Now that it’s mid-September, I have a lot of new beginning piano students. Yay! So I thought it would be a good time to write this post on how to use a really great app called PA Player. If you learn how to use it, you almost don’t even need to come in for your lessons. HA HA! Just kidding, but it does take care of a lot of business!
Here is a step-by-step guide to using it.
Buy the Primer Level Piano Adventure Lesson Book by Faber & Faber
There is a lot of beginning piano curriculum out there, and a lot of it is good, but the fact that this curriculum has this accompanying app puts it at the top for me.
If you want to start learning piano with this app, I would recommend getting the accompanying books. If you’re taking lessons at Crescendo Music Loft, you only need the lesson book. The cover looks like this:
Download the PA Player App to an iPad or iPhone
This app works best on an iPad, but an iPhone will also work. It’ll just be really small. If you’re all PC and Android, sadly, you’re out of luck. (I’m a PC and Android chick, and the cost of an iPad prevented me from having one for a decade after I wanted one. So if you just don’t want to go Apple, you will get no judgement from me. We’ll just have to figure out a different way for you to hear these songs.)
The icon looks like this:
Proceed Through the Following Series of Screens
Since I already bought it, I can’t show you the screen where you need to spend $4.99 to buy the books, but it’ll go something like this:
Pick Your Level
In this case, it’ll be Primer Level.
Pick Your Book
At Crescendo, we just use the Lesson Book.
Choose the Desired Song
In this case, I’m showing you the very first song that has accompaniment: “The Old Clock Song” from page 15.
How To Use the Player
Now you should have a screen that looks like this:
It’s got some extra bars in it that I don’t understand. (They should not have put those in there! They start right where the two blank spaces are at the bottom.)
Not to worry! Let’s press on with the fun.
Press the Big Play Button
Play With the Navigation Slider
Use this slider to navigate back and forth through the song or back to the beginning.
Play With the Toggle Buttons
The Most Important Feature: Tempo Slider
The default tempo for most of these songs is WAY TOO FAST for beginning players. Make sure you make use of the tempo slider to get a comfortable tempo!
Notice “Count In Dots”
These are VERY IMPORTANT! You’ll need them to be working so you can start with the band, and they won’t work unless you have either the accompaniment or metronome buttons toggled on.
I love this! If you have this toggled on, you can watch which keys on the piano should get played for this song.
This is also very cool: you can mix the sound to get the levels you like. Toggle this on to set volumes for left and right hands, accompaniment, and metronome.
Really Important #1: GET GOOD SPEAKERS
I can’t stress this enough. An iPad just isn’t going to give you the kind of volume you’ll need to work with it. GET SOME DECENT SPEAKERS! Until you are sitting at the piano trying to play along with a recording, you can’t imagine HOW LOUD the recording has to be in order for you to hear it OVER WHAT YOU’RE PLAYING. The reverse is also true: until you are sitting at the piano trying to play along with a recording, you can’t imagine how quietly you have to play so you can hear the recording louder than what you’re playing.
Remember that the reason you have the recording playing is so that you can LISTEN & PLAY at the same time. This is a somewhat advanced skill, so see these next really important guidelines for more information.
Really Important: Establish a Good Work Flow!
I can’t stress this enough. This tool can either be really helpful or really frustrating. In the beginning, it’s probably going to be really frustrating until you establish a good workflow.
Remember that the reason you are doing this is so that you can learn how to listen and play at the same time. This is not a beginning skill, but, with patience and focus, you can learn how to do it within a couple of weeks.
A Suggested Workflow for Best Results
- Turn off the accompaniment, and just listen to the left and right hand part until you feel like you could sing it from memory.
- Listen to the song many, many times! As in maybe ten or 20 times.
- Try humming or singing the melody with the left and right hand parts only.
- Play the piece REALLY SLOWLY WITHOUT listening to it until you have a good grasp on which hands to use, which fingers to use, and which notes to play. This could take two or three days of practice.
- Then, and only then, call up the song on the iPad, and turn the tempo down to something between 50-60 bpm.
- Listen to it again at this tempo.
- Toggle the accompaniment OFF and the metronome ON.
- See if you can just start on the right note with the right finger at the right time. You might have to start over a bunch of times.
- Start over a bunch of times. As in 10-20 times, and I’m serious! Don’t just play through with brute force.
- Once you feel comfortable, then try playing along with the accompaniment, but make sure you’re staying with that moving bar!
- Do this over another two days or so.
- Take it to your lesson, and you will be victorious!
Happy piano learning!