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Music Lessons I: Fundamentals

Music Lessons II: Chords and Harmony

MiBac Music Software
www.mibac.com

PO Box 468
Northfield, MN 55057
800-645-3945


These are two music lesson computer programs for Windows/Mac that teach you about music theory. These CDs each come with a registration key for installation, a Quick Start Guide, and a User Guide. The programs are MIDI compatible, which is optional to use. These programs mostly teach you about piano theory, but they also teach you about reading music, ear training, and playing music, which is applicable to any instrument. The products are recommended for ages 8 to adult. You have the option of saving your work in the form of a progress report on your hard drive.

Music Lessons I: Fundamentals

This program has 12 categories for learning. For most questions you have the option of playing/doing them, skipping them, listening to the software play the notes, or showing the answer. You are graded on how many answers you get right out of the number of tries; so if you fix a mistake, you get a better score. You can change the options and use the computer keyboard for typing the answers instead of clicking the keyboard on the screen. This software features Treble, Bass, and Alto clefs. Under the Level menu, you can change what your challenge is going be composed of in each of the categories below:

Note reading: shows four notes on a staff and then you play (click) them on the keyboard below. You have the option to choose line, space, staff, ledger, chromatic, or advanced chromatic notes.

Circle of fifths: shows middle C and asks you to play (click) the circle of fifths starting on middle C. When you play the notes (the right letter, just in different spots in that clef) it moves all the notes to a fifth apart, but still gives you the correct score, even if you put the notes in different octaves.

Key signatures: gives you a graph with Major keys on the left, and minor keys on the right, with check boxes. It asks you to name the key signature shown on the staff.

Major/minor scales: displays a keyboard for playing the scale it tells you to play. You have the option of Major, Natural minor, Harmonic minor, Melodic minor, all minor, or all scales.

Modes: asks you to play a mode scale. Your options are Ionian (Major), Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian (minor), Locrian, or all modes.

Jazz scales: asks for a jazz scale to be played. You can choose Dorian Flat 2, Lydian Sharp 5, Mixolydian Sharp 4, Mixolydian Flat 6, Minor Flat 5, Locrian Flat 4, or all jazz scales.

Scale degrees: gives you a note on the staff in a specific key and you have to name the scale degree (Tonic, Supertonic, Mediant, Subdominant, Dominant, Submediant, Subtonic, and Leading tone). You can use Major, Natural minor, Harmonic minor, Melodic minor, all minor, or all scales.

Intervals: plays an interval separate and then together (and shown on the staff). It plays all Major, minor, Perfect, diminished, and Augmented intervals except ninths and tenths (in the beginner level). The intermediate level plays intervals downward and upward instead of just upward as in the beginner level. The advanced level has sharps and flats plus ninths and tenths plus double diminished and double augmented!!

Note/rest durations: asks (in that time signature) how many beats does the note (or rest) take up. Choose among notes, rests, notes and rests; and for the time signature, choose half note, quarter note, eighth note, sixteenth note, or all beat units. This is kind of tricky.

Scales ear training: plays the scale and (after you select the scale), writes the notes of the scale you picked on the staff. You have the option of Major/minor, Modes, Jazz scales or a combination of all three.

Intervals ear training: is the same as Intervals above, except that only the first note is shown on the staff

Music Lessons II: Chords and Harmony

This software also gives you the option of playing/doing the lesson, skipping it, listening to the software play the notes, or seeing the answer. And the grading is the same as in Music Lessons I. As far as I know, you can't use the computer keyboard for typing in answers. This software features Treble, Bass, Grand, Alto, and Tenor clefs. You can use this for piano or guitar; you have the option of displaying the guitar strings or a piano keyboard. It has three levels. The quick start guide says: "The beginning level uses the keys of C major and a minor. The Intermediate level uses major and minor keys with up to three sharps and flats. The Advanced level uses all major and minor keys." Under the Level menu you can also change what your challenge is going be composed of.

Music Lessons II has six different activities, all with naming, writing, and playing features. They are Chord Elements, Triads, Triads Ear Training, Seventh Chords, Seventh Chords Ear Training, and Roman Numerals (chord degree).

Chord Elements: You name the third quality displayed; write (type) the third quality you are asked for; or play the third quality you are asked for.

Triads: Name the chord by root, quality, and inversion; write a chord in the key and position given; or play a chord in the key and position given on the keyboard shown.

Triads Ear Training: Name the root, quality, and inversion of the chord; write the chord you hear; or play the chord you hear on the keyboard.

Seventh Chords: Name the seventh chord displayed by root, quality, and inversion; write the chord in the key and position given; or play the chord in the key and position given.

Seventh Chords Ear Training: Name the seventh chord that you hear by root, quality, and inversion; write the chord you hear; or play the chord (given the root).

Roman Numerals (chord degree): Name the chord's numeral according to the key it's in; write the chord in the key and numeral given; or play the chord in the key and numeral given.

Both programs have a great help section. This is the main teaching part of the software! When you click on Help, it goes to the section of help for that lesson. These are extremely helpful, with detailed (but not overly detailed) text and great graphics to illustrate the point. The help section of Music Lessons I also has the history of the topics you have looked at, a search window, a help topics window (which appears to be about the same thing), the table of contents, and a back button. Music Lessons II has back and forward buttons and a print feature.

These programs appear to be for ages ten and up, although some of the sections, at the easiest levels, would be appropriate for younger ages. These courses are also a great supplement to music lessons, whether during the school year at the same time as lessons or during the summer when you may not be taking lessons. The programs are not specifically made for homeschoolers but work better for them, since homeschoolers can use the software during the day at home more easily than public/private school students can.

These are great programs for learning the basics and beyond in music theory and ear training! If I could change one thing about these programs, I would take out the jazz scales from Music Lessons I. They don't seem like a fundamental or essential foundation for learning music.

I would recommend these programs to anyone who would like to learn music, even adults, and especially to music lesson students who want to continue their music studies during the summer and not lose ground during that large break. These programs may only require 10-30 minutes every day, and they really strengthen your music expertise.



Product review by Kathy & Ryan Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2010
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
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