Getting Started

Where to Begin with Hoffman Academy

By Hoffman Academy Team

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 “Primer” or “Preparatory” material. Units 5-8 cover Level 1 skills. We would generally expect an absolute beginner to spend about 24 months completing the lessons up through Unit 8. Units 9 and 10 will begin early Level 2 content.

Want to find out what Hoffman Academy unit you’re ready for? Take our handy placement quiz. This quiz is designed to help students start with the right Hoffman Academy piano unit from the beginning. At the end of the quiz, you’ll be directed to the unit that’s the best fit for you! It’s okay if you don’t know the answer to a question. This quiz is just to identify where to begin your piano learning experience. Get started with the placement quiz and jump right into building new piano skills now!

 Take Placement Quiz

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. Hoffman Academy is an ear-first method, which encourages listening, singing, and learning by demonstration. This comes 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. This will catch them up on topics like melodic dictation, rhythm dictation, and solfège.

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Select Lessons by Topic

We recommend you check out our lesson index pages, by unit. These pages list 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 with a year or more of piano experience should start as early in the lessons as possible, but feel free to breeze through lessons on familiar concepts. You can 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. Piano students usually show signs that let teachers and parents know whether or not they’re being presented with the right amount of challenge. We’ve posted some tips to help you gauge when to move on to the next lesson.

Balancing challenge is especially important when the student is coming to our lessons with some experience. 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. Too much difficulty 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.  Many families outside the USA have used it as their standard of measurement. 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 must pass off broken chords and full scales in parallel and contrary motion in several key signatures. Hoffman Academy students in Unit 7 or 8 have learned all 24 major and minor keys, but would only know 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 then continues to build sight reading skills. This may help a student prepare for the sight reading 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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