There must be a large number of people, both young and old, studying for music exams throughout the country. Although there is software aimed at teaching the rudiments to young children, this is the first I have seen which covers the theory of music for all ages. The set of programs makes little attempt to teach, but instead confines itself to setting and marking a whole range of questions on the foundation knowledge needed for the Associated Board examinations from Grade 2 to Grade 5.
Program one contains three options - Key Signatures and Tonic Triads, Scales, and Intervals. The first of these covers grades 3, 4 and 5, while the other two also offer grade 2. If the pupil does not give the correct answer to a question, the computer simply states that the answer was wrong and doesn't show the correct response. It is possible for the user to escape from a question and move on or return to the menu at any time.
The second program on Time Signatures/Bar Lines and Rests is more suitable for higher than lower grades, as a reasonable command of rhythm is needed. The accompanying booklet apologises for the fact that in the first part of the program the computer's checking can be rather slow, but explains that the longer the process takes, the more likely you are to be right! A straightforward multiple-choice quiz is contained in Program Four - a dictionary of the musical terms tested is included in the booklet. The quiz offers questions on a range of options - Expression, Tempo, Dynamics, Little Words, Performance, and Various Others - so if you don't know your Ballentando from your Pocchettino, this is the program for you!
The final program is aimed at Grade 5 students who, for the exam, have to write a chord laid out on two staves. I particularly liked the error statements which appear in this program, including "This is not going to be right: Let's have a fresh start", and "You are muddling me up: Let's try again"! To my untrained ear, it seemed that the Spectrum's sound capabilities were well used, but Ted Kirk does comment in the booklet that the "simulation of chords in Program Four can only be described as painful."
Having little knowledge of music theory myself, I asked a professional to have a look at this set of programs. He was extremely impressed by the depth of content and commented that, though they might not improve your playing, they'd certainly help you get through the exams.
: always clearly explained on the screenKeyboard play
: very good representation of musical notationUse of colour
: limited, but used in a sensible wayGeneral Rating:
Written by a professional musician, this set of programs is a very useful way of preparing for music exams. I appreciated the sense of humour in the accompanying documentation!