Music Theory Software in Review
from the Elementary Classroom Teacher Resource Index
With the advent of multimedia and CD-ROM, computer-assisted instruction is beginning to find its way into the music classroom and private lesson studio. One of the best places for this developing technology in the music curriculum is in teaching music theory skills. There are many programs available today for a variety of age levels. Some of them teach while others provide drill and practice skills introduced during teacher led instruction.
The following is a review of several popular software programs.
Practica Musica 4.0
Alfred's Essential Music Theory Series
Music Ace 1 & 2
Alfred's Music Theory Games
by Ars Nova (PC or Mac) 90.00
The Musica Practica series is perhaps the most successful music theory software program for students grades 6 and up. Included are 24 different activities such as pitch matching and rhythmic dictation with each activity offering four different skill levels. Some of these activities may even challenge the teacher! Features of the Practica Musica series include: advanced record keeping for as many as four students; a textbook/workbook that accompanies the software; flexibility to create custom activities; and ability to allow students to enter answers with a MIDI instrument.
- A comprehensive course
- Ability to create custom activities
- Simple notation tools to write, hear, and print your own music
- Limited record keeping ability
- MIDI capable
- Four difficulty levels per activity
- Previous student work cannot be erased. After the software has tracked the work of four students it can no longer keep records. To track additional students you must purchase student disks for $15 each. The site license will allow installation on several computers though you will still be required to purchase additional disks.
- Lacks graphic interest
- Windows are small, creating difficulty in reading on-screen instructions
Alfred's Essentials of Music Theory Vol. 1-3
by Alfred Publishing (PC or Mac) $180.00 ($80 each volume)
This award-winning, comprehensive theory program from Alfred Publishing, Essentials of Music Theory Vol 1-3 is based on their successful theory course and is intended for students in grades 3 and up. The software is designed to reach a broad audience being appropriate for both elementary and high school students. Each volume is divided into six units each with a number of activities and narrated instruction. Essentials of Music Theory is sequential and well planned and will clearly cover a wide variety of topics without the need for teacher guided instruction. The units contained on the three volumes cover virtually all of the primary theory concepts from pitch reading to advanced ear training. There also is an extremely helpful glossary which defines hundreds of theory terms and gives both visual and audio examples. Essentials of Music Theory provides record-keeping capabilities for up to 30 students.
- Comprehensive theory training course
- Elementary to advanced theory instruction
- Listening examples are actual recordings
- Instruction is guided by narration
- Moderate graphic interest
- Musical examples are easy to read
- Glossary is extensive
- Provides record keeping for up to 30 students
- Erasable student records
- Course is fixed, allowing only the ability to create customized tests
- No MIDI
- Site licenses are not yet available
- 10-packs for schools available for $240
- No software guide is included
Music Ace & Music Ace 2
by Harmonic Vision (PC and Mac) Music Ace 1 - $65.00 / Music Ace 2 - $85.00
Music Ace is one of the best programs for the beginning/intermediate music student. Leading the way through both Music Ace and Music Ace 2 is an adorable character named Maestro Max. With twenty-four lessons included on each volume, these self-paced lessons are fun and creative and make excellent use of technology. Reinforcement is fantastic and the musical examples chosen to illustrate the theory concepts are great covering all periods of music history. Music Ace focuses primarily on reading music and melody while Music Ace 2 focuses on elements of music such as notation and rhythmic dictation. Students also are able to do some basic composition with Doodle Pad. As with Essentials of Music Theory, Music Ace and Music Ace 2 provide record-keeping for as many as 30 students.
- Ideal for elementary school students
- Music Ace and Music Ace 2, when used, together constitute a very comprehensive theory course
- Record keeping capability for up to 30 students
- Instruction is guided by narration followed by activities
- Graphically this software is full of fun
- Great for a one computer classroom and private instruction studios
- Musical examples are terrific
- MIDI capable
- Software, for the most part, is entertaining and very interactive
- A teachers guide is included
- Doodle Pad allows students to compose their own music
- The course is fixed and teachers are not able to customize tests or materials
- Software can only be loaded on to one computer
- The computer must have a CD-ROM to function
- Private lesson students may not be able to repeat lessons at home because of cost
Alfred's Theory Games Software (Levels 1A - 2)
by Alfred Publishing - $19.95
Alfred's Theory Games Software is a fun way for piano students to drill and practice basic music theory concepts. Each game quizzes students on a different aspect of music theory including: note naming, intervals, musical terms and rhythms. The games include Name that Key, Note Name Race, Under the Sea, Cross the River, Melodic Intervals and Carnival Game.
- Colorful games with limited animation/semi-arcade style games
- Correlated to Alfred's Piano Lesson Books
- Record keeping features to track student progress
- An affordable choice for home use
- Best for ages 7 through 11
- A sampler of the same game is available for $9.95
- Note name game may not be set to meet the specific needs of the student
Music theory can be a boring subject to most children. Software can be a resource that actually can make it fun. Consider computer-assisted instruction as one of many resources to make what you teach more interesting to your students.
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