Hoffman Academy Blog

Where to Begin with Hoffman Academy

If you’re new to Hoffman Academy and your child has already had some piano experience, you may be wondering where to begin.

In general, our Units 1-4 cover what could be considered “Primer” or “Preparatory” material, while Units 5-8 cover what is typically considered Level 1 skills. We would generally expect an absolute beginner to spend 18-24 months completing the lessons up through Unit 8. Unit 9 will begin early Level 2 content.


Compare Methods

Comparing methods can be a bit tricky, since concepts are often introduced in a different order and emphasized in different ways. For instance, many methods jump right into defining and explaining musical notation and symbols, while ours is an ear-first method, which encourages listening, singing, and learning by demonstration before connecting your knowledge to the written music notation of the staff. If your child began with an eye-first method, typical of most piano methods, they will benefit from working through earlier units and reviewing lessons on ear training topics like melodic dictation, rhythm dictation, and solfège.

Select Lessons by Topic

We recommend you check out our lesson index pages, by unit, where you can find a summary of what is taught in each lesson. If a student has less than one year of experience, it’s a good idea to start right at the beginning. Students a year or more of piano experience who don’t mind some review should start as early as possible, but feel free to breeze through the lessons on familiar concepts, or even jump around if needed. Because reviewing familiar topics from a different teacher or perspective is a great way to strengthen your musical foundation, it is better to start earlier in the program than later.

How Many Lessons Per Week?

Most students do well at a pace of working through 2-3 new lessons per week. However, one of the core principles of our method is staying in tune with student responses, both verbal and non-verbal, to be sure they are being presented with a good balance of challenge and skill. We’ve posted some tips to help you gauge when to move on to the next lesson. This is especially important when the student is coming to our lessons with some experience already because too much review can lead to boredom, which diminishes motivation. On the other hand, a student in another method’s Level 1 who starts in Unit 4 may get stuck on some unfamiliar topics, which also diminishes motivation. We’ve found that in most cases, a student who is dissatisfied with piano is simply not being presented with the best balance of striving and success.

Hoffman Academy and ABRSM

Many people specifically ask about how our curriculum compares to ABRSM. The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) is an examinations board based in London, UK, which provides examinations in music at centers around the world. It’s one of the most established standardized tests in music world-wide, so many families outside the USA have used it as their standard of measurement. While ABRSM is not a pedagogical method, you would need to focus your curriculum on their requirements to effectively prepare for their exam. While Hoffman Academy curriculum is not designed around ABRSM standards, here are a few comparisons between our method and their requirements:

  • ABRSM students must perform repertoire pieces selected from their specific approved lists. Hoffman Academy lessons teach a wide variety of repertoire pieces, but do not currently cover any of the ABRSM-approved pieces.
  • ABRSM Grade 1 students are required to pass off broken chords and full scales in parallel and contrary motion in several of the simplest key signatures. A Hoffman Academy student in Unit 7 or 8 would be experienced in all 24 major and minor keys, but would only be familiar with the pentascales rather than the full scales.
  • Sight reading is tested at all ABRSM Grades. Hoffman Academy introduces reading notes on the staff in Unit 2, and continues to build sight reading skills in ways that may help a student prepare for this part of the ABRSM exam.
  • Our ear-based method places an emphasis on melodic and rhythm dictation, “echoing” both with voice and piano, and interval training. These skills may benefit a student preparing for the aural portion of the ABRSM.

Happy playing,

Joseph Hoffman

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  1. Hand-drawn avatar

    Mr. Hoffman:

    I am reading “The Talent Code” I am 68 yrs old and wonder if you are teaching so your students get more wraps on their myelins. Looking back at times in my life i can see how this makes perfectly good sense. Thank you for all your time and energy you and your family put into helping all that want to learn piano. You are making this world a better place to live. GOD Bless

  2. Hand-drawn avatar

    Hi Mr. Hoffman,

    When do you plan to issue unit 9/10? We are eager to go on with higher levels. We would be happy if you can give examples of popular songs, movie soundtracks in high level units.

    Cemal Telyar

    • Hoffman Academy logo
      Hoffman Academy

      I’m so glad you’re looking forward to our intermediate level lessons. Unit 9 is currently in development, but our major efforts right now are being put toward the new features we have promised to launch in January. We’ll produce more units as soon as we can!

  3. Hand-drawn avatar

    I am 38 years old. I’ve interested in piano but never tried or got any lessons. I’ve been watching your lessons since 5-6 weeks and now, i managed to finish until unit 7. I’m really grateful your online education as i could not believe to play the piano at an age of near 40. Now, i encourage my son that is 9 years old to play the piano and check your online lessons. Hope many other people can get benefit from your lessons. Please go on with lessons and add more levels in your website. I personally want to reach as high level as i can manage. Thanks Cemal Telya

    • Hoffman Academy logo
      Hoffman Academy

      Thank you so much! It’s wonderful to hear from one of our adult students, and I’m very glad to hear that you are enjoying our lessons and making such great progress. We appreciate your encouragement and support and wish you all the best in your musical endeavors!