Piano Wizard Introduction

Thank you for purchasing Piano Wizard. This program will give you endless years of joy of playing music, without the normal tedium and pain of practice. You WILL have to repeat songs to learn them well, but not only will it be painless, it will be fun.

What Piano Wizard is.

Piano Wizard, and the light version, Piano Commando, can be thought of as “training wheels for the piano”. Like training wheels for a bike, they don’t do the work of riding, pedaling or steering a bike, they just make those things easier, and give your child a chance to build up their skills without a lot of pain and humiliation, and let them have fun and success right away. You wouldn’t put a 3 year-old on top of a ten speed bike at the top of a hill and give them a shove and expect them to learn to love biking, but we do that to children with traditional musical education all the time. Training wheels give kids confidence, freedom, they even let them ride bikes with their older friends, and accompany them. Gradually, the child acquires their bearings, their balance, and the wheels can be gradually raised, until the child is riding the bike virtually independent of the training wheels, which can even be removed at this point. Like the bike, music, once mastered, can take the child anywhere they want to go. The child learned by DOING, not with diagrams and physics theories of maintaining forward equilibrium on a vehicle with one stationary and one movable wheel. You just stopped them from crashing and burning, and let them have fun, and nature took it’s course.

Piano Wizard also teaches by DOING, by PLAYING. All the underlying logic of music is there, and is subconsciously, and then consciously exposed to the child, but that comprehension is not necessary for them to play, learn and enjoy music. In fact, Piano Wizard transcends years of musical theory, history, and an archaic confusing musical notation tradition, and reveals in living color the underlying MATHMATICAL and SPATIAL logic of music, namely there are 2 basic dimensions, pitch (Which note, color coded for easy identification in the game) and rhythm, or time, (revealed by showing the original logic of space between notes to show the correct time to play them). Because the child can ANTICIPATE when to play the note, their innate hand-eye coordination is all they need to play the music of the masters, in seconds. There ARE other dimensions of music, that the game does NOT teach, like timbre, attack, dynamics, and the rich musical conventions we inherited that constitute harmonic theory, but these are the muscles, the flesh, the organs of music. Pitch and Time are the skeleton, upon which all the rest hangs. Get that right, and you have a basic form, from which you can BEGIN to create great music.
This game can teach pitch and time like no other. Through the color and movement of the game, the underlying musical logic embedded in the melodic lines, the rhythmic pulses, the harmonic combinations of pitch and time of Bach or any other composer is revealed transparently and intuitively to the child in all of us, and absorbed into their thinking, into their hands, and their hearts, as unconsciously and as completely as they absorb the logic and vocabulary of their native languages. Bach famously said 300 years ago, (modestly), that all he did was hit the right note at the right time. He did more than that of course, but that is still the best place to start when learning a piece. We can give that start to anybody, painlessly, joyfully, and continuously. Because the game uses MIDI technology (more on that later), there is no limit to the music that can be plugged into the game, it is a training tool for life.
But pitch and time, just hitting the right note at the right time, is not MUSIC, anymore than the frame of a house is a home. Music is art, it is the phrasing, dynamics, the touch, technique, the posture, the interpretation, the emotion, the passion, it is “between the notes” as Jimi Hendrix famously said. Thus, this game does not, can not, will not replace teachers. Human teachers, artists who have given decades of their lives usually, studying every dimension of music, and usually for the best reason of all, LOVE, and who have been dying to share the ART of music with their students, instead of the MECHANICS of which note to hit when.
We have the equivalent of Shakespeare scholars teaching typing. Let the game teach the typing, the framework, let the teachers do what they do best. Our nightmare would be for kids to think that this game is all you need to learn to play the piano. They will hit bottlenecks soon enough, in their fingering, their technique, which will inhibit their top speeds and scores unless they get a “Piano Wizard Coach” (shhh, we mean piano teachers). They will have questions, curiosity about musical notation, sharps, flats, musical theory, history, and they will be ultimately seduced into continuing this musical journey not by a silly video game, but by music itself, one of the most beautiful sacred means of self-expression, by a window into the minds of Bach, Chopin, Beethoven and Van Halen.
Yes, Van Halen. Because, wherever it takes them, that is their journey. We can guide them, teach them to ride their bikes, in this case, to read music, but like a bike, we can only give them the vehicle, where they go, and how far, and how fast, is up to them. But that is their joy of discovery, and before they know it, we can have the classics in their bones, for them to enjoy for a lifetime.

What Piano Wizard is NOT.

Piano Wizard is NOT a “teaching” program in the traditional sense. We do not explain music, or musical theory, or musical notation, except to facilitate PLAYING the game. The child or student learns about music by DOING, by PLAYING. They learn like a small child learns about language, not with theory or grammar, but by SPEAKING. We guide them in a dozen subtle ways, we let them simplify the most complex musical pieces and passages in another dozen ways, until virtually anything is digestible, playable, learnable. We facilitate gradually transitioning the student away from an easy, pure mathematical, spatial, colorful moving video game experience of music, into a more traditional view of musical notation* .
We will take them all the way, back to musical notation, NOT because musical notation makes any sense, or because musical notation is the “right” way, but for the same reason Bach did not abandon the form, even though it was 500 years old and full of inconsistencies, when the keyboard was invented. By his time, musical notation already badly conveyed the new musical, mathematical and wonderful implications of the “well-tempered” system of tuning and modulation to other keys. But like Bach, we cannot abandon what was, because we have to make our children “backwards compatible” with (now) 800 years of musical literature. Like Bach, we could not and would not abandon musical notation, whatever it’s drawbacks, because the treasures buried in its archaic code are priceless. Well now we don't have to, they are also accessible.

Other things Piano Wizard is NOT..

The game does NOT teach composing. It does not let you compose. There are other programs that do, and we will have one of our own soon that is fun and intuitive, but Piano Wizard does not do that. Piano Wizard is a fun way for those that want to learn to play the piano, especially musical pieces and songs, and even to learn to read music as well. We do that well. We have 4 year olds playing Beethoven in minutes, AND LOVING IT!

The game does NOT let you edit musical pieces, or even view them in musical notation, except in the course of playing the game. Later on, we will have a super-duper version of the game that let’s you do that, BUT, Piano Wizard is a fun way to unlock the greatest music ever written, for you to learn and enjoy.

Piano Wizard does NOT teach you to improvise, does not even let you improvise. We believe improvisation is a VITAL part of musical education, but NOT one that is made better by this video game, (yet . . .)
Piano Wizard is a fun way to understand musical structure, through example and unique views of musical interrelationships in motion..

Piano Wizard does NOT teach you musical theory, or “correct” fingering, (No such thing, what works for a small child won’t work for a large adult, and each piece is unique in sequence and structure), (The game lets you or your teacher put in the best fingering for YOU) the game does not “explain” music or musical notation. For these things we have a musical resource page at our website where you can find out more than you ever wanted to know about these topics, and our only warning is that this takes years to understand why exactly it doesn’t make sense, then it makes sense, sort of. We try and skip that, and get you playing and seeing and experiencing the music firsthand, we’ll let the theories about the theories of what Czerny was thinking Beethoven was thinking Bach was thinking (dizzy yet?) be something you explore on your own. It is fascinating, but it is not gospel, and don’t let anyone tell you different. Let the music speak to you directly is our suggestion. We can help.
Piano Wizard is a fun way to see what others have done and how they have solved problems and created beauty.

Why we don’t teach you musical theory, or about musical notation.

First of all, this being the traditional approach, there are literally hundreds of books, lessons, teachers, websites, and other resources out there where you can learn that better than we could teach it.

Second of all, it is more confusing than helpful.

Third, it is historically embedded with multiple layers of code, added on with each generation or era to deal with the newest complexities and theories of the latest generation. These were no more than working theories about how to organize music, and how we hear music. It is as culturally arbitrary as Arabic scales or Javanese tunings, and at the end of the day, it is OLD theory. We use the conventions and theory of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven’s students to explain music that has evolved tremendously. Chopin muddied the waters of harmonic theory, and Debussy absolutely negated them, atonal and ethnic music ignored it or never new about it, and yet music has not only survived, it has evolved and exploded in a wonderful hybrid of styles and flavors. The theory is only useful to a limited extent in “explaining” music, and in fact leads to a great deal of confusion. It is as if we tried to explain modern English grammar and vocabulary (a language salad if ever there was one) with ancient Latin Grammar cases. It sort of works, because we have Latin as one of our roots, but it really confuses too, if you don’t realize it is just an arbitrary model that didn’t even really explain Latin.

Fourth, because there is an underlying simplicity and logic to music that one gets to after years of study, where consonance and dissonance are yin and yang, where pattern and deviation are yin and yang, and where pitch and time are yin and yang, and music is the eternal interplay of all of them and more, and all the theory in the world is just, well, not really helpful at getting to the core of music and music making. Especially if all you want to do is play and enjoy music.

MOST musicians cannot read music fluently, that is how bad it is. At best they decipher it. Forget the rest of us (until now). Those that can read, tend to read a melodic instrument, like a flute or clarinet, not a harmonic instrument, like guitar or piano. Melody is sequential, like language. Harmony, and rhythm, are simultaneous, multiple streams of information coming at us at once. THAT is challenging, and what takes years of practice to learn. You will STILL, with Piano Wizard, need to PRACTICE, but the SECRET to MASTERY, is to ENJOY the practice. We can help you enjoy the practice, and take you gradually to the farthest depths and highest mountains of musical notation, in an enjoyable fun journey through the greatest music ever written. A secret treasure chest of musical literature, wide open for you to enjoy for the rest of your life.

Finally, we don’t teach you about theory to read music, because at the end of the day, fluency is unconscious, automatic association, fluency is where a child STARTS their studies of language theory.

Think about it. A child of one can understand (passive comprehension) more than they can say. They begin to speak, they get corrected, (or not) and begin to learn the most complex languages in the world reasonably well by the time they are five, with or without guidance or training, just by doing. So, active speaking came second, after comprehension, in the natural learning process that we all have hard-wired into our brains.
Then, we teach them to read, again passive, then to write, (active), and after a year or two more we teach them the parts of speech, and then to diagram sentences, conjugate verbs, undangle prepositions.

With “traditional” music training (most early age music teachers do NOT use this method anymore, but it’s backward logic still prevails.) we teach THEORY first. Then, the poor kids, we only let them play what they can decipher, and given the complexities of musical notation, that is some pretty lame stuff.

(Here, just play “Chopsticks” so your mom will keep paying me.)

Sound familiar? Unfortunately, our generation went through a lot of this. But to be fair, some of us had GREAT teachers. Mine taught me through the magic of improvisation. Still, when it came to reading music, the dread illogic, the tedium, the constant negative feedback necessary to correct your mistakes, was an abject failure. Very common problem it turns out.

But there is another way, many other ways in fact.

We believe that Mozart incorporated music as a native language, because of the young age and interactive manner that his father taught him. When a five year old writes a sentence, he is only mildly precocious. When Mozart wrote minuets, he was doing the same thing, but with music. Later what would be a paragraph for a child became sonatas for Mozart, what was an essay or short story became symphonies. When someone tells you a funny story, you can repeat it, even improve it and embellish it, keeping all the underlying structure of the joke in place, perhaps improving on it. Mozart did the same with pieces he heard. You might write out a letter to someone in your mind, and then put it to paper later. Mozart did the same with music.

Beethoven’s father wanted him to be a child prodigy too, but started him later, 4 or 5, and the precious window of time, when the brain is developing and acquiring language, the non-nurturing manner that his father used, may have been the difference between 41 symphonies and 9, between effortless composition and torturous multi-year projects.

We believe that because the game is almost pre-lingual, needing only to be able to identify the colors, and we can get children playing at 2 and a half, three years of age, we can help foster a new generation of children for whom music is a native language, both playing and reading. The game enters different ports into the mind because of the use of colors, we see the change as soon as we add note names or fingerings, it becomes more abstract, a layer comes in that wasn’t there before. That is why we don’t teach theory. We can always do that. When can we share the mind of Bach with children? Immediately, transparently, now, with no filters. Let the music speak to them, in its language, and we believe that musical miracles will result.

While we don’t teach you theory or even the note names, they are there, on the Visual screen, if you want them, but we don’t teach them. We don’t teach you that the first space on the top staff is “F” but we show you, and condition you to see that and play the correct key. (F is as arbitrary as lime green. If it helps you, great.) But we CONDITION you, through the game, to see music as a flow, of pitch across time, we show you new patterns with the colors, we let you see that purple keys are no harder to hit than yellow keys, and later, we condition you to see the staff, in relation to the keyboard, and we subtly show you how the one-to-one map of the notes to the keys on the piano is DIFFERENT when it is in musical notation mode. Just another level of the game, just a few less clues as to which note to hit when. We gradually replace the transparent, mathematical, consistent logic of the game, with the obtuse, multi-layered, inconsistent logic of musical notation, but the UNDERLYING math of music is still there, though now obscured, it is still what you will navigate by, recognizing the strange ways of musical notation and theory, but always understanding the underlying logic that it floats on, disguises, flavors, and distorts, but never deviates from.
We reveal to you a primary reality, a primary and simple structure. The secondary layers can be very useful, it is the language and vocabulary of teachers and theorists, and we recommend it's study, for your edification, but we assume your true goal is to be a musician, and to live close to the true musical pulse. The theory is great, interesting, fascinating, but only if you understand the primary, and can find your way back there if the secondary layer of theory turns into a dead end, which it will, sooner or later, whether it’s jazz, Bossa Nova, Phillip Glass or Debussy.

We suggest you think of music theory as a kind of musical grid, an arbitrary division of the continuum of music, like color divisions and names on the color continuum, and like color theory, useful to a certain extent, but ultimately it is your artist’s palette and taste that will matter the most. Our western musical system is based mostly on 12 tones, and mathematical subdivisions of rhythm, and that is the ABCs of music, and a great place to start, and you can go from there as far as you want. We can’t wait to see where you go, but just as importantly, we want you to enjoy it, no matter how far, how near, how fast, how slow. Music is your birthright, come claim it, and find your level, and go from there, in the privacy and sanctuary of your own home.

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