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Piano Teaching Programs Reviewed: eNovative Piano
Subscription-based; there are a range of price plans for individual students, individual teachers, and institutions
Technology required—Internet- connected computer, phone, tablet, PDF reader, Adobe Flash
Website—www.enovativepiano.com Customer support includes online tutorial videos
Excellent pedagogical approach
Online curriculum houses hundreds of exercises
Helpful instructional videos address an inherent problem of printed materials
Workbooks make class organization easy
Website navigation is not immediately intuitive
Low-quality accompaniment audio files
Unappealing visual layout
Confusing subscription plan
eNovative Piano is a comprehensive, well-conceived online piano curriculum that houses hundreds of exercises, original pieces of music, and helpful instructional videos. Originally developed for use in university-level group piano settings, it is suitable for use in studio and group settings for students of all ages.
Virtually no setup is required to use eNovative Piano. All of the instructional materials are housed at the website and are available with a subscription. A Flash plugin and PDF reader are required. Tutorial videos to help you get started are easily found at the member home page. Using eNovative Piano eNovative Piano can be thought of as a digital textbook or piano method organized into four units (Preparatory, Levels 1-3). Each unit is broken into chapters coined "eNovations" that deal with one or two topics. The Preparatory unit begins with playing on black keys, fundamentals of music reading, and the introduction of fivefinger patterns. Level 1 focuses on playing within five-finger patterns. Level 2 extends the hand to the 6th, 7th, and octave and introduces stock accompaniment patterns. Level 3 introduces more commonly found keyboard textures and focuses on functional piano skills. Each page of an eNovation topic contains an introduction to the topic, a link to an activity at musictheory.net (if applicable), instructional videos, drills, and applications. Instructional videos tend to be short and concise, making them easily digestible for students. Some videos demonstrate a concept through a lecture with slides. Others provide excellent visual models of piano technique. Pairs of drills and applications comprise most of the curricular materials. Concepts are introduced using technical drills that are categorized by learning modality (visual, aural, tactile, intellectual). The pedantic nature of the drills is offset by the applications that immediately follow them. Applications include solo and ensemble repertoire, score reading exercises, and harmonization/lead sheet realizations. Standard teaching repertoire is included along with appealing original music composed by the authors. A printable PDF is available for most, if not all, of the drills and applications. Audio or video clips are available on each drill and application page. Audio files tend to sound like General MIDI files and are unappealing compared to other products currently available.
A wealth of material is available in the eNovative Piano curriculum. So much so that navigating the site is initially overwhelming. Though navigating the site is not always intuitive, the authors have taken steps to make it more manageable by creating lesson plans and "Workbooks." The pre-formatted lesson plans help teachers organize the materials into manageable units, while the "Workbook" feature allows students to navigate directly to assigned materials.
The "Workbook" feature allows teachers to create custom assignments from the materials on the website. After creating a workbook for a class, students receive a link that takes them directly to the assigned materials. Outside materials can also be uploaded by the instructor. Students have the option of logging their practice time in their workbook and participating in online class discussion forums. For those who only teach private piano lessons, the workbooks can be used to create custom assignments for each student. This makes navigation of the site much easier for the student.
Conclusion eNovative Piano is an excellent, thoughtful online piano method. The use of multimedia resources to emphasize the formation of a solid fundamental technique and aural development is quite unique to piano methods. The authors' expertise in developing core musicianship skills at the piano is evident throughout the method.
The strength of eNovative Piano is its well-crafted pedagogical approach. Its biggest weakness is that the excellent pedagogy of the method might be obscured by a lack of visual and aural appeal available in many mass-marketed piano publications and apps. Many of the pages of the site appear cluttered and unappealing compared to apps and sites that employ more contemporary elements of web design. It might be difficult to convince pre-college students and their parents to use the materials when more game-like and kid-friendly methods and apps are available. Because the curriculum is paced more slowly and includes more opportunities for reinforcement than other methods used for university-level group piano instruction, eNovative Piano would make an excellent method for that audience. It is also a good resource for independent teachers of private students. The method provides an abundance of activities and enough opportunity for customization that it could be used with students of any age and in any teaching setting.