Pianoforall is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a piano lesson platform aimed at budding pianists of all levels and ages. It’s been around for a while now, and I want to see how it compares to some of the newer kids on the block.
In this review, I’ll discuss everything that Pianoforall has to offer while giving my opinions as I play my way through the content.
Pianoforall comes from Robin Hall, a teacher with vast experience and hundreds of thousands of online students.
About the author
Final verdict on Pianoforall
Pianoforall is a mixed bag, it’s good value for money, but I’m not keen on the delivery. It has some very useful content and some not-so-great content, and it’s all showing signs of age.
In 2023, I don’t think it’s nearly as engaging as some top platforms, especially for first-timers. Pianoforall could benefit from taking a more interactive approach to teaching or, at the very least, updating the content so it’s not quite so old-fashioned.
Students with some knowledge who want to learn more could do well with Pianoforall; in that case, it’s probably decent value. But complete newbies will likely struggle for motivation because it’s just not as fun as it could be.
What I like
- It’s cheap (one-time fee).
- Some great content.
- Fast progress.
What I don’t like
- Confusing structure.
- Doesn’t create solid foundations.
- Not engaging enough.
- Takes too many shortcuts.
Use these jump links to navigate to the desired section of the review.
Pianoforall doesn’t offer any free lessons as such, besides a few YouTube videos from almost a decade ago, which is a bit of a shame.
However, you can buy the entire curriculum for a relatively low one-time fee, and the amount of content makes it worth the money.
As I said, Pianoforall is available for a one-time fee, which is typically $79, but you’ll often find it on a special offer for $49.
Pianoforall isn’t the only platform to offer a one-time fee option, but it must be the cheapest or at least one of the most affordable.
If $49 is still a bit of a stretch, there is a way to get Pianoforall even cheaper if you purchase it through Udemy while on special offer (approx $20).
Getting started with Pianoforall is very easy, and you’ll be taking your first lesson within minutes.
Since it doesn’t take the same interactive approach as some other platforms, you don’t have to answer any questions regarding your favorite genres or what you want from learning to play the piano.
All you have to do before your first lesson is to read over some introductory text that covers everything from what’s in the course to fundamentals like keyboard height and good posture.
Another thing that Pianoforall does in the Getting Started period that I like very much is to explain why the course starts with the lesson types it does. As I get through the course, I might not always agree with the structure, but some platforms have a terrible structure and don’t bother to explain anything.
By sharing their reasoning, Pianoforall shows that the system has been arranged with some thought and care.
Again, since we aren’t dealing with the same type of interactive system some other learning platforms offer, there is no keyboard setup. Although it’s worth paying attention to the intro guide that discusses the perfect height for your keyboard stand, there’s some physical setup if you count that.
It’s a bit strange to say, but there isn’t any distinct interface to speak of because every lesson comes in the form of a video or e-book (PDF).
In some ways, that’s a good thing because I rarely see an interface that doesn’t have problems. But it’s also a bad thing because a good interface isn’t just about interactive features, it’s about keeping the student motivated and interested.
I don’t think it makes much difference whether you go through Udemy or directly through the Pianoforall website; you get access to the same content. I’m learning through Udemy, and you get a video player with a very long list of content down the right-hand side. It’s simple and functional, and in most cases, that’s all I ask for!
The problem is that as you click through each lesson, either watching a video or downloading a PDF, it becomes pretty monotonous, which takes much of the fun out of learning. As I have said many times, learning to play the piano isn’t always easy, but beginners, especially kids, learn more with a healthy balance of fun and productivity.
Pianote is another video-based platform, but it has a modern interface that offers students various ways to break up the monotony. It includes a song section that allows you to take a break from regular lessons and learn a song that suits your current progress level. It also features a podcast and live streams where an enthusiastic community of members can chat, exchange ideas while they learn, and encourage each other.
Pianoforall is primarily built around downloadable content, with advantages like working offline. However, some basic additions, like a dedicated song section, progress-checker, and helpful prompts (call-to-action), would make a huge difference.
Desktop vs mobile app
There is no Pianoforall app, but you can view the content on any device, so you don’t have to be on a desktop or laptop computer.
There is a Udemy app that provides virtually the same layout and experience as the desktop version. In this case, there’s no real advantage of using one over the other besides the desktop typically offering a larger screen and the app perhaps being more convenient at times.
I’m going to use Pianote as a point of comparison again here because it shows some basic features that could dramatically improve the experience for Pianoforall students.
Pianoforall never changes; you have the list of lessons and courses, and you have the video player (or download PDF if it’s an e-book lesson). As well as the regular playback controls, you can adjust the playback speed from 0.5x right up to 2x. I’m not sure watching lesson videos in double time is going to help many people, but it’s good that you have the option to slow it down.
Pianote, on the other hand, offers the same playback functions but also features “Previous”/”Next” lessons buttons and a “Mark as complete” button. These buttons aren’t a huge deal on the surface, but they simplify the process and prevent the user from reverting to the playlist so often.
What I’m getting at is that the Pianote platform is far more refined, and these small details can make a real difference.
Learning through Pianoforall centers around watching and copying your tutor. PDF lessons are a little different because you have to read and understand the information before playing from sheet music.
This type of learning will have varied results from one student to another because there’s no accountability. Pianoforall discusses tips for daily practice and urges users not to leave a lesson until it is perfect, but nothing prevents students from moving on too quickly.
Without real-time feedback, it’s up to the student to decide if they have it perfect or not, and in many cases, beginners don’t realize if they are doing something slightly wrong. The worst thing any beginner can do is develop a bad habit and not correct it immediately because it could potentially limit their ability.
I have to credit Pianoforall for its intentions because it offers excellent advice. Robin Hall encourages students to practice every day if they can and to practice what they are bad at, not what they are good at.
That last bit of advice is golden because the temptation always to play the things you are good at is there for all students, and those who fall victim to it, never get any better. Issues that stem from a lack of accountability are the most significant danger of learning to play piano online, but platforms need to put measures in place to limit these dangers, and Pianoforall just doesn’t do that.
Another considerable part of the teaching method I’ll discuss more in the “Progression Path” is the decision to begin with Rhythm Style Piano. As I mentioned earlier, Pianoforall explains why it structures the material this way, and I like that, but I don’t entirely agree with the decision.
Pianoforall states that the fastest way to sound good is to forget sight-reading and focus on rhythm, chords, and harmony at the start. I agree that the quickest way to start playing songs and feel like you’ve made real progress is to learn some simple chord patterns that you can apply to a million pop songs. But it’s also an approach that carries many risks.
- students are more likely to fall into the habit of just playing what they are good at;
- more students will drop off when they reach the more technical elements of learning to play piano because they won’t be ready for it.
There is a misconception that pianists who can sight-read well can’t improvise or understand harmony, and it’s absolutely not true. Learning to sight-read early doesn’t prevent you from learning about harmony unless you close your mind to it.
I believe that the best way to learn about chords and harmony is to start with scales and basic sight-reading and harmonize the scales as you go. By easing into things like sight-reading, it soon becomes second nature, and learning to harmonize scales gives a deeper understanding of chords and harmony that will help students play in any key down the line.
Pianoforall often talks about hacks for remembering chords and easy ways to build muscle memory, and I love that. My only issue is that hacks should come on the back of learning more technically because the hacks make the technical elements easier to digest. Learning to use hacks without fully understanding the underlying concept isn’t a good path to go down unless you are only looking to be a busker or to learn a new party trick.
If that’s all you want out of music, that’s perfect for what it’s worth! But, if you want a deeper understanding, it’s important to focus on the best way to learn and not the fastest way to learn.
Courses and content
Pianoforall has 10 sections in total:
- Party Time: Rhythm Style Piano
- Blues & Rock n Roll
- Chord Magic 1
- Chord Magic 2
- Advanced Chords Made Easy
- Ballad Style
- All That Jazz & Blues
- Advanced Blues
- Taming The Classics
- Speed Learning
The sections are grouped in two sets of five: one to five deals with understanding chords and rhythms, while six to ten tackles melodies and improvisation.
I think the structure is a little messy, so rather than focus on beginner, intermediate, and advanced, I’ll highlight a lesson from each group of five sections, and I’ll highlight one more from section 10.
Chords and rhythms (sections 1 to 5)
In this section, I’m choosing lesson number 14: “Straight Beat Rhythms”. The lesson showcases how to apply a simple straight-beat rhythm to many different songs as a quick and easy way to increase your repertoire.
The lesson covers traditional songs like “Auld Lang Syne” and modern pop songs like “Somewhere Only We Know” and “Say Something”.
I chose this lesson because it sums up what Pianoforall is all about. It takes some of the most common chord progressions in pop music and applies them to various songs with differing tempos, and before you know it, you’ll be playing 11 different songs.
You’ll be learning to play the accompaniment for these songs, not the melodies, but still, adding so many songs so quickly is great. The rhythm is incredibly simple, so it’s easy enough for beginners to cope with at an early stage.
This lesson’s video shows the teacher playing each song along with chord indicators and a chord chart detailing the progression.
I can imagine most students will have a genuine sense of achievement after completing this lesson, which I often talk about with all online lesson platforms. Sadly, in this case, I can’t help but feel the shortcut method is like building a brick house on a swamp.
Melodies and improvisation (sections 6 to 10)
I’ve selected lesson 25 from section 6, “Ballad Style”. The lesson covers the traditional song “Greensleeves”, which focuses on extending your left hand’s use. I chose this lesson because it’s a great transition point as students move from playing simple rhythms to much more satisfying basslines.
What I like most about this lesson is that as well as getting the left hand moving more, it highlights a more sophisticated use of harmony. It shows that you don’t have to repeat the same note or chore until there is a chord change; you can arpeggiate chords and use target notes to ensure important harmony points are never lost.
The lesson takes you from playing three notes in your left hand to five notes that extend beyond an octave. It fits well with the Pianoforall quick-learning approach because it’s a technique you can apply to any chord in any ballad.
You also have the melody in the right hand, and while it’s not a challenging melody, it’s a good introduction to both hands working out of perfect unison. I think students will start to feel like their playing is becoming much more refined after this lesson.
Speed Learning (section 10)
I just want to mention this section as a whole here rather than focus on a single lesson because it has some great stuff, but it’s all a little confusing.
In lesson 6, you’ll work on diminished and whole-tone scales, which is fantastic; they are somewhat complex musical concepts but extremely useful.
In lesson 9, you’ll work on a C major triad exercise. I understand that every lesson is unique, but it seems strange to learn about diminished scales before you’ve tackled all your basic major triad exercises.
I think the song selection will divide opinions, and much of it will depend on the student’s age. There are some universally known songs that will appeal to every generation of beginners, so that’s a good start.
It has some more unusual choices, even introducing the work of jazz piano icons like Thelonious Monk, and I love that!
For me, the biggest issue is with the more contemporary pop selections. There are some awesome pop songs to learn with Pianoforall, but as good as they are, they are too new to be real classics and too old to be considered modern or cool by younger students.
It needs a refresh.
Pianoforall has some excellent content, and I want to stress that because it will be good for some people.
As far as being a sensible progression path, I look at it in two ways. The first and most important thing is that it largely ignores traditional methods until the end of the course, and I think that will do more harm than good.
The idea that it provides a shortcut to success is false, and in my experience, pianists who learn this way tend to need more time in the long run if they don’t quit.
As much as I like that Pianoforall explains the reasoning behind its progression path, I find some of the wording used that appears to suggest that learning scales first is somehow detrimental to your success to be potentially damaging to students.
Strangely, the progression within individual sections is sensible for the most part (at least in terms of the Pianoforall method), with a few exceptions.
Value for money
You might be surprised that I think Pianoforall is fantastic value for money. However, I say that only for students with a little experience who can dig out the good content and don’t need to follow the designated path.
The content is worth the one-time fee and probably a bit more, but it doesn’t offer the same value to students who need clearer guidance.Pianoforall: Get started nowUdemy
Compared to other piano lesson platforms
If you aren’t set on Pianoforall yet, here are a few worthy alternatives.
Pianoforall vs Pianote
Pianote utilizes a similar teaching method but does so with a clearer path and a more polished platform.
Pianoforall vs Simply Piano
Simply Piano and Pianoforall take a simple approach to teaching piano, but Simply Piano offers some instant feedback, making it worth checking out.
Pianoforall vs Playground Sessions
Playground Sessions is fantastic; it’s one of the best platforms available, and I highly recommend it.
Who does Pianoforall suit most?
Despite the name, Pianoforall suits those with enough experience to separate the good advice from the bad. I wouldn’t recommend it for kids.