New from Alfred Publishing is The Key of One, a slim but informative volume designed to convey a simple understanding of playing piano. The book’s author Robbie Gennet presents an alternative approach to most beginner instructional guides. Rather than learning musical notation, The Key of One helps the new player understand how scales and chords are put together. The value is greatly enhanced by the inclusion of a DVD packed with more than an hour of demonstrations.
Gennet’s goal is to remove the air of mystery that many beginners feel when confronted with sheet music. The book is designed to get the reader playing almost immediately, even if it’s the very first time they’ve sat down at a piano or keyboard. After explaining some basic musical concepts, he focuses on the twelve notes that make up the twelve keys. He delves into the major scales and their relative minor, focusing on formulas designed to simplify scale and chord construction. All of the information is broken down into bite-sized chunks suitable even for those who have never touched the keys before.
Beyond just nuts and bolts, Gennet aims for a philosophical approach to music. Sometimes he seems a bit New Age-oriented, both in print and in his discussions on the DVD. But it is all decidedly positive and encouraging. He wants this to be fun. This can be especially valuable for adult beginners who aren’t interested in learning “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” while paying a pretty penny for weekly lessons. Not that there is anything wrong with that approach. But The Key of One is a much less costly way for a newbie to get their feet wet and see if they like playing music. The later exercises in the book and DVD are designed to allow the new player to do some rudimentary jamming in any key.
Besides demonstrations and tips from Robbie Gennet, the DVD includes some extremely worthwhile DVD-ROM content. There are twenty-nine accompaniment beds that provide backing for practicing. These MP3s are downloadable so they can be played back from other sources. Also included is a very easy to use program called TnT, which includes a series of practice beds that can be adjusted in tempo as well as transposed. This means that each of these tracks can be used for practicing in any key at any speed. These features exponentially increase the variety of learning possibilities. The DVD-ROM content is compatible with both Mac and PC.
The Key of One is a great place for anyone to start playing piano or keyboard. But it’s even worthwhile for someone who already plays an instrument other than piano. There’s enough information in both the book and DVD to keep non-keyboard players busy for quite awhile, enhancing what might already be a solid understanding of music. Complete beginners will appreciate that Gennet breaks down the fundamentals with great clarity.