These past few weeks I have so happily been reviewing PianoWithWillie online piano learning. As part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I was given access to the coveted Studio Access.
Lessons: There are over 300 video lessons which are broken down into over 3000 chapters. And they are not for beginners!
Courses: In addition to lessons there are also courses on PianoWithWillie that focus on a particular style, concept, or technique for several weeks. Most of them are under the Premier License (waiting list. This part of the program includes teacher feedback) but there are a few you can access with Studio Access.
Studio Access is $49 a month, $99 a quarter, or $399 a year.
PianoWithWillie members also have access to a monthly live training, Live-to-Library. Live-to-Library lessons are very focused on one topic. If you want to join in live there is an extra cost or you can wait a few weeks for it to show up in your library where you can access it for free.
Using the PianoWithWillie you can either focus on Foundational piano lessons or Fun'dational piano lessons.
Foundational piano lessons focus on rhythm, technique, and reading.
Just so you know I'm going the Fun'dational way.
To give you an idea the styles/genres are…
While you can get up to speed rather quickly the format in PianoWithWillie is more for someone who is already well versed in the piano. Meaning you can read sheet music, play in several keys, and maybe even understand the number system for piano. If this isn't the case you might want to start with Homeschool Piano or Easy Piano Basics.
PianoWithWillie was founded by Willie Myette and his wife. Willie had a non-traditional piano learning experience and his joy and love for the music he is making comes across totally on the screen. You can't help but be inspired.
As a church pianist I'm always looking to improve and learn new things. I learned piano as a full fledged adult and left my piano teacher, due to life commitments, before I was truly ready. There is much I still need and want to learn. There is a whole community of adult or later piano learners online and I know first hand the struggle to find good, quality, piano lessons that you can fit in any time of the day (my former piano teacher WOULD NOT have been available at 1am). I've spent a small fortune trying to get to that next level and after finding Willie I'm ready to have an eBay sale!
Many months ago, I was able to take a free seminar from Willie over the winter break and knew, from his style of teaching and the things that I was learning, that I wanted to know more. I was ready to sign up for PianoWithWillie but then the Schoolhouse Review Crew offered me the chance to review. Woo hoo! (so happy).
In PianoWithWillie Willie tells you right away how to have success using his resources with a 30 Day Success Plan where if you…
- Commit to practice at least 5 days a week.
- Practice for at least 5 minutes per day
- Remain realistic knowing that change happens slowly
- Follow the PianoWithWillie process and practice only 1 lesson at a time
- Remain patient with yourself and don’t give up –
Willie guarantees you will see a transformation in your playing.
After going through the Piano Start program, which includes a 30 Success Playbook which will get you up to speed if you are a little rusty, and following the tips for getting started I took a 22 Point Assessment and was given the Success Plan Title…
Church and Worship Performance (Intermediate)
This Plan lists 10 lesson I should go through to get to where I want to be.
My Piano Lessons are….
- Easy Gospel Bass -Ethel Caffie Austin
- Easy Gospel Basics
- Gospel Piano Riffs Vol. 1
- Gospel Piano Riffs Vol. 2
- Preacher Chords Vol. 1
- Swing Low Sweet Chariot Vol.2 (improv)
- Slow Gospel Blues
- You've Got a Friend (accompaniment)
- Willie Answers : Gospel Grooves
- Jazz and Gospel Exercises
Now they're not in any logical order. You can sort your lessons into various orders and I need to do that pretty soon so I can work from easy to hard.
Some of these lessons are beginner and some are advanced lessons. Right now I'm supposed to be in Easy Gospel Basics but I got antsy to get a looksee at Easy Gospel Bass – Ethel Caffie Austin and to do more than one lesson for this review (I really like it 🙂
I've tried many learn to play Gospel Style piano lessons in the past (psst and I also run a Church Musician site). It's such a specialized niche and it's very hard to find someone to actually want to give you their time and explain this style in the detail I (and others) need. It's something most people just have a knack for and pick up. You lean over someone's should and watch them do something and then you go and try it until you've made it your own. I think by the time I started piano (my mid 20's) that ability was not something I had. I needed someone to explain it to me step by step and that's exactly what Willie does.
The piano lessons are various lengths. The videos earmarked for me are around 45 minutes but they are broken down into even smaller lessons which made me breathe a sigh of relief. I thought if I was supposed to sit there and watch all 45 minutes I would certainly not retain a thing. This way, in smaller snippets, I'm retaining what I learn. Willie goes slowly teaching first a left hand pattern which I take time (a week usually) to get down, then adding a few right hand notes, maybe jumping into another key etc. Each snippet lesson takes about a week to internalize (for me) before adding on.
My Easy Gospel Piano Lessons
We have a spinet piano and an electric keyboard in our home. Since my daughter has been inspired to renew her lessons with Homeschool Piano we both vy for time on the spinet. Her lessons are on Saturday evening and mine are whenever I can slip them in throughout the week. Sometimes I'll just watch a lesson while cooking. I've been volleying between Easy Gospel Basics and Easy Gospel Bass -Ethel Caffie Austin to get a feel for the program but now I intend to back up and focus on Easy Gospel Basics in many keys.
Just so you know I just love, love, love PianoWithWillie. I fully intended to subscribe even before this incredible blessing to do a review and I'll definitely be re-subscribing again if I'm not up to speed by the time my subscription is over.
The lesson Easy Gospel Basics is 54 minutes in total broken down into 9, 3 to 9 minute lessons. You also have the option to buy the videos for each lesson so you can download it for ongoing use. I'd go broke downloading all the lessons I wanted so the subscription plan is better for me.
Easy Gospel Bass -Ethel Caffie Austin is 37 minutes in total broken down into 7, 5 to 7 minute lessons.
Willie starts with teaching me a simple part of the left hand pattern. Now there are many ways to play musical parts in your left hand. This is something my nephew and I discuss all the time. When you play piano mostly in a chord method you look to jazz things up with your left hand. I originally learned to play chords in my left hand (much to my piano teacher's chagrin) and then moved on to playing “tenths”. Walking 10th's is mostly how I play but learning to play more intricate left hand patterns has been a long time goal for me.
My first two lessons in Easy Gospel Bass -Ethel Caffie Austin are on getting that left hand pattern down. It's integral to the song. It carries the driving beat and that soulful bass.
My left hand is old, and lazy. I'm even left handed! But I've got a ways to go to loosen it up and unlearn my bad habits. I spend most of the week doing the left hand pattern over and over and over again but that's what it takes. Even though Willie didn't ask me to do this I'm also slowly transposing this to other keys. My goal is to slip these little lessons into my everyday playing.
Each part of the lesson is very short. 5 minutes, 7 minutes. Just enough time for Willie to explain what you are learning, get Willie's tips for practicing it, and hear how he plays it so well. In the online piano window you can also slow down the video so you can see exactly what he is doing but he explains it so well and in such detail I've only had to do this once and that was because I jumped ahead.
The lessons also include sheet music, which thankfully, is broken down in the order that you are learning it instead of thrown at you all at once. My daughter attempted to play my sheet music but she's not there yet. You can also download a midi audio tract for the lessons.
Willie's method of teaching is clear and complete. He goes over every step which is really appreciated.
As an adult piano learner it's been difficult to find online or video lessons that explain the information, specifically in the gospel or southern gospel genre, in the detail I need. I think adult learners want to understand the why's before they can just let go and play. That's my thought at least.
So far I've been spending a lot of time really getting to know the groove pattern and the pentatonic scale in Easy Gospel Basics. This is the first half of the lesson. Although Willie taught in one key he gave the formula so I've been playing it in several keys. My goal is to slip it into a gospel song I'm already comfortable playing.
I've been playing it so much and it's so groovy people (family, friends who come by) think I'm playing a new gospel song. Nope! Just practicing my gospel groove in the I-IV pattern. I can almost hear which song it would sound good in but I haven't discovered it yet. Hopefully that will come soon.
Here's a sample of my playing this groove in 2 keys so far…
Now this video is just the beginning of my Easy Gospel Bass lessons. Willie taught the session in the key of C and I've transposed to the key of F (one my favorite to play in). I'll keep transposing it until I gone through all the Major keys. Another goal is also to find a fitting place for this little ditty. I can almost hear the rest of this song but I haven't placed it yet.
I'm really so happy to be able to review this great resource. Taking these lessons has truly been a gift.
Many years ago a famous gospel piano player, no longer on this earth, Anthony Burger, once mentioned how when he was younger and trying to learn gospel licks many seasoned pianists wouldn't share their secrets or tips. Well Willie is sharing all his tips and I appreciate that!
My Tips for PianoWithWillie
If you are serious about your piano playing, want to play for church, or really ramp up your improvisation skills this is a worthwhile program. There are so many resources, so much worthwhile interaction, and excellent support.
PianoWithWillie is an investment, don't waste it. Having played around for the last month I can see that one month or purchasing one lesson really just isn't enough to get the most out of it. Make every day count. Either with practice or learning. Follow their tips for learning and improvement and getting the most out of it.
My family is about to get sick of my piano playing!
Do you play the piano and want to move to the next level, or get comfortable in a new or different style? Check out PianoWithWillie.