The good people at eMedia are well-known for their interactive music learning products. In the past they have focused on teaching how to play the guitar with such titles as Guitar Method 1 (for beginners), Guitar Method 2 (for intermediate and advanced players), and Blues Guitar Legends (an interactive guide that lets you study and learn the music of ten original blues recordings as performed by the players that made them famous). These titles went on to become some of the most popular guitar teaching tools on the market. Now eMedia is setting its sights on piano and keyboard instruction with their new Piano and Keyboard Method CD-ROM (Volume 1).
The CD-ROM provides twelve chapters containing over 300 lessons. Chapter 1 (Playing on Black Keys) covers The Piano and Keyboard, Direction of Sound, Counting and Time Signatures, Improvisation on Black Keys with Rhythmic Flash Cards, and Playing Songs on Black Keys. Chapter 2 (Playing on White Keys) covers Introducing Note Reading and Playing Songs on White Keys in Middle C Position. Chapter 3 (Tempo, Dynamics and Sight Reading) covers Tempo Markings, Dynamic Signs, More Songs in Middle C Position, and Sight-Reading with Twisted Melodies. Chapter 4 (Playing Songs with Accompaniment) covers Songs with Both Hands Playing Together in Middle C Position, as well as the Sharp, Flat and Natural Signs. Chapter 5 (Legato and Staccato) covers More Songs in Middle C Position, Counting Dotted Quarter Notes, as well as Playing Legato, Staccato, and the Two-Note Slur.
In Chapter 6 (The C Position and Intervals) the topics include Introducing Melodic and Harmonic Intervals, Playing Songs in C Position, and Creating Melodies and Harmonies. Chapter 7 (Triads and Chords) covers Introducing Triads and Chords, More Songs in C Position, The C and G7 Chords, Make your Own Accompaniment using the C and G7 Chords, and Broken Chords. Chapter 8 (The G Position and Transposition) covers The G Position, Key Signatures, Melodic and Harmonic Intervals in G Position, and How to Transpose a Song. Chapter 9 (The F Position and Hanon) covers The F Position, Melodic and Harmonic Intervals, The F and C7 Chords, Playing Songs in F Position, Transposing from F to C, and Hanon Study. Chapter 10 (Extending the Hand Position and Playing Scales) covers New Melodic and Harmonic Intervals, Songs with New Intervals in C Position, The C Major Scale and Chord Progressions, and Songs using the C Major scale and I-IV-V7 chords. Chapter 11 (G and F Major Scales, Chords and Arpeggios) covers The G Major Scale and Chords, Songs in G Major, The F Major Scale and Chords, Songs in F Major, Using the Pedal, Hands Crossing Over with Pedal, and Songs with Arpeggios in C, G, and F Major. Chapter 12 (A Short Trip into the History of Music) covers Famous Melodies from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic Periods, and 20th Century American Music: Ragtime, Blues, Rock, as well as Patriotic and Holiday Songs.
As you work your way through the material, you’ll find a number of interactive features that help to make the learning process more intuitive and keep the lessons exciting. Piano teacher Irma Irene Justicia, M.A., who has taught at the renowned Juilliard School of Music, guides you with video demonstrations of techniques. There are over 70 full-motion videos on the CD, a number of which provide multi-angle views so that you can see precisely how to position your hands on the keyboard. Very nice! The CD-ROM also includes over 100 songs for you to learn to play, such as Piano Man (Billy Joel), Candle in the Wind (Elton John), Give My Regards to Broadway (George M. Cohan), Ode to Joy (Ludwig van Beethoven), America the Beautiful (Samuel Ward), La Bamba (Los Lobos), Minuet in G (J.S. Bach), Tishomingo Blues (Spencer Williams), The Entertainer (Scott Joplin), Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan), and more. The songs are interspersed throughout the material and are introduced in the order of their difficultly.
Piano and Keyboard Method also makes learning the songs very easy with features like audio tracks, accompaniment tracks, a digital metronome, an animated keyboard, and interactive feedback. The audio tracks feature allows you to hear each song performed and sung. You can choose to listen to both piano and voice, piano only, or voice only. The accompaniment tracks feature lets you hear a computer rendition of each song. You can listen to a full accompaniment, left-hand only, or right-hand only. There’s also a digital metronome that helps you to keep a steady beat while you are learning a song with both audio and visual feedback. And in addition to seeing the standard music notation of each song on the screen, you can watch a full-size animated piano keyboard. The keyboard shows what keys should be played as the notes of the song are sounding, and it also shows you what fingers you should use to play those notes. Best of all, however, is the interactive feedback feature. As you play a song on your MIDI keyboard, the program interprets your performance. At the end of the performance, the program shows you any wrong notes you played in regards to both pitch and timing. So, for example, if you played a wrong note, you’ll see a feedback balloon appear above the music saying something like “you played C instead of B.” You can then click on the balloon and the animated keyboard will show you what mistake you made and how to correct it.
As you can see, eMedia has done their homework. Piano and Keyboard Method provides everything a beginning piano student needs to learn the basics of music, how to read music, rhythm and timing, pitch and notation, and how to play real songs on the piano or electronic keyboard. As with their other titles, eMedia has created a successful learning approach and anyone who wants to start learning how to play a keyboard instrument should pick up a copy of Piano and Keyboard Method today. For those intermediate players out there, eMedia is already hard at work on Piano and Keyboard Method Volume 2, and you can be sure I’ll be reviewing that for you as soon as it becomes available.