Theta Music Trainer has designed an online “ear trainer” that provides thirty 10-15-minute workout sessions. The system recommends game levels for players based on the scores of previous workout sessions. This added intelligence makes it easy for players (and teachers) to track progress and continues to provide challenges to motivate and in turn, boost skills.
What you will find:
~Concise explanations of the fundamentals of music
~Rationale of why mastering these drills can enhance the skills needed to function as a soloist and/or band musician
~Reports of individual progress
~Clever games with sophisticated graphics that train the ear in…
- Paddle Pitch–the format echoes the days of Atari, the listener must determine the scale tone heard
- Melodic Drops–melodic interval training
- Parrot Phrases–melody playback or call and response
- Harmonic Balloons–recognition of harmonic intervals
- Chord Locks–although it has some quirks, this is the first game that I have seen that asks to identify the chord quality, inversion and its function within a key–love it!
- Tone Trees–chords, their roots and inversions are reviewed
- Phrase Fitter–another favorite but tricky, players are asked to choose the chord to fit (harmonize) the melody–necessary skill for any musician.
- Speaker Chords–listeners must click on the correct order of chords within common progressions
- Rhythm Puzzle–match the rhythm heard to its notation
- Sound Channels–innovative game for players to match instrument names to their sounds. The graphics transport the player to a soundboard–again another example of how Theta Music Trainer has attempted to simulate real-life skills.
~The Progress and Training Reports keep track of scores and customize lessons to suit the needs of the player.
~Graphics cross over generations, however the games seem to be geared for those in middle school to adult with knowledge of music notation.
~Highly creative, interactive games designed specifically to build skills for playing by ear on the guitar or piano or both.
~Unique games that simulate specific challenges one might encounter as a band member, improviser, song writer…
What you may miss:
~Careful Sequencing of Concepts
1) Early levels are slightly more difficult for beginners than preferred. Ex: the first level in Rhythm Puzzle includes 8th notes, triplets, 8th note rests.
2) When beginning Tone Trees, a scale is played but the chords assigned to play are not within that scale. It would be more helpful if trainees were asked to play chords within the scale heard.
~Quality of Design:
1) In Rhythm Puzzle, the puzzle pieces overlap, coupled with a time limitation, this seems more difficult than necessary.
2) When playing Paddle Pitch it is easy to guess the next pitch number to be played by looking at the angle of the ball and therefore a player can be successful without using the ear. Perhaps disguising the path of the ball more would keep players from relying on eyes more than ears.
3) In some of the games, ex: Chord Locks, it would be helpful to have an option to repeat the sound of the tonic pitch. The assigned chord root name is given but it would be more helpful to develop the trainees’ ear if the tonic was heard as well. When asked to identify a chord function within a key, a tonal relationship must be established.
4) Progress reports could be more concise. A single line graph is provided that reflects scores of all games played in each category. It would be more helpful to see a separate progress line graph for each game.
Cost and Format
~A monthly subscription runs $7.95 per month or $54 for a year. The course features 30 carefully- structured workout sessions. It is expected that players will see a noticeable improvement within this 30-session program and can opt for a one month fee. However, those who aim to train seriously, will most likely need more time and repetition of the course to develop the desired skills. The flexibility to subscribe by month or by the year caters to any level of player.
~There are advantages to an online subscription opposed to a CD-rom: new games can be added, while others can be modified in response to subscribers’ needs. It is hoped that Theta Music Trainer will provide fine customer support and continue to upgrade their product.
Recently, I acquired a new adult student with no musical background who aspires to play favorite songs by ear. He also realizes that he must develop his reading skills along with his knowledge of chords and scales. As this motivated student forges ahead, I look forward to seeing how these workout sessions shape-up his listening skills and help him achieve his goal–creating music to (and through) his ears.
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