Learning to play the piano is one of the most rewarding skills an adult can develop. But with so many piano methods and courses on the market, it can be daunting for adult beginners to select the right one to start learning with.
Two of the most popular self-guided piano courses for adults are Alfred’s Basic Adult Piano Course and Pianoforall. Both have proven track records for teaching adults the foundations of piano playing. But the methods employ quite different approaches.
In this in-depth review, we will compare Alfred’s Basic Adult Piano Course and Pianoforall side-by-side. We will evaluate the key differences in their teaching philosophies, curriculums, song arrangements, and formats. By the end, you’ll have a clear sense of which course aligns better with your learning objectives as an adult piano student.
Overview of Alfred’s Basic Adult Piano Course
Alfred’s Basic Adult Piano Course is one of the most long-standing and widely used piano methods. First published in 1962, it has been a trusted source for generations of adults looking to learn the instrument.
Authored by Willard Palmer, Morton Manus, and Amanda Vick Lethco, Alfred’s breaks down piano concepts into incremental steps across five progressive levels. Each level contains a lesson book, solo repertoire book, technique book, theory book, and more, so students have all the resources needed in one structured curriculum.
Here’s an overview of what’s included in each level of the course:
- Note names and values
- Hand and finger coordination
- Five-finger melodies
- Basic chords and scales
- Rhythm, tempo, time signatures
- Simple folk and classical pieces
- Extended chords
- Playing hands together
- Wrist flexion and rotation
- Music symbols, accents
- Eighth notes, syncopation
- Pieces in various styles
- Major and minor scales
- Triplet rhythms
- Articulation markings
- Primary chords in all keys
- Duet playing
- Hymns and folk songs
- Block and broken chords
- Minor scales and arpeggios
- Accidentals and key changes
- Dotted rhythms and swing
- Piano ensemble pieces
- Sight reading skills
- Seventh chords
- Chord inversions
- Complex syncopation
- Contrary motion pieces
- Modern harmonic styles
Alfred’s Basic Adult Piano Course uses a structured step-by-step approach to build up musicianship skills and technique gradually. Each lesson focuses on a specific concept, building on material from previous lessons. Technical exercises reinforce the ideas taught in the lesson books. Repertoire encompasses classical, folk, sacred, and contemporary selections.
Overall, Alfred’s offers adults a traditional, well-rounded foundation in piano playing fundamentals – from correct posture and fingering to note reading, ear training, and repertoire. The incremental skill progression is designed to provide consistency and confidence for self-motivated adult learners.
Overview of Pianoforall
Pianoforall is a popular online piano course created by Robin Hall, a music teacher with over 30 years experience. First launched in 2006, Pianoforall has grown into a comprehensive curriculum for learning piano through video lessons, PDFs, audio files, and interactive tools.
Unlike the structured sequence of Alfred's, Pianoforall uses a "plays first, learns later" approach. Students are taught chords and rhythms right away, allowing them to play songs almost immediately. Music theory and technique are integrated through the process of learning actual songs.
Some key aspects of the Pianoforall curriculum:
- Video lessons clearly demonstrate techniques and songs
- Chord-based learning gets students playing quickly
- Arrangements of popular songs in various genres
- Interactive tools for adjusting tempo, looping sections
- PDFs of lesson notes, diagrams, sheet music
- No need to read music initially - playing by ear focus
- Skills taught through recognizing patterns in songs
- Improvisation stressed over reading each note
The course is organized into sections based on style, such as Blues, Rock n Roll, Ballads, Jazz, etc. Core concepts are reinforced through various popular songs under each style. Students learn chord progressions and patterns that can be applied across many songs.
Pianoforall incorporates technique, sight reading, and theory over time, but the emphasis is on getting adults playing real tunes right from the start. The video format appeals to visual learners and keeps the material engaging for adult students.
Overall, Pianoforall focuses less on formal technique and reading and more on developing the ear, rhythm, and improvisation through hit songs. The flexibility and modern curriculum suits adults looking for an enjoyable learning experience.
Key Difference in Approaches
The core difference between Alfred's Basic Adult Piano Course and Pianoforall lies in the teaching approaches:
- Alfred's teaches note reading and technique first - It focuses on building up fundamentals like finger dexterity, music notation literacy, scales, and theory as foundations before diving into playing songs.
- Pianoforall teaches chords and playing songs first - It starts students with chords and rhythm so they can play songs immediately, supplementing with reading and theory over time.
- Alfred's is oriented around reading sheet music - Notes and rhythms are learned systematically to develop strong music reading skills from the start.
- Pianoforall emphasizes learning by ear - Playing songs by recognizing chord progressions and patterns by ear is the initial focus rather than reading note-for-note.
- Alfred's has a structured progression - Concepts build methodically level-by-level in a set sequence and pace.
- Pianoforall allows jumping around - Since it's video-based, students can skip around to songs they find most engaging from any genre.
- Alfred's uses a traditional curriculum - It relies on classic methods like scales, finger exercises, sight reading training, and music theory.
- Pianoforall uses a modern curriculum - It's chord and song-based, teaching theory and technique within the context of contemporary songs and styles.
The methodology you align with most will depend on your learning preferences and piano playing goals as an adult student.
Evaluating Alfred's Basic Adult Piano Course
Alfred's Basic Adult Piano Course has withstood the test of time for some clear reasons. Here are some of the key pros of this traditional piano method:
- Effective step-by-step methodology - The structured progression provides a solid foundation, taking adult learners through concepts in a strategic sequence.
- Note reading and theory emphasized - It dedicates time to developing music notation reading skills and understanding of theory.
- Grounded in technique - Exercises and studies focus on strengthening finger dexterity, hand form, and technique.
- Sight reading skills developed - Reading unfamiliar music is a key skill built up right from the beginning.
- Reinforces concepts - Each lesson builds on previous material for incremental mastery.
However, there are some potential cons to Alfred's approach as well:
- Can feel too basic or slow-paced - The gradual build up may be tedious or simplistic for adults who want to dive into more complex songs quicker.
- Arrangements are traditional rather than pop - Classical and folk song arrangements may not excite adults who want to play contemporary hits.
- Exercises before songs - The emphasis on technique and note reading means playing actual songs is delayed while building fundamentals.
- Book format only - It lacks the engaging video and auditory elements of modern online courses.
Overall, Alfred's provides a structured, traditional piano education focused on reading, technique, and music theory. But the style and pacing may not suit all adult learning preferences.
As a modern video course, Pianoforall has some standout strengths:
- Engaging video format - The visual element appeals to varied adult learning styles and keeps it interesting.
- Chord-based learning - Getting adults playing songs right away through chord recognition is rewarding and confidence boosting.
- Learn by ear approach - Developing the ability to play songs by ear is a valuable skill for piano.
- Play a wide range plays songs in various styles - The song selections keep learners engaged across genres.
- Popular hit song arrangements- Adults can play chart-topping tunes they know and love right off the bat.
- Self-directed pace - Learners aren't locked into a set progressive track and can jump between songs fluidly based on interest.
Potential weaknesses of Pianoforall to consider:
- May not provide strong foundations in note reading - The chord and ear-based approach means less emphasis on sheet music reading fundamentals.
- Less structure - The flexibility of video lessons requires more discipline than the step-by-step book format.
- Possibility of developing bad habits - Without technique-focused exercises, improper hand form may be overlooked.
- Not ideal for classical aspirations - The contemporary song arrangements don't provide a classical music grounding.
In summary, Pianoforall prioritizes chord recognition, playing by ear, and learning contemporary songs through a flexible online format. This gives adult students gratification and enjoyment, but less focus on formal technique.
Final Verdict: Which Method is Better for Adults?
Based on the pros and cons outlined above, here's a comparative verdict on which course may be better suited for adult learners:
- Pianoforall rated higher for adult learners due to the emphasis on playing songs right away and the engaging video format. The instant gratification and contemporary song selections make learning piano more rewarding and enjoyable for adults.
- Alfred’s provides stronger technical foundations through its step-by-step structure and technique-building exercises. For adults who want disciplined, structured learning, Alfred's ensures a solid grounding.
- Pianoforall promotes better enjoyment and motivation by allowing adults to play recognizable songs almost immediately, in modern styles they appreciate. This inspires consistent practice.
- Alfred’s is preferred if reading sheet music is a priority. The sequential emphasis on reading notation, rhythm, and theory provides excellent music reading skills.
- Pianoforall is advantageous for chord playing, improvising, and playing by ear. The focus on recognizing chord patterns trains the ear and makes picking up songs more intuitive.
- Both methods have proven track records. They’ve demonstrated success in helping adults learn piano for decades through different approaches.
Overall, Pianoforall's modern, video-based format gives it an edge for adult enjoyment and student engagement. But Alfred's structured curriculum ensures strong foundations in technique and reading.
Recommendation on Which to Choose
So which course is right for you as an adult learner? Here are some tips:
- Try the introductory videos or books for each course to get a feel for the teaching styles. See which resonates better personally.
- Consider whether you want a traditional or contemporary learning experience. Alfred’s offers classical foundations while Pianoforall teaches pop/rock songs.
- If structure and discipline are important, the step-by-step nature of Alfred’s may suit you well. If you like flexibility, customization, and fun, Pianoforall is ideal.
- Identify your goals – do you aspire to play classical compositions from sheet music, or chord and improvise popular tunes by ear?
- Recognize your own learning preferences. Do you prefer visual, auditory, or written instruction?
At the end of the day, consistency and regular practice with either course is critical to making progress and succeeding. Pick the adult piano learning method that looks most engaging and enjoyable to you as a student.
To summarize this comparison of Alfred’s Basic Adult Piano Course vs. Pianoforall:
- Alfred’s takes a traditional, structural approach with emphasis on reading music, technique, and theory.
- Pianoforall uses a flexible, contemporary method focused on playing by ear and chord recognition.
- Which course is “better” depends on an adult student’s learning objectives, motivations, and preferences.
- Trying free introductory materials from each can provide clarity on which resonates most.
- Being consistent with practicing whichever course you select will lead to becoming a skilled pianist.
- Both Alfred’s and Pianoforall have their merits and advantages, and can provide a strong piano learning foundation.
Hopefully this detailed side-by-side review clarifies the differences between these two leading piano courses for adults. With the knowledge provided here, adult beginners can make an informed choice on their journey learning to play the piano.