I took piano lessons for eight years, starting when I was in 3rd grade. I’m embarrassed to say that all I have to show for all those years is that I can read and play notes automatically. And no, that doesn’t make me a pianist.
I have to confess that I didn’t enjoy those Saturdays spent with my teacher, who was a charming elderly lady, especially during the latter years. I only kept at it because, gulp, I felt guilty that my parents bought my piano after incessant badgering from me.
I tapped and tapped and tapped on the bathroom door, pretending to play the keyboard, when either of my parents was taking a bath. I started my lessons soon after my beautiful, black piano arrived. And even when my lack of musical skills became apparent, I felt that I just had to keep going to my piano teacher!
I realize that the lessons I had then were mechanical more than musical. I had the usual exercises and a few piano pieces to learn. Week in, week out, it was just the same thing all over again. Or perhaps it was really my lack of musicality that I made my lessons unenjoyable. But obviously, I want something else for my children. I want their lessons to be fun, exciting, and really musical.
When my daughter showed interest in music, my parents generously sent my old piano to us. With a piano and an eager child, the next step was to find a teacher who fits the ideal in my head.
But where do I find a teacher who gives more than just piano lessons and is geared towards developing a musical child?
The Hoffman Academy
I came across The Hoffman Academy as my husband and I were trying to decide whether we should already enrol our 6-year-old in piano lessons. The philosophy and methodology outlined in the website appealed to me. It is exactly what I mentioned above: fun, exciting, and really musical.
I was intrigued because the video lessons are available online for free and you can just use those and be fine. However, there are also complete supplemental materials for different piano skill levels for only $20 for each unit. I received the 20 Unit 1 lessons containing the following:
- Activity pages
- Song sheets with practice instructions
- Piano listening mp3s
- Practice & play-along mp3s (our favorite!)
- Parent’s guide
We were hooked the moment we watched the first lesson and used the supplemental materials. Mr. Hoffman, as we fondly call the pianist-founder of the website, has become our piano teacher.
I said “our” because after all those years of piano lessons, I still had a lot of a-ha moments as my daughter and I learned together. I really wish that I had been taught creatively!
Here are the top ten things that my husband and I love about Hoffman Academy’s video lessons and materials:
- Content is broken down into bite size pieces. The short lessons are easy to do, easy to understand, and easy to replicate.
- Since these are video lessons, you can fit it into your schedule easily. You can also watch the lessons again and again and again if you have to.
- A student, whether a child or an adult, learns at his own pace, which is something that I highly value.
- New lessons refer back to old lessons, so the student actually sees how lessons and musical concept are related to each other.
- Songs are introduced right away. This makes the student feel accomplished and motivated.
- The materials reinforce and expand on the video lessons. We especially love the lesson on music composition because it makes the student aware of the different components of music early on.
- Mr. Hoffman is cute and funny. My two kids look forward to the finger puppets at the end of each lesson. The way he demonstrates piano posture (Dinosaur! Zombie!) is something that even my little boy (who sits in with his sister sometimes) has not forgotten!
- The practice mp3s provide students the opportunity to play along real music.
- The practice mp3s encourage students to improvise and make their own music!
- Ear training and sight-reading are given equal emphasis. This is important to me because I feel that an ear for music adds enjoyment to learning music instead of just reading notes.
There are however some possible negatives to the online lessons, depending on how you look at it:
- Video lessons are dependent on Internet connectivity. You can, however, download the videos before your planned lessons to avoid this issue.
- One parent should be dedicated to watch and do the lessons with the child. Time must really be set aside regularly similar to enrolling in live piano lessons.
- A parent without a musical background might feel doubtful about her child’s progress. Hoffman Academy encourages parents to send their kids’ videos, and through it, the Hoffmans have seen that students do manage to have excellent posture, hand position, etc. However, some parents might feel unsure of the effectiveness of the program because the face-to-face interaction is not there.
Our main problem has been finding a regular time to do the lessons. Because the program is flexible and easily available, we have this tendency to postpone piano time. But it hasn’t taken away the joy that my daughter gets every time we do have a lesson. She eagerly asks for it and loves playing with the practice mp3 songs and answering the activity sheets. Her interest in playing the piano has not diminished, and has actually grown.
My husband and I both have a bit of background in piano, though he is definitely more musical that I am, and we love how the lessons are presented. We are still undecided, though, if we would get a piano teacher for our daughter, but we will definitely continue learning with Hoffman Academy. I wonder if I could find a teacher who would be willing to use Hoffman Academy’s materials because I can’t send my daughter to Mr. Hoffman himself!