Piano by Pictures Review: A Professional Pianist's Take (2023)
As a professional pianist and piano teacher years, I'm always interested to explore new methods and approaches to learning piano.
Piano by Pictures by Gospel on the Go caught my eye with its promise of fast and easy learning using visual images instead of sheet music. I decided to test it out. Here's my detailed review as an experienced pianist and music educator.
What is Piano by Pictures by Gospel on The Go?
Piano by Pictures is an online piano learning course created by "Dr. Kelly" (Ryan Kelly). It aims to teach piano through pictogram notation rather than standard musical staff notation.
The core idea is that pictorial representations of which keys to press can help beginners learn faster than trying to read sheet music. Images seem to show the next note intuitively rather than requiring music reading skills.
In addition to the visual notation, the course includes video lessons, supplemental eBooks/downloads, and even the option to get a printed tutorial book shipped to you.
Piano by Pictures Course Content Review
As an experienced pianist and instructor, I looked carefully at the structure, content quality, and overall educational value of the course.
Here's an overview of what Piano by Pictures includes:
This is a quick reference showing the Piano by Pictures imagery and how it corresponds to the piano keys. Simple and straight-forward.
Beginner Video Lessons
These videos walk you through songs step-by-step, explaining which pictograms match which keys. Lessons range from nursery rhymes to folk and pop songs. Production quality is decent but lighting could be better.
The course includes downloadable PDFs expanding on the core lessons, such as chord charts and rhythm exercises. These are better quality than I expected with some good starter information.
Over 50 beginner-level songs are included using the Piano by Pictures notation. Genres focus on church hymns, Christmas carols, and traditional folk/children's songs. I'd love to see more versatility here.
Piano by Pictures Book
Optional printed tutorial book that recapitulates the course content. More of a companion resource than essential course material. The book seems decent for a free bonus but not something I'd pay much for standalone.
Dr. Kelly offers email contact to ask questions and get assistance as you go through the course. A nice perk that makes things smoother for beginners.
Does Piano by Pictures Work as Advertised?
Piano by Pictures advertises that you can "learn piano in minutes" and see results instantly even with no experience. As a professional pianist, this naturally made me skeptical. But I wanted to truly put it to the test.
After signing up for the course, I started by trying one of their lessons. The song was "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Here's how it went:
At first glance, the pictogram notation made sense visually. I could see how beginners might find it less intimidating than sheet music. However, I noticed some key information was missing like exact rhythm and sustain.
I followed along with the video lesson, playing each note as demonstrated. Within maybe 10-15 minutes I could carefully pick out the simple melody.
However, it sounded very halting and stilted. I wouldn't call it piano playing per se, but I was able to reproduce the main notes of the tune.
Bottom line, Piano by Pictures allowed me to slowly decode a basic melody quite quickly. But the end result didn't sound like a polished piano piece by any means.
This proved consistent across songs I tried from the course. I could learn to mechanically pick out the melody faster than I could sight-read the same music from sheet notation. However, the nuance, flow, and technique were severely lacking.
So while Piano by Pictures can help you learn simple beginner songs quicker than reading sheet music, you sacrifice a lot of musicality. For professional or even intermediate playing, it has major limits.
Piano by Pictures Course Review: Pros and Cons
Based on exploring the full Piano by Pictures course, here are some pros and cons I noticed as an experienced pianist and teacher:
Beginner-friendly approach eases complete novices into piano step-by-step
Visual learning style helps bypass difficulty of reading sheet music
Lesson structure allows you to play some songs fairly quickly
Having supporting video lessons adds clarity for visual learners
Relatively affordable compared to traditional piano instruction
Lacks important technical instruction around posture, hand position, finger movement
No notation of musical expression elements like articulation, dynamics, phrasing
Can pick out simple melodies but doesn't sound like real musical piano playing
Very limited scope - teaches only basics and has no intermediate or advanced progression
Not comprehensive enough for true musical understanding and development
Quality and breadth of song library is limited
As an experienced pianist and educator, I would say Piano by Pictures serves a purpose for rote-learning a handful of simple beginner tunes. But it lacks the depth, artistry, and musicality needed to become a skilled pianist.
Who Is Piano by Pictures Best Suited For?
While Piano by Pictures has some inherent limitations, I think it could serve some key beginner audiences:
Absolute beginners wanting to quickly learn a few easy tunes for fun and encouragement
Younger school-aged children being introduced to piano for the first time
Adults who always wanted to dabble in piano but don't want to invest in lessons
People who find reading sheet music very challenging and get discouraged
For these groups, Piano by Pictures could offer a way to enjoy playing some beginning songs without getting bogged down in music theory.
However, students hoping to progress beyond early beginner level would likely outgrow it quickly. Intermediate to advanced pianists wouldn't get any value from the course.
In comparison to Piano by Pictures, I feel that Pianoforall offers significantly more value and versatility for the same $39 price point.
Created by professional pianist Robin Hall, Pianoforall provides over 300 video lessons and 1000 audio lessons covering genres like pop, blues, jazz, and classical.
The teaching is more comprehensive, helping develop core technique and music theory skills to progress beyond beginner level. Pianoforall also provides more nuanced notation to produce musical phrasing and expression.
While Piano by Pictures offers a very limited introduction, Pianoforall better equips students with well-rounded piano proficiency worth the investment. If looking to truly learn piano while bypassing sheet music, Pianoforall is a superior choice over Piano by Pictures for the same cost.
Final Verdict: Should You Try Piano by Pictures?
Piano by Pictures won't turn you into a virtuoso pianist, but it can help total newbies learn a few simple tunes fairly quickly.
The biggest value is sidestepping the difficulty of reading sheet music, which prevents many from learning piano.
For casual playing and light experimentation with piano, Piano by Pictures offers a low-risk way to get started. Just approach it understanding the musical and technical limitations.
If you're someone who always wished you could sit down and plunk out basic versions of a few favorite tunes, this course could get you there. But serious pianists would quickly require more depth.
At $39, Piano by Pictures is reasonably priced for dipping your toes into beginner piano. Just don't expect more than it's designed to deliver. For the same price I’d highly recommend you go with PianoForAll.