The piano is a beautiful musical instrument. Expansive in its range of expression, its elegance and style could also be conveyed through the piano player. But how could such quality be applied to learning the piano even for a beginner? And what is the key to learning the piano, effectively?
Between 1990 and 1995, Kuala Lumpur-based music educator Irene Choon invented a breakthrough piano learning method. Challenging conservative methods that are ineffective and slow to learn, she began introducing the formulas-based learning system at Praise Music International (PMI) in 1990.
PMI’s vision is nothing less than revolutionary.
Using the “TOUCH® SYSTEM” invented by Dr. Irene Choon herself, it is a one-formula-fits-all kind of method that can be repeatedly used when playing other songs in its syllabus. The students from this School are taught using this system in the following ways:
- To play by ear
- Oriental Sol-fa play
- Unique improvisation using chords
- Creative method in note playing
- Holistic skills integration
These ways mentioned above are systematically divided into four courses for group classes that are available for all ages. They include:
- Reading notes
- Playing Chords
- Rhythmic practice using the sol-fa system, and
- Playing by ear
Flexibility may not be a term usually used in learning a musical instrument, at least not within the classical music circle. You see accompaniment in traditional music education was not emphasised. Frustrated after years of hard work, they have been unable to freely and emotionally improvise on the piano.
However, at PMI, learning the skill to accompany a choir or another musician is at the heart of its approach, and remains a unique element of the course.
Take for example the song ‘Happy Birthday’. Universally known, it is probably one of the most popular songs of all time. While others may struggle to improvise even after many years of mastering the piano, PMI students have the flexibility to play in the style of their choice.
“Piano is a beautiful instrument. Its flexibility lies in its ability to play a full chord in various styles according to their [the student’s] mood and ability. Students are trained to master formulas in their playing. Once they master one formula, they may use the same formula for many songs.”
— Irene Choon, Director of Music at Praise Music International.
Using PMI’s only method, students who have completed the course can now play the role of music accompaniment either in a church choir or a band. With or without song sheets, students are able to play any song while applying various styles depending on their ability to play.
In time, they develop multiple performance styles and improve on their musicianship skills. Because once they have mastered the formulas, they will be able to play any songs given to them spontaneously. They will be able to play without much practice when applying the formulas spontaneously.
“With PMI, students can feel comfortable in their abilities but are nevertheless challenged to be better. Learning is fast, easy, and fun, this really is the most efficient way to pick up the piano. The teaching method is a modern interpretation of how the piano can be taught today. As a result, it’s more attainable than the traditional route for people my age. I’d finally learned how to play while singing at the same time. PMI has shown me that it is never too late to learn, no matter your age,” said a student who had completed the 9-month course.
While the conservative approach to learning the piano, especially for exams, is focused on achieving individual technique and style, Irene believes that there are benefits to learning the piano as a group.
With the pressure lifted, music lessons in groups tend to follow a pace suitable not only for an individual. But allows space for questions and comparisons of each other’s performance, in a way most reassuringly.
So far, no other piano courses, online or offline, offer to teach in this way. This method exists only at Praise Music International.
Over the past fifty to seventy years, the trend in popular as well as church music has changed dramatically. While note-reading was emphasised in the past, in today’s multimedia world using chords to interpret and express music is in high demand. Merging the oriental invention of numberings as notation, Sol-fa plays a part in providing a holistic approach to learning the piano.
These four courses offered at PMI are equally vital in meeting the requirements of any professional piano accompanist of today’s caliber.
While there is still truth to the idiom ‘Practice Makes Perfect’, the TOUCH® SYSTEM has enabled amateurs as well as long-time piano players to experience learning from a whole new perspective. In many ways both efficiently and effectively.
Over the years, the courses at PMI have grown in its sophistication. Training pianists for hotels and kindergartens, the course is no longer confined to the church.
Irene has not only created a new written piano language but challenged conservative musical training to something that is easy to read and understand.
In more ways than others, the method ignites a passion that is equally satisfying and fun.
Today, Irene’s piano courses have reached far and wide. For more than 32 years, the program has seen more than 8,000 students from across the world attend its group classes. With 80% consisting of participants from Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and the U.S.
In 2021, she was listed in Britishpedia’s 3rd edition of the Encyclopedia of Successful People in Malaysia. Her contributions are listed for having created an outstanding pianist course and for being the first complete pianist course in the world that trains students using four systems.
REGISTRATION & INFO
The 2022 Second Preview will take place online on 17 July 2022. Click here to register for this FREE preview.
Register for September 2022 intake by the end of July to be entitled to a complimentary Foundation Programme in August.
For more information about Praise Music International, please click here.
ABOUT PASTOR DR IRENE CHOON
Pastor Irene, Chief Ministry Director for PMI since its inception in 1990, has creatively designed the TOUCH System to suit everyone’s needs. To cope with the high demand in the last few years, Irene has personally groomed a team of full-time trainers to meet the needs of her growing number of students.
The PMI has its headquarters in Malaysia. With over 12 centers in Malaysia and Australia, it has the vision to continue empowering and training pianists.
Irene has written and compiled more than 30 books, including some technical books for musicianship and improvisation.