music they can begin practicing on their own or with your positive guidance. When they feel like the song is mastered and is being played at a reasonable pace then it’s time to try to play along with the practice CD. Your child should be able to play a song from start to finish without missing a note or without hesitation before attempting the practice CD. There is a PDF guide for more detailed instruction on using both of the CD’s

In addition to the music and practice CD’s comes the 84 page PDF of music theory and activities. Many concepts are explained in this part of the lesson package. There are fun games for children to play so that they become comfortable with the lesson material. An example would be the musical snake. Children practice singing the music scale ABCDEFGABCDEFG and then they can fill in the letters on the snake. There is one later that takes your child through the scale backwards. Another activity uses the letters and has the child create musical towers. We used the ABC cards and taped them to actual blocks. I printed out more than was needed and we made various versions. I would start the tower and have my child create the next notes in the scale building a tower of notes. This really proved to be a lot of fun for my younger children. The other activity I really liked was the heartbeat mats. Each heartbeat represents one beat. So if you have a rest in the music you would take the rest card and place it on the heart that rests. If you are playing a quarter note then that is what you would place on that heartbeat mat. This really gets the kids beginning to understand the notes and begin seeing their value. 

The Hoffman Method of learning piano is broad in spectrum. Your child will learn many musical skills as they complete the lessons. They will learn to be able to hear the melody and identify the pattern used within the music with the idea that they will be able to hear and play the song by ear. They will also learn how to pick out the rhythm and choose the various patterns within that particular piece. Children will also begin to learn the various symbols in music such as the treble clef, notation, signature key and all the things associated with beginning to read music. They will also learn various techniques such as hand position and good posture. All of this is taught in this pretty expansive curriculum. Soon your child will be confident in creating their own music. What is really great is that it seems as if Mr. Hoffman is always adding to the site and looks as if he has plans to one day add other instruments! 

Now let me tell you how we used the piano curriculum. I used it with my two sons age 7 and 14. I played some myself as well. You can’t help but try. Both of my sons have a little music background but have never played an instrument. They have been introduced to basic note notations and rhythm.  I have a music background and did play the flute for many years. I also dabbled in a few piano lessons but not enough to show anyone. I am familiar with hand positions and playing basic scales. I started out by playing the listening Cd’s in the car. I told the kids we were preparing to play some piano music. They were pretty excited to try the lessons. We would practice in the evening daily. I found it helped to practice with one child separate from the other. There was too much competition going on between the two. However we did complete the activities together but would separate during our practice time. We have two keyboards and a piano in our home so we would rotate using the piano. My 14 year old took to it rather easily. He had somehow taught himself some other pieces of music along the way. I was pretty impressed with how quickly he caught on and began to read music. We set out in a relaxed way and I found him practicing at various times in his room on the keyboard. I love when something such as this can lead a child to self-direction. 

My 7 year old worked at a slower pace. He struggled a little with the coordination of his hands and fingers on the keys; also a little with keeping the pace to the practice CD’s. Over time though, he became successful. That was a grand day for him. When he would complete a song I would give him a small reward for his hard work. This seemed to motivate him to work harder within the program. This was something that was suggested by Mr. Hoffman. I did not need the motivation with my older son but did need it with my younger one.

Eventually my 16 year old decided she wanted to try too and I found that she easily followed along with the lessons and moved rather quickly as well. All of the children including myself have enjoyed working our way through the activities and lessons together. It has become a fun family event. The 14 year old would like to learn to play some holiday songs so we might attempt at some basic songs for next year. He wants to surprise grandma with his new talent and has plenty of time to practice. I am sure he will succeed with this as well.

Our plan is to continue to work through the rest of the lessons and hopefully Mr. Hoffman will be adding more by the time we get to the end of the 60 lessons. We really are enjoying the program. My kids just really love music and the arts.

What I really liked most about the music lesson was how simple they were to follow. My older kids could really do the lessons on their own but we had fun working together. This is a program as I mentioned before that we will continue until complete. If I had not been given the additional pages for review I would have purchased them. I feel that they complement the video lessons nicely. Hoffman piano is a good basis for beginning piano. I can’t wait to see what else Mr. Hoffman comes up with in the future. The only con would have been that it was difficult at times to transition from the laptop on the video to the piano but that was more of my 7 year olds issue than anything. I found that if I worked him there through the activities and then the practice that things went smoother.

If you are interested in learning to play the piano then Hoffman is something you should put on your list. I recently recommended it to a friend who said that she wishes there was a way to learn Piano at home. She has a music background and wants to pass that on to her kids. I think this is a really good place for her to start.

Product review by Nikki Hinkle, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July, 2014

Another review:

Hoffman Academy is a company that provides free online video piano lessons. The Complete Materials for all Piano Units: Lessons 1-60 are printable written lessons and worksheets to be used along with these free video lessons. When used together, the printable lessons and video lessons form a complete piano program for beginning piano students of any age.
The Complete Materials for all Piano Units comes with:

  • PDF Lesson Plans for Units 1, 2 and 3
  • Listening CDs (MP3 download) for Units 1, 2 and 3
  • Practice CDs (MP3 download) for Units 1, 2 and 3
  • Parent Guides for all Materials

The Parent Guides explain exactly how to set up the lessons, and use the videos along with the PDF lessons and workbooks. They also explain when and how to use the CDs with your children. I love how this program makes teaching piano easy even for parents who don’t know how to play the piano themselves because the videos introduce the material before you need to teach the children from the lesson plans.

You start by introducing your children to the songs by using the Listening CDs. These songs are done using a complete arrangement of vocalists, pianist and other acoustic instruments. Children will have an easier time learning to play a song when they are familiar with them, and the arrangements are written so your child can sing the song, and easily learn the rhythm before they ever sit down to play the notes.

Then, you watch the lesson video on the Hoffman Academy website. The videos are about 10 minutes long. After the video, you’ll bring out your printed lesson plans. The lesson plans are not the same as what is taught in the video, instead they are a separate, complementary lesson which covers the material in a new, more in depth way. The PDF also includes worksheets and games which you can cut out and play with to practice your new piano skills.

The worksheets also include the sheet music for all the songs in the videos and on the CDs. I love that Hoffman Academy teaches music theory along with the songs themselves. The instruction is thorough and teaches playing with both hands and proper posture from the beginning.

Once your child masters a song completely with proper hand placement and timing, they are ready to play along with the CD of practice music. These arrangements include other instruments, and my kids feel like it’s a real treat to play along with the recording.

In the 60 lessons, Hoffman Academy covers 15 different songs, playing with both hands, the musical alphabet, reading music, rhythm, scales, cords, notes, time signatures, writing music and more. We have gone through the first 20 lessons, and my kids are learning things I don’t remember ever being explicitly taught in music class.

These materials are for beginning students only. I hope that Hoffman Academy is working on more lessons, because I anticipate us being finished with this program in about a year, and I would love for them to advance to more difficult songs. The songs taught are all relatively simple and short, and I would love to see them develop an advanced level to follow these lessons.

The Complete Materials for all Units: Lessons 1-20, when used along with the free video piano lessons at Hoffman Academy is a wonderful beginning piano program. This program has more than enough material for at least a year of piano instruction, and includes an incredible amount of music theory.

Product Review by Heather Aliano, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July, 2014