Don’t! I promise you CAN learn how to play the piano and it’s never too late to start! Here’s the amazing truth and if you keep on reading you’ll soon learn why:
Before I introduce myself, I should probably give you a bit of a “heads up” right here at the beginning:
My name is Scott Houston. Whether you know my name or not, most people recognize me as “The Piano Guy” from my eponymous Public Television TV series that aired for 14 seasons (and won 8 Emmy awards).
Throughout my career teaching thousands of students (literally – I know that sounds bombastic but it’s the truth… stick with me and I’ll explain) it’s absolutely astonishing to me the number of people who have at some time in their lives tried to learn to play piano, but for whatever reason, quit and never accomplished that goal. Add to that group those who have never tried to take lessons, yet harbor a keen interest in learning to play someday, but that “someday” just keeps getting pushed forward…
That adds up to a shockingly large population of frustrated people who I affectionately refer to as “wannabe” piano players. If you identify at all with this group, you are not alone – by a long shot! You’re in the majority. The great news is that however you stumbled across me, you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to blow your mind with this next truism.
I’m glad you are interested in learning to play the piano as opposed to just about any other instrument. Frankly, what I’ve made my life mission–teaching the joys of having fun playing piano to as many people as possible–couldn’t be done (or at least, done honestly) with any other instrument.
Let me explain …
I’ve been playing piano most of my life, and I consider myself a decent (not great, but decent …) player. Imagine me walking up to a piano and playing some note. I’d simply hold out my finger and press down some particular key. You’d hear the piano make the sound, right?
OK, now YOU go to the same piano, possibly having zero previous playing experience or ability, and press down that same key I did. The piano makes the EXACT SAME SOUND. Think about that for a second or two.
What if we were trying to learn to play trumpet? If I was the one with the experience I would put the horn up to my lips, take a deep breath, know how to form my lips into something called an embouchure, and start blowing knowing the exact right pressure needed and which valve to hold down to get that pitch to play. I’d probably know to vary my breath a little to create a beautiful vibrato and would have the experience and stamina to hold the note for a nice long time perfectly in tune.
Then I’d give the horn to you, never having played a trumpet before, and say, “Now you do it…”
You think you’d be able to make the horn sound even remotely the same? No chance …
You’d be lucky to even get a sound out of it! What if I wanted you to play some very high pitched note? It could take you, literally, YEARS to simply gain the skill needed to play a note in a high register on the horn.
How about on a piano? You just move your hand up and play a note higher. No big deal.
How about an oboe or bassoon? Have you ever tried to play a nice tone on a double-reed instrument? Oh my… that’s hard. How about a violin? Trying to play a nice tone and play in tune on a string instrument is incredibly difficult as a beginner.
Have you ever picked up a guitar? Your fingers really HURT trying to play chords until you get some calluses built up over weeks. Ouch!
I could play this same game with a ton of different instruments, but here is the important point:
Piano playing at a beginning level is basically “target practice.” It’s a function of getting your fingers over the right notes at the right time. BUT(and this is a very important “but”) the piano is doing all the work of creating the sound.
You see, all of these physical things that make playing other instruments so hard, just goes away on a piano. If you have fingers, you have what it takes to play piano. So from a purely “mechanical” standpoint, I truly believe that piano is the easiest instrument to learn how to play.
That is, if you learn to play the way I teach people to play – like professional, working, non-classical piano players.
OK – now that I’ve explained my thoughts on why piano is a simpler instrument to play than most, you are probably asking yourself why it is that such a huge majority of people who have tried to learn to play never got to their goal of playing tunes they enjoy? It’s a great question–and I feel very strongly about what I believe is the answer.
It’s funny (funny odd, not funny ha-ha) that although piano players have the benefit of having one of the simplest instruments to play, all that advantage goes away when the student is presented with the sheet music that piano players are typically forced to try and learn in traditional lessons. As opposed to the “one-note-at-a-time” lines of music that almost every other instrumentalist or vocalist gets to read, piano players are faced with trying to learn to read multiple notes at a time, in two different staffs, often with “finger numbers”. It can be REALLY daunting. Those of you who have tried to take piano lessons in the past are probably nodding a little in sympathy right now.
I’ve found pretty empirically that it’s rarely the “hands on piano” part of teaching someone to play that ever stops them from succeeding (at least in traditional classical lessons.)
What stops everyone from progressing is the incredibly difficult job of trying to become a good note reader. Even worse, no matter how long you continue to take lessons, that continues to be the “leash” that holds you back. There is an unbreakable link between your reading ability, and your playing ability. i.e. you can’t get to be a better player without a corresponding increase in your note reading skills.
As I see it (and I know this makes me a real outlier compared to traditional teachers) the cart got before the horse somewhere along the line in classical music education and reading piano music became a higher priority than actually playing the instrument!
Music reading skills should be a means towards the end game of playing tunes you love, not the end in itself! I want to be known as a great piano player, not a great piano music reader.
That is something I have a HUGE problem with, and the way I deal with that in my teaching is one of the main reasons for our fantastic success in getting people playing in such a short amount of time. There is no reason this can’t work for you too!
You see, by focusing exclusively on only non-classical piano styles, I am able to completely alleviate that “dealbreaker” of a roadblock that is–needing to spend years trying to become a great notation reader.
Now you’re probably saying to yourself,
“You mean I can play without becoming a great note reader? How?”
By letting me teach you to read the style of notation that is musically correct for non-classical genres of music, and is what professional musicians use when playing gigs or working in band or at recording sessions. It’s not any gimmick I invented like “play by numbers”or anything hokey like that … It’s the way pro musicians have been learning tunes for years and years. The sad truth is almost no traditional private teachers will teach you this way because it will not help you progress playing classical music. (But, you obviously decided at the very beginning of this page that you were not here to learn to play classical piano, right?)
Now, in the interest of being fully transparent, if you ask me, “Scott, is there any notation reading we need to learn to do?” I’ll say, “Yes, absolutely. There is a bare minimum amount of note reading I’ll need to teach you.” But, it is the same thing they get kids in band or choir doing in junior high in a few weeks. Trust me… No one fails to learn to have fun playing piano using my instruction due to an issue with note reading. No one. It’s just not that big of a mountain to climb the way we do it.
I’m hoping you’re now questioning how it is that I can teach “online” in my fully integrated lesson environment as opposed to the only thing most people can even imagine when the words “piano lessons” are muttered–private weekly lessons at a teacher’s home or studio.
I’ve spent close to 30 years now in piano music education in a very wide-ranging set of roles. From being in the music publishing business producing traditional piano methods, to developing music related software for children, to teaching live piano workshops and seminars close to 600 times at universities and colleges all around the country, to co-producing and hosting over 180 episodes of an instructional piano TV series, to writing and creating over 30 books and DVDs all teaching piano. I’ve really seen and been a part of a lot of different sides of the piano education world.
Over time, I started to synthesize all of those experiences as they related to the success (or sadly more often, lack of success) of beginning students who were NOT trying to become concert pianists for a living, but rather were just looking to become “recreational” piano players (for lack of a better term).
I came to realize that all of the different modalities of teaching piano had some positives, yet also had some negatives. From private weekly lessons with a teacher, to small group lessons with a teacher, to larger group lessons in a piano lab, to large workshops in a lecture style setting, to total “work-at-home” products like how-to books and DVDs, there was some positives and negatives to be found in each one.
Once I began to realize the solutions that technology (in the form of web-based applications and online video) could bring to the issue, I set about developing a total teaching “environment” that could take the good, yet throw out the bad of all of those different approaches. Let me give you an example or two.
Let’s start with what most people consider the “gold standard” (or more accurately, the “only” standard) when considering piano lessons:
Positives? Well, the personal one-on-one interaction and feedback can’t be beaten. To have a qualified instructor right there with you as they are trying to teach you some new concept is about as good as it gets. Also, assuming the teacher is skilled and aware enough, the fact that he/she can change the pace that you are being given new things to work on based on your progress is a real benefit.
Negatives? Well, the first is that it is many times very difficult to find a teacher qualified to teach the styles I teach. It’s just a reality that there are a lot of incredibly qualified, hard working piano teachers skilled at teaching children classical piano. It’s more difficult to find someone comfortable teaching adults non-classical styles. It’s just an odd thing in the piano world that most private teachers teach classical piano (primarily to kids), and most players who play gigs in all the non-classical styles don’t teach.
Another thing I’ve always found problematic is the once-per-week timing of lessons. Who decided 7 days was the optimal time for a student to work on and absorb new materials? It seems more logical to me to give students something new when they are ready to move on, whether that is 7 minutes, 7 hours, or 7 days.
I think it is best for a student to be controlling the “throttle” of lessons. Continuing that analogy, I will, as a teacher, keep my hands on the wheel so I’m sure we are going in the right direction, but I’ll let you decide how fast we get there based on your progress and interest.
Also, from a purely financial standpoint I have always had issues (first as a student, then from the other side of the bench as a teacher) with a student coming back at the same time and place week after week whether they were ready for another lesson or not.
I understand fully that in order for a private piano teacher to be able to do what they do, they need to keep a schedule they can rely on so they have some sense of what their income and working hours will be. I get the reality and necessity of that … However, if you are starting from a totally clean slate trying to develop and rethink the best student-centric way to assure success, the “every 7 days whether you are ready or not” tradition has never seemed like the most equitable approach to paying for piano instruction from a student’s standpoint.
Particularly in an adult student’s situation, the reality is that there are weeks when you get busy and just don’t get any practice time in (sad – but it happens all the time). Alternatively, there are some weeks when you, “get on a roll” and you are just playing up a storm and you could have probably tackled 2-3 times what your teacher gave you for the week. I think piano instruction should accommodate that reality!
That’s why when we developed my online lesson environment we built it around the idea of you controlling the pace, no matter how fast or how slow you go learning things, and no matter how many times you might need to review a lesson. That is a much more student-centric, as opposed to teacher-centric approach.
It not only benefits you financially, but instructionally as well since you can move at, and control, your own pace. Now you can take advantage of those “hot” times when you are really making headway without having to wait for your next weekly lesson.
That’s just one good example of how we really started with a blank sheet, and took the pros, and threw out the cons of all the different ways to teach piano, to come up with what I truly believe is a “better-than-live” lesson experience.
1. Direct Video Instruction
The direct video instruction takes the best of a private teacher, but improves upon it in a few ways. Along with the “face shot” of my ugly mug (my wife thinks I should pay you to take the lessons… ha!) talking to you about whatever I’m teaching, whenever there is anything happening on the keyboard, the camera switches to a very clear overhead shot of my hands actually playing what you are hearing.
The advantages here are twofold: First, because a “live” teacher is not there playing the piano in front of, or beside, you it is actually easier for you figure out what it is I am playing and try to copy me. It’s difficult as a teacher to show students “live” what you are doing when your hands are covering up the keyboard and they are sitting next to you trying to play as well. The view you need as a student is one from directly overhead the keyboard. It’s why I always used a video camera in my live classes and workshops, and why I brought that to my online environment as well.
Secondly–and this one is an even bigger benefit–you can stop, start, pause, rewind, whatever… to your heart’s content to make sure you understand exactly what it is I am trying to teach you. It truly is one of the great benefits as opposed to hearing it once or twice in a 30 minute private lesson, then hoping like crazy you got it right as you wait a week for your next lesson.
2. Comprehensive “Ink & Paper” Course Materials Integrated With The Lessons
I’m a big believer in the value of actually having something to put on your piano and be able to reference as you work through the video lessons in the method. I think it is very important from an educational standpoint for you to not only see and hear me talk about something in the video instruction, but also to see it and have it in print for you to refer to as you are “absorbing” whatever it is I am teaching. I think it is a big difference between “watching some videos” versus “getting some real instruction.”
Each of our 6 courses has its own method book and a companion song book that I refer to and work with during the video lessons. You’ll learn tunes you will be interested in playing. No “Wigwam Song” or “Row Row Row Your Boat” in my method :-). I refer to the books constantly in the video lessons and you will be seeing exactly what I am seeing when I refer to them.
3. Personalized Feedback and Help
As I mentioned earlier, one undeniable positive aspect of a traditional private lesson, and huge drawback to just watching “how-to” videos, is that personal feedback component.
No matter how good of a teacher I think I am (ahem…), I’m not crazy enough to think that a student would never have a question about, or need some help with, something I’ve covered in a lesson. That’s why the third main pillar we constructed our online environment around is making sure that a student always has the opportunity to reach out and get the help they might need.
On every page and screen in the online classroom there is a prominent tab that allows you to send us a message to ask a question or share a concern. If there is something you’d rather describe over the phone you can call us. Or, if you’re so inclined and you want to send me a video of what you need help with that is fine too.
The point is this: as part of your course tuition we are committed to making sure you are not “hung out to dry” if you have a question or need something clarified.
Depending on the need I will either get back to you with a written message in our feedback tracking system, or if needed, I’ll record something so you can hear what it should sound like. I will even send you a customized video answer if I really need to visually show you something to get your question answered thoroughly
This is another case where we took the positives, and threw out (or improved upon) a lot of the negatives from many different teaching modalities to come up with this “best of all worlds” online environment.
From the results we are seeing since we’ve opened up the method for students, we seem to have nailed it. I couldn’t be prouder and happier with the results our current students are achieving! You can check out some testimonials here.
Now let me describe to you how my method is set up and exactly what you can expect. I am always 100% transparent about what it is you’ll be paying for, because it becomes so obvious what an incredible value our tuition is.
This can get a little “thick” the first time you read it so stick with me. The entire method is comprised of 6 courses, taking you from absolute beginner through accomplished player.
So to summarize, the hierarchy is: Method -> Course -> Class -> Lesson -> Exercise
The great news is you never really need to know or keep track of that once you get into the lesson environment because it will keep track of where you are as you progress through the lessons and exercises.
The real reason I am describing the course layout is because everyone always wants me to answer this question to compare the cost of my online program versus traditional private lessons:
“What’s the equivalent in your courses to Private Lessons?”
Since my lesson program and private lessons are two very different animals with SO many different variables, it’s not very easy to answer accurately, but I’ll give it as honest and conservative a try as I can here.
First off, let’s go low and use $30 as an average for a 30 minute private weekly traditional lesson at a teacher’s home or studio. (It’s actually much higher than that in most parts of the country, but we’ll stick with $30 per lessons to be conservative.)
So extrapolate that out and it will cost about $1,500/year assuming there will be a few weeks off for holidays, etc. You’ll also need to add:
To keep things simple and conservative though, let’s not include those and stick with the $30/week and $1,500 per year.
My educated estimation when trying to compare the amount of material taught, is that it would take an average, yet dedicated and serious (i.e. no “wasted” weeks of not being prepared for the next lesson) student 3 months of private lessons to work through just my Course 1. That equates to $360 just for the weekly lessons + whatever you would pay for in materials.
That is MUCH more than you would pay for the same instruction in my online method. Plus, you’d have no opportunity to even go back and review the lessons like you can with my program! Once you have enrolled in one of my courses, you have access forever–there is no clock ticking or expiration date.
Moving on through the advancing levels of my method, I would say Courses 2, 3, and 4 each compare to about 4-5 months of lessons, so for each of those the comparison is closer to $500 per course. Again, fantastically more expensive than my online lessons.
Finally, I would say Courses 5-6 compare to a solid 6 months each of private lessons, so that gets us to $720 per course which again is a LOT more expensive than my courses.
Add to that the things we left out, like transportation costs, not to mention the cost of the time it takes to get to a lesson and back, and the “sunk” cost of showing up and paying for a lesson sometimes unprepared, and on and on … and you see why I am so ridiculously comfortable describing the value of our courses to potential students like yourself.
Something else VERY IMPORTANT I want to make clear at this point! Those equivalent times I estimated it would take to get through the material taking private lessons are NOT how long I think it will take you to get through my courses in my online lesson environment.
Because of the flexibility and freedom you will have to work on your piano playing, we are finding in many cases students are progressing through the courses faster than what would be expected compared to me teaching the exact same materials in traditional weekly private lessons.
If you are like most students you will find that you will go into “sprint mode” now and then and really crank through a lot of lessons and exercises in a few days or over a weekend that might be the equivalent progress of 3-4 weeks of weekly 30 minute lessons.
You’ll also probably find the inverse and go a week or two where you’ve either just not had the time to spend at your piano due to “life getting in the way,” or you’ve bumped into a wall with something I’ve taught you that is going to take a little longer to get “under hand” from a piano standpoint.
Frankly, that very fact underscores one the biggest advantages I feel my online courses bring to bear.
Your piano lessons will be based around your lifestyle, your schedule, and your natural ebbs and flows energy-wise. You can be 100% secure that you will never feel like you are “wasting” money on a weekly lesson you are not ready for. Nor will you ever need to worry that because something might have slowed you down, that you’ll be costing yourself more money than you were prepared to spend to learn to play piano.
The results we are seeing are so superior to anything I’ve produced in the past that I personally have decided that a potential student (wanting to take private weekly lessons from me) is better served using this online environment and have suspended taking on any private studentsc
Simple! The entire Piano in a Flash Online Lesson Environment runs in a web browser and will operate anywhere you have a decent internet connection. In addition to the piano or keyboard you will be learning on, you just need a computer close by (laptops work well). An iPad works really well too due to being able to just put it up on your piano or keyboard‘s music stand next to your included method books.
Just in case you had any doubt left about the quality, integrity and honesty with which we’ve built and offer this innovative lesson program, I also wanted to give you complete assurance about one more thing–our guarantee to you:
30-Day No Questions Asked, Plain English, No B.S. Refund Policy
I recognize that if you got here from a web search and don’t know of me previously, this is probably a little “leap of faith” on your part because no one has ever offered piano instruction in quite this way, and it is very different than the age-old paradigm of taking weekly lessons from some local teacher. Beyond that, my promise that I’m going to teach you in a very different and simpler technique than the way traditional lessons have been taught for hundreds of years also probably gives you a little pause as you decide whether or not to give it a try. I get that …
Well here’s where the “rubber hits the road.”
I stand 100% behind my claims and will refund your money within 30 days if for whatever reason you just don’t think it is working out or that I misrepresented something–No Questions Asked.
I think that’s fair, and I hope you do too. That makes your decision entirely stress-free!
So there you have it. You now have the full lowdown on my innovative Piano in a Flash Online Method. I’ve tried to be as straightforward and transparent as possible, and I hope I’ve given you the information to consider enrolling with confidence (and with zero risk) and take a hugely important first step towards giving yourself the gift of happy, fulfilling music making at a piano.