Wow, tough crowd
It's OK. Being on TV certainly opens you up to a little criticism. Fair enough. However, I'm feeling a bit "piled on" by a very small sample size.
Just a few responses from my side of the table ...
Let's start with the truism that my goal is to get as many people off the sidelines and into the game as possible. I clearly have no long term goals of producing the next great concert pianist, or, for that matter the next great heavy jazzer. What I DO truly feel is my life's work is to open the magic of actually becoming a music maker
(as opposed to a passive listener of music) to as many people as humanly possible.
What I've found along the way is that many serious musicians find that in some way unseemly or threatening, much to both my dismay and amusement.
He is a salesman when he claims everything is "so easy"... it is physically much harder to execute what he suggests than he leads potential customers to beleive it to be.
This comment is always one that makes me smile. Let's consider an alternative opening to my weekly TV series: Hi, welcome to Playing Piano is Harder Than You Can Possibly Imagine
. I'm Scott Houston and I'm going to prove to you that you have NO chance to ever learn how to have fun playing piano. So, let's bring out our first guest while you settle in for a little disappointment."
So as to me being a salesman - guilty as charged and I'm proud of it! I sense the word salesman was used with a distinctly negative connotation in that quote. But when you are "selling" something you believe in, you better believe I want to sell the heck out of the idea that I believe there is no better gift I could ever give someone than the gift of being able to sit down and have fun playing a piano. It may sound corny, but it's the truth...
I just saw him on my local PBS fundraising TV show yesterday for the first time. I think Jazz's assessment above is dead-on. What a cheesy salesman who makes everything sound so easy and not afraid to throw everybody else under the bus to achieve his goal. He spends more time crowing about how easy it is than getting to the meat of the instruction.
In that pledge special (which is now 7 years old) we had one particular target that we unfortunately were forced to focus on due to the elephant in the room that no one (until that show) ever came out and admitted in public. That is the lack of success the great majority of piano students had taking traditional lessons. (That will probably anger a few of you, but don't shoot the messenger... I have over 20,000 attendees of my live workshops plus, literally, hundreds of thousands of TV show viewers and book buyers to back up that statement).
For that reason we very intentionally drilled right into the hot buttons of those adults who feel as though they failed at traditional lessons, when in my opinion, traditional lessons failed them. I've learned empirically that it is just as, if not more, important to get these people realizing that they are not failures and that they do in fact "have what it takes" to realize their life long dream of simply sitting down and having some fun at a piano. So yes, trying to "de-program" these poor souls from feeling like they are a failure takes a little time. The goal is to get them off the sideline and back into the game, and starting in on heavy piano instruction is a surefire way to send them running away again with their tails between their legs.
Check out some of these real life comments
if you think I'm making this stuff up. They'll either make you laugh, or cry, or both ...
Chord-based playing and noodling around is not the best kept secret in piano playing like he leads people to believe.
You obviously did not see much of that show, or of any of the over 160 episodes of my half-hour series. I have stated over and over and over ad infinitum, just so that people DON'T think that I have come up with anything new or trendy, that the huge irony in what I am teaching them is that no one ever taught them previously because it is the way all of us professional gigging players have played for over 100 years.
The irony in this is that his short cut approach to give you cheat sheets to learn to memorize the chords to bypass the proper approach of learning why and how chords are constructed the way they are is going to end up being the hardest part about learning his easy way.
There is no type of music notation known as a "cheat sheet." Using that term pretty well exposes your lack of understanding or experience in this style. What we use are called Lead Sheets. Also, I usually get a little apprehensive when someone refers to the "proper" approach to anything. Proper to you maybe ... Not so proper to the vast majority of people not interested in theory and simply wanting to play some tunes from the get go.
The bigger irony I find is that by getting students playing tunes they love FIRST, while very admittedly glossing over what some would consider "proper," my students end up not only having a tremendously fun experience, but in the end are way, way ahead in theory knowledge vs. traditional students with the same length of instruction.
I guess I'm just all in favor of a little more carrot and a little less stick right at the beginning. I'll bypass just about anything in the beginning to get someone playing tunes they love, because once one experiences the joy of making music, they are hooked for life. There is plenty of time down the road to fill in the gaps. When done in reverse, the majority drop out because they aren't having any fun.
He's a good marketer and sales guy but not much of an actual teacher.
For a little bigger sample size, I would hope someone reading this would consider the opinions found here
as well ...
Just checked out some of his youtube clips, his playing would be that of a guy who's had a few years of lessons. Couldn't find him playing any jazz.
First off, another thing that I admit freely and mention on the air VERY regularly is that I am a mediocre heavy duty jazzer - defense rests - guilty as charged. I don't say that to be modest - it's the truth.
However, that is EXACTLY why I think that the show (I'm talking about the 4 time Emmy Award winning Piano Guy series now in its 13 season on public television, not the pledge special seemingly focused on in this thread)
works so well for so, so many people. I am genuinely thrilled to be sitting with my great playing guests and learning new things from them - it is not an act... My job as host of the show is to be the eyes and ears of the viewer, not to be a heavy player. I'm not out taping concert performances, I'm hosting a how-to show for goodness sakes.
Now having said that, to defend my playing just a bit
, on the instructional clips (sometimes rotated in and out of our youtube.com/pianoguytv channel) of me showing the basics of a tune it is a VERY intentional effort we put forth to NOT play anything advanced so as to not blow a beginner out of the water. I guess I thought that was pretty obvious. If you'd ever seen the series you would realize that clip is the first segment which is then followed by a guest of mine working through the same tune in the same key giving away professional tips and tricks.
Although this means nothing to my students and viewers, nor should it, in case this helps my cred with this tough crowd I cut my teeth at the IU Jacobs School of Music in Dave Baker's jazz program for 3 years.
My final comment (I promise...) has to do with the idea that to teach well, one has to be a master performer of said topic of instruction. Because frankly, that insinuation is what really insulted me and got me to start this now long-winded reply to begin with. I never once saw Bela Karolyi on the balance beam or doing a back flip (with his giant belly, yikes!) yet he is considered the world's finest gymnastics instructor. You can find similar examples in every discipline. So, extrapolating my, or anyone else's, playing ability with my ability to teach is wrong headed.
I take great pride in the fact that today there are literally THOUSANDS of people out there having a ball making music at a piano that weren't before they saw my show or came to a live event. I sleep extremely well knowing that what I teach is pedagogically sound when applied to non-classical tunes (as I make abundantly clear in everything i do.) This isn't "snake oil" - it is the way working professional piano players have played for a long, long time. The fact that what I teach is different than the majority doesn't make it wrong - only different.
Where the rubber hits the road is what kind of success and influence you are having with your students, and I'll place the results and positive feedback from my students against anyone else's anytime...
OK, I'm now stepping down from my soap box