Pros / The light-hearted stories and classic beginning songs are ideal for teaching young children.
Cons / The lessons don't teach any modern songs.
Verdict / If you are looking for online lessons for your young child, the Hoffman Academy is a good place to start. It is affordable and Joseph Hoffman is a good teacher for younger students.
The Hoffman Academy is an online piano lesson program created by Joseph Hoffman. Mr. Hoffman is also the instructor for the video lessons and takes a classical approach to teaching piano. You can watch the video tutorials for free online, but if you want complete materials for the lessons such as sheet music, audio CDs and parental guides, you'll need to purchase the complete materials.
The teaching methodology is advertised by the Hoffman Academy to be for both children and adults, but the exercises and worksheets within the video tutorials and the downloadable content are clearly geared toward children. Many of the piano teaching products we reviewed include more advanced lesson content and modern songs that teens and adults might find interesting.
We went through the first couple piano lessons to see the approach the Hoffman Academy takes to teaching piano. In the first lesson, you are taught the difference between the high and low notes on a keyboard. You also learn how to play "Hot Cross Buns," a classic beginner song that includes playing notes on the white and black keys. The instructor has you both play and sing the parts of the song with him. After you do so, he offers words of encouragement, as if he is teaching you face to face. We find this to be a positive factor in motivation and helps you to continue on with your lessons. Although the online piano tutorials don't cover much musical theory, the downloadable content teaches you about staff and note heads in the first lesson.
The second lesson is dedicated to learning the musical alphabet. This is all of the notes within the major scale (no sharps or flats). The instructor plays a musical alphabet game with you to help you learn how to start on different letters in the musical alphabet and say them in order. The downloadable teaching materials offer other games and worksheets that you fill out to further your learning. The musical alphabet is an important part of learning piano, but throughout this entire lesson, you don't touch the piano once. We feel it is important to get the student playing the piano as soon and as much as possible to keep the interest level and motivation at a high point.
In lesson three you start to learn about proper piano posture. The instructor has you stand up and get your arms and hands loose before you even sit at the piano. At the end of the lesson, you learn how to play the song "Engine, Engine Number Nine." You almost go through two whole lessons without touching a piano. Although the instructor is engaging and can probably keep the attention of young kids, it feels like the breaks between touching the keys are too long.
Throughout the entirety of the first three lessons, you don't practice key piano skills such as learning the numbering of your fingers and note values. These principles come in later lessons. It would be nice to see these points addressed in earlier lessons.
Joseph Hoffman is a great online piano lesson instructor for young children. He teaches piano through fun, kid-friendly games, stories and songs. These lessons are truly for beginning piano players. If you are a more advanced player or are looking to learn modern or popular music, the Hoffman Academy is not for you. However, the parent looking for an affordable and easy-going way for their child to learn piano should consider the Hoffman Academy online piano lessons.