Review

Piano Marvel Review: Interactive Piano Educational Software

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Hi One Minute Music Lesson fans,

Today I want to review some software that I recently found to help you become a better sight-reader and piano player. The program is called Piano Marvel before I jump into my review take a quick look at a previous webinar I gave about Piano Marvel and how you can use it to develop your musical skills.

Piano Marvel Review

When I look at interactive educational software to recommend for my students I am always interested in a few different criteria.

  • Is the program easy to use?
  • Does it help the student break down the learning process?
  • Does it give feedback that is useful?
  • Is it fun?

I can say YES! with certainty that Piano Marvel meets all these requirements and it is my pleasure to share my review with you.

Let's start with the basic premise of this piano lesson/learning software.

The Concept Behind Piano Marvel

Piano Marvel is designed to aid you in learning how to play the piano by walking you through 36 graded levels.

Each level contains around 20 lessons. Each lesson builds upon the previous lesson and guides you in very small increments along it's teaching path to guarantee your success at each stage. As you complete each lesson the program grades your performance and gives you a score from 0 to 100. The object of the lesson is to earn a trophy and eventually fill up your trophy case as you progress through the lessons.

Piano Lessons for Kids and Adults Alike

Piano Marvel is great for kids because it allows them to earn trophies as they practice in a similar manner to a video game. And though the trophies are fun for adults too, older piano players will appreciate the step-by-step methodic approach to the progressive piano lessons even more.

The software's interface is one of the best I have ever seen and is great because it has many features that make it very useable for any age piano player.

Some of the best features of Piano Marvel

  • Piano Marvel allows you see the sheet music on screen and automatically scrolls as you play, eliminating page turns.
  • You have the option to print any of the musical examples out. This is so vital to forming good practice habits such as using your pencil to make notes and markings on the music.
  • The program allows you to set the speed or the tempo of each lesson to your skill level.
  • The software gives you instant feedback on the notes you have played correctly and the notes that you missed. This feature alone is a game changer.
  • Each of the 1200+ pieces in Piano Marvel's library has an accompaniment track that plays along with you so your practicing is much more engaging and exciting.
  • You can use your mouse at anytime to hover over any note in the music to see the note name and it's position on the piano keyboard.
  • It has a built in video lesson for each of the 36 levels.
  • All 36 levels in the trophy case can be downloaded or printed as complete method books. These books contain additional materials such as diagrams, tests, teacher accompaniments and achievement certificates.

Why it's Better than Most Online Piano Lessons

Unlike may of the free piano lessons you find on YouTube and other video websites Piano Marvel teaches you by using proven piano teaching methods that have been used for centuries and does not dumb down the material. You are not taught how to play songs by just learning what keys to press or by using the Guitar Hero-style interface with falling blocks.

With Piano Marvel you are learning by using a teaching method that builds upon the basics of great piano playing by teaching proper hand positions, real rhythm and note reading skills and enforcing good practice habits with it's features such as the "slicing" tools that break larger pieces into small chunks for easier learning.

The Cheapest Piano Lessons You Will Ever Find ... Ever.

Anyone who has ever tried to learn to play piano knows that piano lessons can be expensive. For less than the price of just one standard piano lesson you will receive 36 video lessons and can use the software as a teacher for an unlimited amount of time for a very reasonable monthly subscription price of just $15.

How to get Piano Marvel 20% Off!

As a reader of the One Minute Music Lesson you will receive a discount of 20% by using the code OneMinute at checkout. This code can be accessed directly by clicking the link below:

Get 20% off Piano Marvel Today with the OneMinute discount code

Start with a Free 30 Day Trial of Piano Marvel

If you are ready to learn piano faster than you ever thought possible then start today by downloading a free 30 trial.

Click here to get your Free 30 Day Trial of Piano Marvel

 

Sign up for the One Minute Music Lesson Newsletter

That's it for my review of Piano Marvel. Stay tuned to my email newsletter for a free upcoming webinar on this software. If you haven't already subscribed to my newsletter click here to signup today and get a free copy of my eBook "How to Read Music" a beginner's guide to reading music. Thanks following the One Minute Music Lesson.

 

Until Next Time ... Practice Smart, Not Hard.

-Leon Harrell

Review of SightReadingMastery.com, An Online Program for Practicing Sight Reading

Hi One Minute Music Lesson fans, Having a great sight reading program is a wonderful tool for the student musician. There are a lot of poorly designed programs available and finding the right one for you can be tough.

In my last post I talked about my top 4 picks for the best sight reading software programs available.

In this post I want to dive deeper into my number 1 pick with a review of SightReadingMastery.com.

What To Look For In A Sight Reading Software Program

I look for four things when I evaluate sight reading software. These four things are:

  • The ability to print the examples
  • The variety of examples
  • The types of analytical data the program gives you and ...
  • The overall usability of the program.

How Does It Measure Up

Here are my ratings of these four categories for SightReadingMastery.com

OVERALL RATING: 82%

BREAKDOWN: Printing 7 | Variety 8 | Analytics 8 | Usability 10

SightReadingMastery.com is an online tool that uses traditionally composed musical examples from real composers, as opposed to computer generated musical examples.

I think this is a huge plus for the program because computer generated examples are almost never musical. They generally feel square and often lack the emotional character that traditionally composed music has.

The examples on SightReadingMastery.com are musical and well written for the purpose of sight reading.

Category 1 - Printing

My first and most important category is printing. If a program cannot print its examples I do not personally find it to be very useful for practicing sight reading.

SightReadingMastery.com does not natively support printing but you can print directly from the internet browser. The printout from the program looks the best in landscape orientation.

What this means for you is that you can print, but the page may look a little bit funky, but it is still completely readable and not a pain to print out.

Here is an example of an actual printout (the print quality is much better than my photo):

Category 2 - Variety

SightReadingMastery.com is designed specifically for piano players. This does not mean you must play piano to use it, but the examples are always for treble and bass clef together and often require that you play both clefs simultaneously to hear the melody.

With that said, it is an excellent tool for piano and keyboard players. The program is designed for three progressively difficult skill levels.

  • Level 1 is for beginning sight reading: It has hands playing separately and requires both clefs to play the melody.
  • Level 2 is a bit harder: Both hands play together and the left hand is usually easier.
  • Level 3 is for intermediate sight readers: The examples are bit a longer and have more challenging key signatures.

The program has as much variety as you want to pay for. You can choose the level of variety that suits your needs the best. The current monthly plans are:

  • 35 sight reading examples for $19 a month
  • 100 sight reading examples for $29 a month
  • 300 sight reading examples for $79 a month

For most people the 35 example plan would be sufficient to provide you will one example to sight-read per day.

Category 3 - Analytics

The analytics for this program are for tracking completion purposes only. The program will track what day and time you read an example and which example and skill level it was.

Because the program is not interactive it will not track how well you played it. I would not be too concerned about the lack of this feature. There are very few programs that can accurately "listen" as you play and tell if you are playing it correctly. Often the computer algorithms used to "listen" are poorly executed and give bad feedback to students.

Category 4 - Usability

I would rate this program as very usable. It has a simple interface that does exactly what you want it to do.

SightReadingMastery.com provides you with:

  • An example to sight-read at the appropriate skill level.
  • It allows you to listen to the example, often with a real audio recording of the example.
  • It contains dynamics and expression markings in the music which many programs lack.
  • Since it is designed for pianist it includes fingering written in many of the examples.

Give It A Try For Free

Visit SightReadingMastery.com and sign up for the 7 day free trail to get a feel for the program. This test drive is fully functional and gives you a good idea of how the program will work with your learning and practicing style.

That's it for my review. Let me know in the comments below what think about the program and how you would incorporate it into your sight reading practice regimen. To get more tips on sight reading visit the sight reading forum page to ask your questions and get feedback from the One Minute Music Lesson community.

Thanks following the One Minute Music Lesson,

Until Next Time ... Practice Smart, Not Hard.

---

  Leon Harrell (about)

 

OneMinuteMusicLesson.com is dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of music to beginning musicians who want to grow their talents as quickly as possible with effective lessons and time management tips for practicing.

Leon Harrell's goal is to teach you musicianship by using highly targeted concept lessons that build progressively to teach you music theory, ear training and composition.

Review: The Concise Beatles Complete

Hi One Minute Music Lesson Fans, Today I wanted to share with a review of one of my go-to books when I just want to play some tunes and have a fun jam session on my piano at home.

I love the Beatles, and I'm sure many of you do too. If you are a Beatles fan you must own a copy of The Concise Beatles Complete. This is one of the best collections of Beatles songs in a simple to read and play format.

Each song is written in a lead sheet style. This means you have a melody written in treble clef with the lyrics and the chord symbols printed above the melody. The rhythms are simple to read because they are very close to being as accurate as the recordings but not as accurate as the more famous The Beatles: Complete Scores collection, which is much more difficult to play from as a solo pianist.

This collection has 184 of the most popular Beatles songs which are arranged in the book in alphabetical order so you can find them easily. Here are the contents of the book:

  • A Day In The Life
  • A Hard Day's Night
  • Across The Universe
  • All I've Got To Do
  • All My Loving
  • All Together Now
  • All You Need Is Love
  • And I Love Her
  • And Your Bird Can Sing
  • Another Girl
  • Anytime At All
  • Ask Me Why
  • Baby You're A Rich Man
  • Baby's In Black
  • Back In The U.S.S.R.
  • Because
  • Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite
  • Birthday
  • Blackbird
  • Blue Jay Way
  • Can't Buy Me Love
  • Carry That Weight
  • Come Together
  • Cry Baby Cry
  • Day Tripper
  • Dear Prudence
  • Dig A Pony
  • Dig It
  • Do You Want To Know A Secret?
  • Doctor Robert
  • Don't Let Me Down
  • Don't Pass Me By
  • Drive My Car
  • Eight Days A Week
  • Eleanor Rigby
  • Every Little Thing
  • Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey
  • Fixing A Hole
  • For No One
  • For You Blue
  • From A Window
  • From Me To You
  • Get Back
  • Getting Better
  • Girl
  • Give Peace A Chance
  • Glass Onion
  • Golden Slumbers
  • Good Day Sunshine
  • Good Morning Good Morning
  • Good Night
  • Goodbye
  • Got To Get You Into My Life
  • Happiness Is A Warm Gun
  • Hello Little Girl
  • Hello, Goodbye
  • Help!
  • Helter Skelter
  • Her Majesty
  • Here Comes The Sun
  • Here, There And Everywhere
  • Hey Bulldog
  • Hey Jude
  • Hold Me Tight
  • Honey Pie
  • I Am The Walrus
  • I Call Your Name
  • I Don't Want To Spoil The Party
  • I Feel Fine
  • I Me Mine
  • I Need You
  • I Saw Her Standing There
  • I Should Have Known Better
  • I Wanna Be Your Man
  • I Want To Hold Your Hand
  • I Want To Tell You
  • I Want You (She's So Heavy)
  • I Will
  • I'll Be Back
  • I'll Cry Instead
  • I'll Follow The Sun
  • I'll Get You
  • I'm A Loser
  • I'm Down
  • I'm Happy Just To Dance With You
  • I'm Looking Through You
  • I'm Only Sleeping I'm So Tired
  • I've Got A Feeling
  • I've Just Seen A Face
  • If I Fell
  • If I Needed Someone
  • In My Life
  • It Won't Be Long
  • It's All Too Much
  • It's Only Love
  • Julia
  • Lady Madonna
  • Let It Be
  • Little Child
  • Long Long Long
  • Love Me Do
  • Love You To
  • Lovely Rita
  • Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
  • Magical Mystery Tour
  • Martha My Dear
  • Maxwell's Silver Hammer
  • Mean Mr. Mustard
  • Michelle
  • Misery
  • Mother Nature's Son
  • No Reply
  • Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
  • Not A Second Time
  • Nowhere Man
  • Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
  • Octopus's Garden
  • Oh! Darling
  • Old Brown Shoe
  • One After 909
  • Only A Northern Song P.S. I Love You
  • Paperback Writer
  • Penny Lane
  • Piggies
  • Please Please Me
  • Polythene Pam
  • Rain
  • Revolution
  • Rocky Raccoon
  • Run For Your Life
  • Savoy Truffle
  • Sexy Sadie
  • Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
  • She Loves You
  • She Said She Said
  • She's A Woman
  • She's Leaving Home
  • Something
  • Strawberry Fields Forever
  • Sun King
  • Taxman
  • Tell Me What You See
  • Tell Me Why
  • Thank You Girl
  • The Ballad Of John And Yoko
  • The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
  • The End
  • The Fool On The Hill
  • The Inner Light
  • The Long And Winding Road
  • The Night Before
  • The Word
  • There's A Place
  • Things We Said Today
  • Think For Yourself
  • This Boy (Ringo's Theme)
  • Ticket To Ride
  • Tomorrow Never Knows
  • Two Of Us
  • Wait
  • We Can Work It Out
  • What Goes On
  • What You're Doing
  • When I Get Home
  • When I'm Sixty-Four
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  • Why Don't We Do It In The Road
  • Wild Honey Pie
  • With A Little Help From My Friends
  • Within You Without You
  • Yellow Submarine
  • Yer Blues
  • Yes It Is
  • Yesterday
  • You Can't Do That
  • You Like Me Too Much
  • You Never Give Me Your Money
  • You Won't See Me
  • You're Going To Lose That Girl
  • You've Got To Hide
  • Your Love Away
  • Your Mother Should Know

This collection is great also for analyzing the harmony behind the Beatles songs if you know how to convert chord symbols into functional harmony, a skill which I will be teaching to my new upcoming academy students.

If you own a copy of  The Concise Beatles Complete or have a better Beatles collection you would like to share with the One Minute Music Lesson community leave me a note in the comments below.

This post is sponsored by the Baby Trend Expedition-Jogger-Stroller team. Until next time: Practice Smart, Not Hard.

Leon Harrell

 

Review: EarMaster 5 - Ear Training Software

Ear Training EarMaster 5 is hands-down one of the best ear training tools I have ever used as a musician and as a professor.

Let me begin by telling you where most other programs fail. Many popular ear training applications are terrible simply because of there poor user interface design.

When I was an undergraduate learning ear training for the first time in college we used Practica Musica and later I used MacGAMUT when I began teaching because the school required students to buy it.

Both of these programs pale in comparison to the quality of EarMaster 5, if not just for the sheer fact that you can navigate the program easily and the use the input interface very intuitively.

Beyond just the ease of use I really like EarMaster 5 for the way that it is laid out from a learning perspective. You begin by choosing an ear training topic and a level of difficulty. Here is what the first screen looks like when you start the program:

You get a choice of training modes (standard and jazz) and a list of exercises beginning with intervals, the most essential building blocks of ear training.

After you choose your exercise you are allowed to choose a difficulty level or just complete each level in order.

The second and really useful reason this software is great is the pitch input method through an onscreen piano keyboard, guitar fret board or clickable buttons.

Here are two screens shots showing the piano and fretboard interfaces:

The Piano Interface

The Fretboard Interface

Also you can download a fully functional 7 day trial that allows you to test out all the features of the software. After that you can choose to purchase one of three different levels of the program.

  • The first is the Essential version. This version is great if you are a total beginner at ear training and will take very far.
  • The second level, the Pro version, opens up the more advanced ear training levels. This is great if you are practicing for ear training courses in college or music conservatory.
  • The third level is the School Version which I think is great for music professors but I don't see a real advantage for a student. Most of the extra features in this package are for tracking students grades and progress on assignments. However if you teach music I highly recommend this version.

Give it a try today on a Windows or Mac. It installs very quickly and also works with any MIDI keyboard or you can use mouse and keyboard input on your computer. It also has microphone input that you can use with your voice or guitar, but I have not used these features very much so I can't really say how well they work.

If you are serious about learning to play by ear or want to work on any of your ear training abilities I can't recommend this software highly enough. I urge you to try the free demo and see for yourself how good this program is.

Do you already own EarMaster 5? If so let me know what you think about it in the comments below.

Until next time, Keep up the good practice!

Leon Harrell

Review: Composing Music by William Russo

Composing Music by William Russo is one of the first books I recommend to all my composition students. It has a very interesting approach in its methodology and is perfectly suited to the total beginner and the seasoned veteran alike. This book is structured into 16 chapters including topics such as tonal and atonal music composition, motivic development, transformation techniques, harmony and counterpoint.

Although not a rigorous textbook on any of the subjects it covers, Russo does a wonderful job explaining each technique as well as offers numerous compositional exercises that will get your creative juices flowing.

The book's exercises are very practical. Beginning on page 1 Russo outlines some general rules for the exercises. These "rules" seem at first to be very strict however they offer the composer some limitations, which is a very powerful creative tool when used properly.

"The Imperial Flute" is one of the exercises that I have used with many of my students. It begins by describing that you have been "captured by the Lorac, a warlike tribe ruled by Edrevol, who will spare your life only if you please them with the music you write for the Imperial Flute". This flute can only play four notes. Thus your assignment is to create a piece that uses only the four notes E4, G4, A4, and C5.

This exercise is a type of constraints or limits exercise designed to get you to problem solve when creating a new piece of music. It works like a charm to get a student out of a case of writers block.

Check out one of the glowing reviews from Amazon to get a better idea of the quality of this book:

This is one of the best "How to" books I have ever read on any subject.

It works on several levels. Even though it takes a "beginners" approach to introducing many topics, it doesn't shy away from "real" music. For example, even the first simple exercise contains something different - 5/4 time. A beginner will simultaneously learn the basics of chord progressions and melody writing, stripped down to the bare essentials, while delving into modern techniques like 12-tone rows and picture music.

The key to the book is the concept of restricting the musical palette by some simple rules, to prevent the budding composer being overwhelmed by the possibilities. Right from the first page, you are working on real composition examples.

Even though the book is not particularly aimed at computer music or sequencing, electronic music enthusiasts should find it useful. A lot of the minimalist techniques are ideal for sequencing. Plus, if your musical background is pretty basic, and you are looking to broaden it with a mix of traditional and contemporary techniques, this book should take you a long way.

By its very nature, a book like this can only touch on some areas. So you will probably want to supplement it with some other material if, for example, you want a bit more detail on counterpoint. Still, it manages to cover a huge amount of ground, with the most detail where it counts most - developing and harmonising melodies, and a very good section on writing music to lyrics (ie: songwriting).

One last point - a lot of theory and composition books miss the mark with contemporary musicians because they approach the subject from the purely "classical" angle of cadence and resolution. This book is soundly classical in its approach to harmonisation and melodic development, but uses the comfortable pop/jazz approach to chord progressions, so it shouldn't lose any reader.

Highly recommended!

I can't recommend this book highly enough and I urge you to get a copy today if you are at all interested in writing your own music.

Do you already own this book? If so let me know what you think about it in the comments below.

Until next time, Keep up the good practice!

Leon Harrell