After agreeing to do this, three books speedily arrived on my porch, along with two videos that were put out by the same author (I'll save those reviews for another day). I was impressed at how quickly the books were shipped to me, along with the "bonus material," all free of charge (in exchange only for my opinion of them). What a deal!
I read through the books a little to get an idea of what I was dealing with exactly. Then I shared the course with my wife who quickly thumbed through the books as if she was on a mission to find something specific within their pages. I'm still not sure what she was looking for, but she didn't hesitate to give me a few honest opinions, of which I will share later in this review. Over all the course "passed" our initial test.
Ultimately, I had one plan in mind that would be the greatest test of how I felt about this course, I would talk my 12-year-old daughter into taking the challenge. She had always wanted to learn piano but hadn't had any significant training (when one is home schooled and one's mother teaches them every subject, it makes sense that one's mother would let a few subjects slide). I had realized right away that this course would work well with my daughter's personality for three reasons (and these three reasons should help to explain the content of the books):
1. After the very first lesson, the student learns to play familiar church songs.
My daughter had begun a couple piano books in the past, and they had taught her to play a couple nonsensical little tunes over and over until her brothers were frustrated and putting pillows over their ears (of course, her mother and I were always patient and understanding [tongue in cheek]). I'm sure there was a good reason for the techniques that were taught in the early pages of those other piano books, but I could relate to my daughter's desire to play something a little more coherent. So, instead, she left the books and began trying to teach herself some simple 1-line melodies that were recognizable. Playing familiar songs seemed to be the basic idea behind this course, so I had a feeling it would work well for my daughter.
Sure enough, with this course, she was almost immediately playing a real song, "Nothing But The Blood." On the first few pages of book 1 the course had already taught her how to play the two chords in that song using her left hand, and the melody for her to play with her right hand. Obviously there is a lot more to playing piano than learning a couple chords and memorizing a song...but this was only the first lesson!
2. Each song the student learns gets a little more challenging and teaches the student a few more lessons about playing the piano.
I gave my daughter one rule: "You can't go on to the next song until you have learned to play the previous song without making any mistakes." Of course to do that, she would have to learn all the tips and new lessons that come with each new song she learns. This also worked well with my daughter's personality because she is pretty diligent as most of us are when we put our minds to something that actually interests us.
At first, she would get a song down in a day or two with no problem. After the songs got more challenging, it would take about a week to perfect. But the good news was, whenever she got a bit overwhelmed, she could go back to the songs she had already learned, and she could play them for fun, challenging herself by playing them at different speeds or adding a few of her own stylizations. In a couple months, she has made her way through the entire first book and had learned enough skills to actually compose a few of her own songs for fun.
3. The student can learn at his/her own speed.
I believe this is so important in educating our young people, and it is one of the many reasons we are so thankful to be able to home school our children. Some children take a little longer to catch on to certain subjects while others grasp those same subjects much more quickly. Obviously, the subjects that are most interesting and "fun" for the students are the ones they will excel at the fastest.
This course isn't necessarily filled with lots of fun and games. However, I believe many students, like my daughter, will find it very satisfying to hear themselves play familiar songs and to be able to share them with friends and family. For these three reasons I have mentioned above, I find this course to be very beneficial and would highly recommend it.
Now, although there is a bit of negative criticism my wife and I have for these books, and I feel I must share it, most of that criticism can be eliminated with some simple solutions. Here are a few of the issues we had:
1. There were a few minor mistakes we believe that we found in the book. There is at least one place where a certain chord is supposed to be played that hadn't actually been taught yet. Again, these types of mistakes were very minor and there were very few of them, but I thought I should point out that one should expect to find a few such errors if they go through the course.
2. This course teaches a simple "church pianist" style of piano playing. Granted, it doesn't claim to teach anything other than that. In fact, that is one of the points of the whole course. However, there is a great benefit to learning some additional classical techniques and theories that can help the student expand their abilities. This is a little nitpicky, I know, but I felt it worthy of mentioning that one would do well to learn some additional techniques and music theory.
3. Obviously, this course is primarily for the self-taught piano player. In that way, I believe it is a great resource. However, teaching oneself to play piano will most likely cause the student to learn some very bad habits. Some of these habits will affect the student's posture, finger positioning, etc. These habits will need to be corrected early on, so I feel like it should be pointed out that a fair amount of time should be spent with a piano teacher to learn some of these foundational lessons.
With these few "disclaimers" given, I want to clearly say once again that I am very happy with this course. Most importantly, I feel like it is really helping my daughter in her journey to learning to play the piano. I'm excited to see how the Lord will use this in her future!.
Here is a video of my daughter playing "Grace Greater Than Our Sin:"
(The above article is a review on "The Complete Church Music Course" and is not necessarily a promotion of the author who wrote it or any other material he has produced. Any future reviews of the writer's material will also honestly reflect my opinions about that specific material)