Can you "Play Piano in a Flash!"?

I don’t know about you, but I like public broadcasting.  I love many of the concerts, especially during their fund raisers.  Last Friday, I was pumped because I thought I would get to watch the new Celtic Woman concert.  Unfortunately, the schedule was wrong and they were showing Scott Houston’s “Play Piano in a Flash!” program instead.  I hung around to watch.

I am normally suspicious when someone says you can do anything worthwhile “in a flash” because invariably, that is not the case.  But, on the other hand, what Scott teaches in that program is absolutely (in my opinion) the fastest way that people can learn to credibly play the piano.

He has not stumbled onto anything new or inventive.  I teach a similar concept in my course Play by Ear! and my guess is that thousands of other teachers are teaching the same system with their own twists. 

Scott has his own take on it of course, and he has developed his own materials.  He is also a good communicator, and it is working for him.  Good for him.

The system really breaks down to this:
1) Learn the melody line to the song you want to learn. 
2) Learn the chords that belong with the melody. 
3) Put the melody and chords together and play the song in the style you want.

Now, that sounds simple, and obviously, it is not as simple as it sounds.  That is why I don’t like the name of his program.  You will not learn this in a flash.

But on the other hand, if you spend a little time and know a little bit of information, every single person reading this can play the piano using this system. 

You just have to know a bit about either reading notes or you have to know how to pick out a melody line.  Then, you have to know a bit about how to build a few major chords (minor chords are optional).  After that, you just practice until you can play both together in a way that sounds pretty credible.

Scott’s approach is to focus on people that have never played before.  He starts at the very beginning (such as teaching the staffs and reading notes).  He then uses lead sheets to teach the chords.

By way of contrast, in my course Play by Ear!, I make the assumption that you already know those things.  In fact, my course is geared toward pianists that play by reading but want to be able to play by ear as well.  (I firmly believe that most pianists need to learn to play both ways.)  I teach pianists how to build their own lead sheets using their ear.

I appreciated something Scott said.  He said that if you want to learn to play classical music, his course is the wrong way to go.  He is very right about that.   I would not give his course to a child rather than traditional lessons.  But the skill of learning to play music in this way is a skill that I believe should be taught to children.