Saturday, March 31, 2012

Practicing Away from the Keyboard - an App Review

Who likes technology?  Who likes kids occupied productively?  Who likes games?  Who needs a vacation?!  (If you answered, "me," or "I do!" or, "You're talking to him!" to any of these questions, this posting is for YOU.)

There are some things about music that are helpful to practice AWAY from the piano.  The piano is how we make beautiful music, and while note reading can be fun, sometimes a bit of drilling that won't interfere with our newest and most beautiful pieces is what would help the most.

Below are some apps that I've found and tried out and recommend.  I've organized them by operating software and then by level.  If there are any that you know of and can recommend that I haven't listed below, please e-mail me so I can pass it on to everyone else!

If you have Apple Software (ipad, ipod, Macbook, ipod touch, etc):


Music Keys by Foriero - This is a quiz of playing the correct keys on the keyboard when given them by letter name.  You cannot control the range of keys quizzed on, but in the training mode, it does teach you how to find a flat and a sharp.  The piano keyboard presented is a good size for playing, and the game plays the sound of each note as you play it on the KB.  You play until you get a wrong answer and you are given a score.  This app is FREE.

Music Notes by Foriero - In this game, you see a range of notes from a whole note to a thirty second note and you are asked to select the correct symbol based on the word it gives you.  You need to be able to read to play this game.  The notes you select are not extremely realistic looking and there are no dotted notes or rests, but I have found that kids like this one a lot.  This app is also FREE.

Music Intervals by Foriero - This is a cute quiz game.  There are two modes, "train" and "play."  In the train mode, the game presents an interval on the staff, plays the sound of it melodically, and then gives the answer below.  In the play mode, the student has to come up with the answer.  You play until you get one wrong and are given a score.  I like this because it gives the sound of each interval, which is important in interval recognition.  What I don't like about it, is that it calls a "unison" a "1st."  This app is FREE.  **

Flash Class - This is a note naming flashcard game.  If you set the game preferences to "piano keyboard," a student is given a note on the staff and has to play that note on the keyboard provided.  You do need to be accurate with the small keys, but the program plays each tone and you're able to set up what the range of notes to be quizzed on are.  If you decide to use this app, feel free to ask me in lesson what the range should be.  This app is $3.99 in the app store.

Music Tones by Foriero - This is like the flashcard game, but is a little more colorful.  You cannot control of the range of notes given except by staff (you either practice all the notes on the treble staff or all the notes on the bass staff).  Unlike Flash Class, you name the note by letter name instead of playing it on the keyboard, so it doesn't really work on that reaction we try to create by sightreading in lesson.  But it IS FREE!

Music Cubes by Foriero -  This is a GREAT game.  Remember the little handheld Simon game?  It is similar in that each round you get a new tone.  You are given the first note, and everything else is a note added to a melody.  This is a game to be played by ear and each note is relative to the preceding note.  I LOVE this game.  AND it's FREE.   **

Music Tool by TheWay - This is not a game, but a pretty well designed tool for anyone that is learning their scales and chord progressions and the circle of fifths.  You choose a key (say your piece is in F Major), and it gives you the key signature, the scale degrees and their functions and on a keyboard, will show you the tones in the scale and any chord you select in that key.  This would be quite helpful for harmonic analysis.  The free version has all of that.  The paid version ($3.99) includes many modal scales and typical scales from other cultures aside from just major and minor.  **

Music Theory by Brainscape - This is more of a collection of flashcards than anything else.  My favorites are Key Signatures, Interval Ear Trainer, and Name that Chord.  It is quite in depth, teaches you about chords, symbols and even composers.  Many of the options might be too difficult for a child though and you might need to supervise or help him/her.  It works like flashcards do though.  You don't plug in an answer - you think it, say it, or write it down and then check your answer.  It then asks each time "how well did you know this?" and will keep that question in the deck according to your response.  I strongly recommend this one for its ear training, though it can be a bit academic for symbols.  See me about assigning from this app.  This app is $1.99 and a great deal.

If you have Android Software:

My Little Note - Switch the input method to keyboard, and this is a really cute, fun game to practice sightreading.  It is simple, easy to play, you can control the difficulty level, number of questions and clefs to work on and it is $1.54.  This is one of my favorites for note reading.  **

Musical Flash - This is a simple flashcard practice app.  You are shown a note on the treble or bass staff and given three options.  You choose the correct one and keep going.  There is no keyboard for the note naming.  This app is FREE.

Piano Sightreading - This is an app for identifying on a small keyboard, the notes on the staff.  It gives you an accuracy and a speed and has no sound.  This app is FREE.

Music Tutor Sightread - This is a great flashcard app that allows you to answer what note on a staff you're presented with on the keyboard!  You are given a certain time and your score is based on how many you got correct in that time limit.  The Lite version, which is free,  has only treble cleff.  The full version, which costs $2.33 has the bass clef, grand staff, range selection, accidentals, and key signatures.  I think it is worth the price.  **

CSharply -  This is a great little collection of music reading quizzes.  The note ID is on the staff (not with a keyboard - just letter names), the interval ID is realistic and plays the sound harmonically (instead of melodically, which is easier to hear), and Key ID is a simple key signature labeling quiz.  It also has specific interval ID and chord ID which are kind of tricky, but good practice.  This app is $1.43.

If you're an android use and want better apps and have the know-how to make that happen, Samsung is holding an app writing contest and I vote for a new music theory app!

I have all of these apps, so if you want to try them, let me know in lesson this week!  I starred my favorites, but each is different and may appeal to different kids.  The android ones aren't as varied as the apple options yet, but I'm sure there are some out there that I haven't tried - let me know if you have!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Canon in D - Declan's Version

A student of mine this week was proud to show me something he has been working on at home by ear on his own.  It was so beautifully done, that I thought I'd share it with you here.  What are YOU working on at home?

Well done, Declan!

(For a comedic version of Pachelbel's Canon, click here.)

Oh cool!  Amber figured one out on her own too!  Anybody else care to share?