SuperKids Educational Software Review. The parents' and teachers' guide to educational software
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Music Software Reviews

Discovering Keyboards,
from Voyetra

For Ages 10 to Adult

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Music software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of this PC-only title.


Reviewed on:
Discovering Keyboards Screen Shot Pentium90 with 16MB and 2XCD

Description
This pleasant and complete program covers the basics of keyboarding in a satisfying and easy-to-follow format. A MIDI keyboard (not included) is required to fully operate the program.

The first of its five main sections is a "Keyboard Tour," which gives historical information about early keyboards, and looks at the many different kinds of keyboards commonly used today. Video clips demonstrate and entertain, as musicians play brief compositions on various unique keyboard instruments. Also included is a highly informative section on "Understanding MIDI and Synthesis" which is especially helpful for the casual computer user who is unfamiliar with today's growing computer-music technology. In the "Game Room" section of the program, the user tests his or her knowledge and understanding of music facts, practices note recognition, and strengthens rhythm skills by playing arcade-like games. The "Songbook" includes the program's entire song collection, and allows the user to import and print other MIDI song files. The "Keyboard Lessons" section rounds out the program with sequential instruction that teaches basic music notation, theory, and playing technique. A professional music teacher leads the user through this section, using a combination of video clips, verbal instructions and hands-on sessions in which the user learns and practices new pieces, and receives simple feedback.

With the possible exception of the game room, the program is presented in an exceptionally detailed and knowledgeable manner, with none of the animation and youthful themes found in many programs.

Ease of Install / Use
The program installs easily on Windows 95. On our Windows 3.1 test machine, the installer asked for the user's name and product serial number, then gave us the option of selecting directories and program groups, if we preferred something other than their default suggestions. The program comes with an uninsall option.

The User Guide is complete and helpful if problems should arise, but for the most part the program is self-explanatory and simple to use.

Educational Value
There is an enormous amount of information presented in this program in addition to basic keyboarding lessons. The interested user learns to appreciate keyboards as a group of instruments with a rich history and a promising and diverse future. SuperKids' child reviewers expressed increased enthusiasm for the program and keyboards in general upon completion of the "Keyboard Tour" section of the program.

Instructional feedback is fairly detailed. Rhythm and pitch scores are given in percentiles for each practice session. Specific bars that need work are mentioned, and the user can chose to repeat weaker bars, entire songs, or move on to the next lesson. Practice is highly encouraged at each level, but never forced upon the student.

Kid Appeal
Although it contains three arcade style games, the true kid appeal of this program is the large selection of songs that are taught and practiced from the very start. Rather than wade through the one song per lesson drudgery associated with many tutorials, the user learns many simple songs with the earliest of lessons. With each song accomplishment the user's intrinsic desire to practice and learn grows. "I 'd rather learn songs to perform for my family," was the comment of one child reviewer "than waste my time blowing up notes on an arcade machine."

Best for / Bottom-Line
With a focused, easy-going style, this program appeals most to a mature child or adult--one who is not looking for an animated, in-your-face experience. It emphasizes instruction over entertainment, and is not recommended for a young child or one with a short attention span. Informative and complete, it teaches in a straightforward manner that is challenging, yet rarely frustrating.

Educational Value = 5/5, Kid Appeal = 3/5, Ease of Use = 5/5

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other music software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of of this PC-only title.



Children's Software System Requirements


PC

Macintosh
Operating System Windows 3.1; Win95 not available
CPU Type and Speed 486DX/66 or higher
Hard Drive Space 6 MB
Memory (RAM) 8 MB
Graphics 640 x 480, 256-color display
CD-ROM Speed Double-speed or faster CD-ROM drive
Audio 16-bit Windows-compatible sound card
Other Needs A MIDI-compatible musical keyboard with PC interface

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