Music Information

Learn to Play the Piano


Rocket Piano is a very professionally done piano lesson package. It includes a number of ebooks, audio tracks, and video tracks to support the instructional material. In addition, there's a ton of extras, all extremely well-done, and described below. The product is simple to download, and is perfectly paced for the introductory piano student. It runs on Windows and Macs, so it doesn't matter what kind of computer you have. In a word, if you want to learn to play, you'd be nuts to pass on this. I highly recommend it. Read on for the details.

Chapter One - Piano Facts and History

Don't skip this chapter. It's full of really interesting facts about the piano and includes a bit of history, a lot of physical facts about the instrument that the beginning piano lesson student should know, and some great diagrams that show the mechanics of how a piano produces sound. There's also a nice section about the pedals, which you don't find in most courses, that actually explains what the pedals are for and how they work. All in all, a great introduction.

Chapter Two - The Basics

Chapter Two provides all the basic information you'll need to get started in the right direction. It has the most complete description of how to sit at the piano that I've come across so far. You get the idea very easily from the included diagram that shows the proper position for your head, back, arms, and legs. Pay attention students There's nothing worse than seeing a beginning player struggling because of a slouch or being too high or too low in relation to the keyboard. Chapter Two continues with an explanation of proper hand position, and dispels the popular myth that you need very long fingers to play well. The author correctly points out that finger strength and agility are far more important characteristics than finger length. The standard and necessary assignment of numbers to each finger is included too, accompanied by a very good diagram. No confusion possible here. The layout of the keyboard is explained next, again with very clear graphics, and then the connection between the finger numbering system and the keyboard is introduced with some very simple exercises - so after only sixteen pages of background, the new student is actually using the keyboard. Note reading is introduced next with a very clear and simple approach that starts with the definition of a note, and then introduces the concept of rhythm. The notation for whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, and sixteenth notes is illustrated, and the standard duration of each is explained. What follows is a series of easy exercises to reinforce the basic concepts of note type and duration. Audio clips are available for each exercise to assure the student that they are proceeding correctly.

Chapter Three - The Musical Alphabet

Chapter Three starts with a graphic of the keyboard with all the notes labeled and then shows you the middle C hand position, followed by a short exercise that gets both hands going to familiarize the student with middle C and the surrounding notes. Chapter Three also introduces time signatures, the other component of rhythm. Good examples follow the explanation, and there are a few practice exercises, again with sample audio tracks. The rest of the chapters in the book are just as good and cover such topics as:

* the musical staff
* intervals
* sharps and flats
* playing scales
* rhythm
* arpeggios, and more.

Okay...if I review any more Chapters, you won't need the package, But I do want to tell you about the extras that come with Rocket Piano. First of all, there's a Music Theory Game called Jayde Musica that is really wonderful. When you start up the game, notes move past you on the screen from right to left and your job is to identify them before they scroll off the left-hand side of the display. You can click on the name of the note with your mouse, hit the letter on your keyboard that corresponds to the note(s) displayed, or type the number that you'll see associated with each note. The game has an Options menu that lets you control the level of difficulty (basically the speed at which the notes move), and there's even a high score screen that records your name once you start to excel. Kids love this stuff. This kind of game makes learning to read notes so painless, that there just isn't any excuse anymore

And it gets better...the second extra is another game called Keycelerator which helps you learn chord nomenclature and keyboard patterns. The game consists of a display of a chord pattern on the left of the display, and four choices on the right - a multiple choice test...the choices are shown as keyboard segments with different notes depressed. So if you can read the notes of the chord, you then pick the notes that represent the chord from the set of four choices; much more fun than studying a chord manual. The game keeps score and has a number of options you can control. (I'm not bragging, but I got a perfect score on my first test :)

The next extra is called Chordinator , which is designed to improve your chord recognition abilities. Structured much like Keycelerator , but the answer choices are in the form of chord names, not notes on the keyboard. Okay, I missed one on this game, but it was only because my finger slipped off the mouse and hit the wrong choice :) ...99/100 isn't bad though, right?

The next extra is really addictive It's called Perfect Your Pitch - it's an ear-training tool to help you home your pitch recognition skills. It plays a series of four notes and you have to pick the right choice from a set of four answers. It really is a lot fun. My score wasn't perfect on this one, and I had to force myself to stop ....like eating ice cream As you ear gets sharper it gets much easier to play songs by ear , and you'll start to recognize note combinations in common melodies and songs on the radio...just like learning a new language. This one is highly recommended. But don't ignore the other parts of the course while you try to perfect you pitch recognition abilities.

There's yet another bonus included called Advanced Learning Techniques for the Piano , but I think the little book is misnamed I think you should read this first when you get the package, and I also think this little gem is worth the cost of the package all by itself. What it tells you is how to practice - a topic that is completely ignored by most teaching packages - even by a lot of teachers I think it's one of the most important aspects of learning to play any instrument. Read it as soon as you get Rocket Piano. If you're just starting out, the insights you'll pick up here will save you a lot of frustration.

The Metronome program (another bonus) is really well-done. Just turn up the volume and save yourself the cost of a physical metronome. The graphics are marvelous.

If you like jazz, after you've gone through the basic Rocket Piano book, take a look at the add-on called Introduction to Jazz Piano . It has eight informative chapters that cover everything from jazz rhythms to chord progressions to syncopation. If you're not familiar with those terms, don't worry Start with the basic Rocket Piano book and then dive into the more advanced Jazz book.

So, my advice to you is to start your own personal countdown, and then blast your musical knowledge and your playing skills to new heights with this piano lesson package. Think about it...you get all the stuff described above for less than the cost of one or two private lessons.

Peter Cullen is the Webmaster at http://www.PianoLessonReviews.comand an avid amateur pianist. The site reviews piano lesson offerings on the Web and offers many other piano-related resources.


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