HearAndPlay has a very different approach to keyboard instruction; with recreational musicianship in mind. This course will teach you how to hear music in the way that many gospel pianists learned: by developing your auditory recognition of chord progressions and key centers. Some of the most fluent keyboard players I’ve ever come across came from learning this technique in church bands while growing up. Usually, these players have more musicality, fluency, and sense of voice leading a lot earlier in their development compared to the traditional textbook piano student.
This unorthodox approach that developer Jermaine Griggs teaches really is a skill to be had, and he is very generous in his free lessons on YouTube by including PDFs and blog posts along with almost every video.
HearAndPlay Online Piano Lessons Overview
There are many different types of courses available as well as ear training software and immense amounts of videos and entire song tutorials. There is quite a bit to choose from, and each product is a course on its own.
Three main courses are here for purchase, GospelKeys, Hear and Play Jazz & Salsa, and Music Theory. All of these courses teach you to train your ear from the easiest of songs to the more complex ballads and famous tunes you may come across.
HearAndPlay also has a very active YouTube channel completely full of informational videos for tips and tutorials about anything gospel, jazz, or ear training related. This is also where the first few free lessons are located, so you can really try this product’s free trial without even registering! These lessons are generally taught by well-rounded gospel musicians, including Jermaine Griggs himself, and I find they are all very capable and make the quality of the instruction in this course very strong.
Every ‘collection’ product available starts with a 101 course, such as Hear and Play Jazz 101. This is generally the first volume from the pack of CDs you order from the website. These 101 DVDs tend to move along pretty quickly and almost require some background knowledge. A beginner may start to find the courses to be a bit overwhelming to someone who isn’t previously familiar with music and how it should sound and work. However, there are some lessons based around the student that can hear music much better than they can play, which can count as a beginner lesson in piano.
A complete beginner isn’t going to have the comprehensive understanding of pitches right off the bat unless there is some background in singing or avid listening. If you aren’t sure whether or not you are the right kind of novice for this course, there is no risk taking the free lessons offered; they’re on YouTube!
Intermediate level pianists are the demographic that I think will benefit the most out of the courses offered with HearAndPlay. If you already somewhat have a grasp on the piano, you will be able to latch onto technicalities a lot easier and spend more time learning to hear your way through music. For instance, one of the free lessons referenced above includes the video called ‘Finding the Key to Any Song’. It is not very technically in depth but does talk about music and how it generally works quite a lot. This is going to require some next level listening abilities such as intervals, pitch differences, and a sense of cadence.
Even the most advanced players can benefit from these courses because if you don’t already have perfect pitch, there is always room to improve your relative pitch. When the courses start getting into more complicated jazz-based progressions, hearing through a tune or key center is not easy. Jazz and Gospel progressions have a habit of changing keys many times in some cases!
The song choices you are given throughout these courses are pretty much limited to Gospel, Jazz, and some Latin and Salsa. Only when you purchase the Song Tutor Software do you get the ability to literally google any song name and learn it. The software itself is jam packed full of tools to ease your song learning experience such as slowing down the tempo, changing keys, and a virtual keyboard connected by MIDI. There are also countless videos on the dedicated YouTube channel that are always being uploaded. Since the product came out 12 years ago, there have been videos being uploaded to this channel (as recently as a week ago when writing this review!) with many song tutorials to choose from.
The only mobility that HearAndPlay has is through the YouTube channel. None of the software or courses you can purchase is available through a mobile device.
The value of the product may be different from student to student. There are many products available, but maybe only a few of them truly appease the customer. It becomes expensive when every aspect of the course is separated into different products, but you can still get a great amount of information just out of the $65.00 courses. The software tools like the ear trainer or the song learning program are also really helpful to further your expertise, but are downright expensive. We also must not forget about all the free videos and resources that Hear and Play provides through YouTube, giving a lot of reinforcing information to keep you involved with your craft.
The website is initially a bit confusing, but as you click around you will eventually stumble upon the product section. Here, you will find that each product is indeed priced separately and is not the cheapest. I am also turned off by the fact you have to learn different things over completely different platforms. For instance, the GospelKeys lessons are all on DVD, while the music theory lessons are on a combination of book and DVD and the ear training is used on a separate software. This is quite a bit of jumping around onto different mediums of learning!
Despite the erratic interfaces, they really are teaching a skill that can skyrocket playability and strengthen musical maturity in a student through ear training. This skill is so valuable because it transferrable to so many situations, even beyond the world of gospel and jazz. With the ability to hear your way through chord progressions and keys centers, you can eventually ‘hear’ your way through any gig and sound great doing it.
My feelings toward this product is mixed, as there could be a more convenient way of executing the lessons offered here. However, the value of the skills HearAndPlay offers to teach almost makes it absolutely necessity to learn. I would recommend these courses for an intermediate player that already has a grasp on the piano and wants to take it to the next step as a performing musician. HearAndPlay’s main website advertises that they helped over 200,000 people become musicians and with that being said, I believe all levels of musicians could benefit from this program in some way.