If you want to learn to play the piano, your best bet is to find a program or piano teacher that works for you. Many people opt to start their piano learning with an online course. This way, they can get a sense of whether the piano is something they want to continue.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at Piano Marvel, an established piano learning site with a surprising array of features.
Things to Consider Before Signing Up for an Online Piano Course
PM is one of many piano learning courses online. The sheer variety in courses means there’s something for just about everyone, but it also means that’s it’s important to research different courses to choose the one that’s best for you. Here are some things to keep in mind as you search:
- Do you want instant feedback? Many piano learning sites, including PM, let you plug in a keyboard or electric piano for instant feedback. A few also have the option to use a microphone to “listen” as you play an acoustic piano.
- Do you have a genre focus? While many piano sites let you learn pieces from a variety of genres, some of them focus primarily on a single genre. Often, that genre is classical music. However, if there’s a genre you want to focus on from the very start, it’s a good idea to seek out a genre-specific site.
- What type of practice do you prefer? Some sites let you practice on your own until you’ve mastered a piece. However, there are other sites like PM that build in helpful exercises to help you fully grasp all that you learn in lessons.
- What songs do you want to learn? Most piano sites include song libraries, and those song libraries typically have a wide variety of genres represented. However, some skew more toward certain genres and some song libraries are more extensive than others. For example, the PM library emphasizes classical music.
PRO’s & CON’s Of Piano Marvel
But before we get into our Piano Marvel review, let’s check out some pros and cons:
- Lessons are divided into “method” and “technique,” so you have plenty of exercises to help you integrate lessons
- An array of practice modes take you through just learning a song to perfecting it
- The impressive PM song library is divided into 18 levels, so there’s something for everyone
- Standard Assessment of Sight Reading tests help you gradually master the art of sight-reading
- There’s a definite focus on classical piano, especially in the song library
- To get all the feedback the site offers, you need a keyboard or electric piano that you can connect to your computer
Features And Benefits
Now, we’ll dive into all the benefits that this site has to offer.
PM has been around for a while. It was founded in 2008, and since then, it has continued to expand.
The site was developed by Aaron Garner, a piano teacher who wanted to combine elements of gaming and technology with learning piano. Aaron earned a Bachelor’s in Piano Performance from the University of Southern Colorado. Afterward, he earned a Master’s in Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Northern Colorado. He started PM as a way to help individual students, but the site was also made to help piano teachers — there’s a whole section of the site just for piano teachers.
When navigating the site, you can see that the site focuses both on a solid teaching method and on developing performance skills. With features like assess mode, a virtual trophy case, and elements of gamified learning, it’s easy to see why so many students choose this course.
At first glance, the site is welcoming and easy to navigate. There is a calming blue and white palette, and students have a dashboard where they can view their progress in Method, Technique, Standard Assessment of Sight Reading, and more. They also have a virtual trophy case where they can see achievements they’ve earned along the way. If you want a closer behind-the-scenes look at PM, check out this comprehensive video review.
This site is designed to make learning to play the piano as simple as possible. Lessons are kept very brief and stripped-down, so you just get the information you need to start practicing. These short video lessons fall under the “Method” section of the course.
However, in order to help you fully master what you’ve learned, PM also has a section called “Technique.” This section is packed with exercises to underscore what the Method section introduces.
Method and Technique are divided into six levels, and each level has 30 sections. You get a printable book to help you follow along, too. Here’s a summary of each of the six levels:
- Level 1 — This section is an introduction and an overview. You’ll learn posture and finger numbers, and you’ll also learn about playing dynamics and basic rhythms.
- Level 2 — This level introduces more playing positions. You also get to learn about syncopation, accidentals and playing in more time signatures.
- Level 3 — This section introduces scales, and you’ll also learn more about intervals, relative majors and minors, 12-bar blues, and more.
- Level 4 — This level covers triads, inversions, the circle of fifths, and transposition. You’ll also learn more scales, chords, and musical terms.
- Level 5 — In this section, you’ll develop your skills in reading sheet music. It covers additional musical techniques, and you’ll learn to play in some additional keys, too.
- Level 6 — You’ll learn about composition in this section, and you’ll also be introduced to baroque, classical, and romantic piano.
As you follow along in the Method book, you’ll be asked to periodically take tests. These are tests done by hand. Once you complete each level, you’ll earn a certificate of achievement.
If you want to learn more about the lessons the site offers, check out this video overview.
Standard Assessment of Sight Reading
If you want to learn to read notes and rhythms just by looking at them, then sight reading is a good skill to work on. Most piano sites offer some level of sight-reading instruction, but PM has the best sight reading support we’ve seen.
This site uses the Standard Assessment of Sight Reading (here’s a helpful video on how the test works.) This test assessing your sight-reading abilities through a plugged-in keyboard or electric piano, and you receive a score and a progress report. You can continuously practice sight-reading with the assigned exercises, and once you’re ready, you can take another test.
Practice Modes and Song Library
When you play with a connected keyboard, you can access the many practice modes that PM offers. Here are the three you can choose from:
- Prepare Mode — This mode will “wait” for you to play each note before moving to the next. It also involves aspects of gamified learning — keys will light up red if played incorrectly and green if played correctly. This is a great mode to use on difficult exercises or songs.
- Practice Mode — In this mode, you can select individual sections of songs to practice. This is especially useful for longer or more difficult pieces.
- Assess Mode — This mode will score your playing of notes and rhythms. Depending on how well you do on songs and exercises, you can earn trophies to add to your trophy case.
When practicing, you also have the option to add accompaniment, change the tempo (a great option when you’re first learning a piece), or add a metronome.
You also have access to the song library with a membership. The library offers songs in just about every genre, but it does lean heavily toward the classical piano. The songs in the library are divided into 18 separate levels, making it easy to choose one that’s exactly right for you. If you want a closer look at the song library, check out this video walkthrough.
When you practice songs, you can make learning easier with the site’s unique “Slicing Method.” “Whole” mode lets you play through the song with one hand at a time. “Chopped” mode gives you short sections that you can practice playing with both hands, and “Minced” breaks the song up into very short sections you can play with one hand at a time. These features are a great asset regardless of your experience level. When a song feels too challenging or overwhelming, these options let you break it down into more manageable pieces while you work your way to the final goal.
At times, learning an instrument on your own can be isolating, and PM knows this. Periodically, the site works to connect students using challenges. All you need to do to enter is upload a YouTube video of yourself playing the piano to enter. Winners are awarded cash, iPods, and other desirable prizes depending on the challenge. For example, check out the site’s video for the site’s Christmas challenge.
The prizes are a nice touch, but the periodic challenges have another purpose: they help keep you motivated, and they encourage you to develop performance skills. Even recording something for a challenge can be daunting, but each challenge offers a new opportunity to improve.
Pricing and Membership Options
PM is one of the most thorough and well thought out piano courses we’ve come across. But with that in mind, you might be concerned that it will be expensive.
However, this site is actually one of the more affordable options out there, and we like that it has a free trial of sorts. You can sign up with a free account, which is designed to help you see if PM is the site for you. The free PM account lets you access more than 200 exercises and 125 songs. You can also take three sight reading tests, more than 25 video lessons, and get free practice reports.
If you decide you want to try out the paid version of the site, you can choose either the Premium Annual or the Premium Monthly membership. Both of these options grant you full access to the site, and they’re more affordable than most other piano sites we’ve reviewed. The monthly plan is $15.99 per month, and the annual planets you save over time — it’s $110.99 per year. If you’re considering joining but want some more information, check out this overview.
Social Proof of the Course
Before signing up for any site that teaches you to play piano, you’ll probably want to see what other players have had to say about it. To make this easier for you, we’ve taken a look around the internet and found a few helpful reviews:
This review snapshot comes from Piano Dreamers, a site dedicated to reviewing piano-related products in detail. It does well with highlighting some of the great things about the site. Namely, it highlights some of the site’s uncommon perks, like original sheet music and an abundance of practice exercises.
This review snapshot comes from Top Ten Reviews, and it quickly sums up this reviewer’s take on the site. The instant feedback option is a major perk, and the variety of lessons and exercises is impressive.
This last review snapshot comes from Pro Musician Hub. It breaks down some of the major advantages of the site. In particular, PM does well with introducing you to a thorough curriculum and motivating you through it.
In closing, we think that Piano Marvel is one of the best sites out there if you want to learn to play the piano. With ear training, sight-reading, a song library, and plenty of piano exercises, this is a site that will keep you motivated and moving forward. And despite its impressive offerings, it still manages to be extremely affordable. Click here to check it out!