Musiah Review | A.I. Piano Lessons

Musiah Review
Musiah Review

There have been, over the history of the piano, many, different and diverse methods of learning the instrument. Teaching and learning approaches have been and continue to be as varied as the human imagination allows with no shortage of innovations that claim to be the best way forward.

Perhaps as a result of the global pandemic, a considerable quantity of teaching has moved to an almost permanent ‘online’ status. Alongside this has come a flood of ‘apps’ and learning platforms, each with its claims, ethos, and offers. The one under consideration here is one called ‘Musiah’, their name deriving from “MUSic Instruction At Home”; which is what they offer.

Musiah Review

The website is the first place to look if this learning opportunity appeals. There is much to investigate. Interestingly, the ‘Mission’ of Musiah is to present ‘world-class’ piano instruction in the comfort of your home. Further to this statement is the aim of Musiah to offer students of the piano a ‘holistic’ approach to their learning.

What this means in practice is that it is not simply a practical series of lessons but ones that cover just about every facet of Music as a subject except for history and analysis. Included in the Musiah programme of learning are the following components: Performance Skills, Note Reading, Scales, Chords, Technique, Efficient Practice, Ear Training, Rhythm, Music Theory, and Memory Training. This is quite a comprehensive package compared to other online options.

One of the alluring claims of the Musiah method is that you can achieve the equivalent of six years of piano instruction in a “fraction of that time”. This means they are confident that you can learn up to sixteen times faster with Musiah than via more traditional methods. They even offer a 14 Day Trial so there is every opportunity to try before you commit to buying lessons. What you will need is a MIDI keyboard or digital piano, a cable, and or Bluetooth connectivity. A computer or iPad are also suggested.

To place Musiah in context, its inventor is Irish born, concert pianist and composer, Brendan Hogan. Brendan followed quite a traditional path of learning music quickly rising to prominence with a notable first orchestral piece titled ‘Mythical Fantasy for Pan Pipes’. His performing career began in earnest when Brendan studied piano with Professor Anthony Glavin at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Brandan relocated to Australia in the late 1980s and has built a successful career for himself as a pianist, teacher, and composer. In early 2008, Brendan turned his attention to developing a piece of teaching software called ‘Musiah’ that uses Artificial Intelligence technology. This helps ‘Musiah’ stand apart from any other online piano course I am aware of.

As a direct result of Brendan’s extensive experience and over 18 years, he developed ‘Musiah’ to bring anyone and everyone interested in learning the piano the benefit of his methods and knowledge. As you might expect, ‘Musiah’ has been met with a warm reception and claims to have around 80,000 students who have learned with the software. Certainly, the online testimonials appear to paint a very bright and positive picture of ‘Musiah’.

With the advantages an AI piece of software can bring, the ‘Musiah’ teaching method works in the following way: it responds to you just as a ‘real’ teacher would. Brendan describes it as just like having him in the room with you. Interestingly, 50% of all new pieces are learned with the left hand first. Brendan’s thinking is that frequently pianists left-hand is ‘weaker’ than their right, hence his approach directs every student in this way to avoid holes in technique. Another technique employed by ‘Musiah’ is the idea of not using mnemonics to learn to read the treble and bass clefs; or the ‘grand stave’ as it is known for piano. Instead, Brendan suggests using the notes of each clef as a tongue twister claiming that mnemonics slow your reading down considerably.

One teaching method that is highlighted on the website that I wholeheartedly agree with is to learn new pieces in small sections, hands together, very slowly. This is in opposition to some methods that separate the right and left hands initially, only bringing them together when each separate hand is secure. This never made sense to me as a way of learning on an instrument that requires both hands (usually), and the technical challenges that that brings.

The clever aspect of ‘Musiah’ is that the software can closely monitor your playing, suggest corrections, consolidate your learning and offer challenges both practically and theoretically. There is an opportunity to learn in two different ‘modes’. These are, in my opinion, aimed at the younger end of the learning spectrum and are called ‘pure mode’ and ‘story mode’. It’s is the ‘story mode’ that perhaps aims to attract the younger pianist with its evolving narrative that you literally play your way through. The graphics are appealing and this added dimension can be a useful motivator for early learners. ‘Pure mode’ looks much like other notation-based programmes and completely sidesteps the more colourful ‘story mode’.

With continuous feedback available to the learner via AI technology and two learning modes, ‘Musiah’ has much to offer. In addition, there are no tinny sounds when using the ‘Musiah’ software. The VST instruments in the software are high quality as are the Audio Backing Tracks. These are invaluable given the push for independent student learning and the broad array of styles available to the student. These link to the ‘ensemble pieces’ that come into the lessons (story mode) where you can play the piano part alongside a whole variety of other instruments. There is a positive inclusion of games in the learning process that in my experience, works well for any age of the learner and keeps the content stimulating and varied. If you are particularly competitive you can make regular comparisons with other learners (Progress Metrics), checking your progress against students worldwide.

Regular progress reports are available and can be emailed to parents alongside personalised award certificates, all of which can be highly motivating. The focus is on fun, diversity of learning, and rapid, lasting progress that is measurable. There is of course a cost once your 14-day trial expires. Monthly you can pay $24.99; Yearly $199.99, or a 3 Year package is $349.99.

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