This is my review on the Birds Piano Academy online piano courses, created by Arthur Bird. There are a number of courses on Arthur’s website, which I will add to this review as I go through them – but the first course I completed was so awesome I wanted to get this review up as quickly as possible. Given how good the course I took was, I have no doubt that the other courses being offered will be equally good – I will update this review as I go through them.
Blues Piano & Improvisation For Beginners
I discovered Birds Piano Academy during one of my FREQUENT searches online for courses that will help me improve in piano improv and soloing – I came across the “Blues Piano & Improvisation For Beginners” course, which I recently completed (and it was AWESOME) – so this is the first course from Arthur that I wanted to review.
Blues Piano & Improvisation For Beginners
There Is A Common Problem With MOST Online “Blues/Rock Soloing/Improv” Courses:
So if you follow my channel, you probably know that I learned how to play piano as an adult from some awesome online courses, and I got started on them about 3 years ago. I’m super happy with the courses I’ve taken so far, and as my playing has progressed, I’ve developed a strong interest in playing blues and rock piano, so I’m ALWAYS looking for more specialized courses or lessons in that. I’ve done some free trials in courses that specialize in blues, I’ve gone through some YouTube courses in blues, I’ve tried some blues “mini courses” that are included with other course packages I’ve purchased, and I’ve tried out countless other blues lessons I’ve found online.
Some other online blues improv courses I’ve taken were pretty good, some were ok, some were way too advanced for a beginner, and others . . . NOT so great at all; but they all had ONE PROBLEM in common:
- They would teach you some form of a common blues progression (always in the key of C), tell you what the chords were etc (This is fine!)
- They would teach you a left hand technique like a walking bass line, or a boogie woogie style left hand (This is fine!)
- They would show you the blues scale, and get you to play it up and down (This is fine!)
- Then some of them would show you a “riff” or two (This is fine!)
- Then HERE is where they ALL GO WRONG: After showing you all of this stuff, they then say “there you go! Go play the blues and come up with some solos using the blues scale”
So I would try my best to do that, and while I would occasionally play something that sounded ok, it never really felt natural, comfortable or familiar – so I basically found myself spinning my wheels, and not really improving, just struggling with the same thing – trying to get good at blues or rock improv – I would always just keep picking off random “clunky” notes from the blues scale.
Then I found the beginner blues course from Birds Piano Academy – and after only a few lessons I started to get the feeling that this course was going to be a game changer for me; and now that I’ve just finished it, I can confirm it HAS been a gamechanger – my improv ability has taken a MASSIVE step forward because of this course!
Why THIS Beginner Blues Course IS BETTER:
I’ll be going over a lot of this in more detail in the review, but suffice it to say that there are a number of teaching approaches that Arthur has developed from teaching private lessons to students for years that he has built into this course that made all the difference in the world to me.
- The WAY he teaches the blues scale, AND the way he gets you to practice the blues scale
- the entire course is in the key of G not C; while getting started in the key of C can be easier on beginners, SO MANY intro courses do this that you can easily get “stuck” always playing in C, so playing in a key with 1 black note gets you used to playing those non white keys
- he gets you to move up and down the scale in TWO octaves not 1
- you practice this in both a straight and syncopated or offbeat feel
- He has fantastic practice exercises that help you integrate that movement WITH 2 common left hand techniques so that you actually get used to integrating your left and right hands
- a simplified boogie woogie left hand rhythm
- a walking bass line
- Arthur then gets you doing these exercises alternating between the straight and offbeat feel to switch up how your improv sounds
- Then, once you’re comfortable moving around the scale in a larger range, with 2 different “feels”, and with 2 different left hand techniques – THEN you start learning a couple of SIMPLE riffs that you can insert into different spots of the scale as you are moving up and down
Now that’s not even close to being ALL that is taught in this course, but those are the core elements that I found to be super valuable to me, and really helped my playing. So now let’s take a closer look at the course itself.
Who Is This Course For?
This course is meant for anyone who wants to either get started on (or improve on) their ability to:
- play blues
- solo and improvise
While this IS described as a beginners course, and the first section (see below) is a really good 7 lesson . . . basic introduction to the piano (names of the keys, intervals, octaves and major / minor chords etc), I personally think that THIS course probably shouldn’t be the FIRST course you EVER take on piano.
The first intro section is fine, but I think before taking this course you should have some BASIC piano knowledge and experience. That being said, you definitely DON’T need a LOT of experience – I think before taking this course, you should already be familiar and comfortable with the topics contained in this first section, and be able to play along (in a very simple way) with a simple chord chart.
If you DON’T have ANY piano experience – don’t fear! Arthur has a FREE intro to chord’s “mini-course” on his website! If this describes you, I would recommend taking his mini-course FIRST and once you are comfortable with that, move on to the beginner blues course.
So the course is an online video based course (you can run it in any browser, I usually use my iPad) with the display being an overhead view of Arthur’s piano showing his hands as he plays along with a light up keyboard that clearly shows the notes that he is playing, as well as any helpful graphics etc.
Many lessons also include some helpful downloadable support material in PDF format.
There are 66 lessons, with a total of about 4 hours of video time. One of the nice features of this course is that the lessons are very “bite-size”; they can be as short as a couple of minutes, and I don’t think there’s a single one over 10 minutes.
This is great, because each lesson is on a VERY specific topic, so it doesn’t overwhelm you and it’s easy to focus on it – Arthur will demonstrate it, explain it clearly, take you through it VERY slowly, then play it at a normal speed to show you what you’re shooting for. AND he will give you a VERY clear practice assignment or topic, often indicating that you should try to get reasonably comfortable with each lesson before moving on to the next. I would often come home from work, go through a 5 minute lesson and then practice that lesson at increasing tempos for a few days before moving to the next lesson.
The course is broken down into the following sections:
- Getting Started – this is the intro to piano that I talked about already
- Getting Into The Blues – this section gets you started on the blues scale (and it’s 2 octaves right from the start), and then gives you a super simple song to start playing
- 12 Bar Blues – Stage 1 – this section introduces you to the 12 bar blues progression, and gets you started with a simplified version of a boogie woogie left hand and some right hand chords (I wanted to give a shoutout here to this course, because having done TONS of online courses that try to start beginners off with THIS left hand – the simplified version shown in this course doesn’t really sound THAT much different, but it is FAR easier to play especially when trying to coordinate your left and right hands!
- 12 Bar Blues – Stage 2 – this section gets you learning how to play “Great Balls Of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis, including introducing you to his famous “glissandos” (super fun!)
- 12 Bar Blues – Stage 3 – continues teaching you more complex improvisation, as well as improving your chord playing with topics like “crushed notes”
- Bonus Content / Advanced – this section has lots of extra awesome content including a new left hand technique (walking bass line) and things like turnarounds & “rocking 3rds”; and a fantastic finisher to the course is exercises on playing both swing and straight rhythms OVER BOTH LEFT HAND TECHNIQUES!
In addition to multiple courses that are available on Arthur’s website, there is also:
- a Facebook group where you can post questions to Arthur and other members, post videos of your progress etc.
- a blog including some free lessons on the Birds Piano Academy website
- printed posters (available to purchase) with chord charts etc (in the “Shop” section on the website)
- don’t forget the free “Mini Course” on chords!
Birds Piano Academy – Package Options
You have different options for purchasing courses from Birds Piano Academy. You can buy courses one at a time, in bundles, or you can just subscribe to the Academy for a monthly fee and get access to all current courses as long as you maintain your subscription. I purchased the Blues & Piano Improvisation course for beginners; since these courses are NOT expensive, and since I get lifetime access to the course after buying it; I personally think the best option is just to buy the courses as opposed to the subscription, but that’s up to you.
The Verdict – Birds Piano Academy
As I mentioned previously, so far I have only completed ONE course from Birds Piano Academy (Blues Piano & Improvisation For Beginners), so it’s only fair for me to ONLY recommend that course at this stage; and I can ENTHUSIASTICALLY recommend this course – it is fantastic and has significantly improved my playing! That being said, given how good this course was; I’m pretty confident I will be recommending the other courses soon as well (but I do need to go through them first).
I’ve included my affiliate links below for the different courses in Birds Piano Academy, so if you want to check out these courses further I would really appreciate it if you used those links to get started. And, if you follow these links, enter a code PIANOTONE at checkout and you may qualify for a discount!
Get started on the Blues Piano & Improvisation For Beginners Course:
Try out the FREE Piano Chords Mini-Course (for complete beginners):
Get started on the Ultimate Piano Chords Course:
Get started on the Blues Piano & Improvisation – The Next Level Course:
Get started on the Jazz Piano Ultimate Beginners Course:
Get started on the Learn To Read Music Fast Course:
Get Started on the Ear Training Course: