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4 note rating

Review of Music Ace




usic Ace is a fun, yet very pedagogically sound approach to learning musical fundamentals. Although it is geared for the beginning music student, we believe that many "non-beginning" students can benefit from the program, especially the ear-training parts of all the lessons. Most students, irrespective of age, will find Music Ace fun and interesting.



Installation of the program is straightforward. A separate Configure utility is provided to setup and test your MIDI configuration. Unfortunately, this utility is, well, "clunky" and misleading for the average teacher or parent. When configuring the MIDI input driver, you play your keyboard after choosing the desired driver. Even when correctly configured, the MIDI input test produces no sound, only a text output, and that in hexadecimal scan codes! One of us is an experienced programmer with a commercial software package and only after consulting online help did it become clear what was going on here. The average user will not know enough even to say "It's hexadecimal to me!" and is unlikely to refer to Help until he gets desperate. If the Configure utility must produce text rather than sound for MIDI input testing, the least Harmonic Vision could do for us is to convert the hex output to note designations that the average user could have some hope of understanding, especially given the fact that the typical parent has a kid repeating endlessly in his ear "Is it ready yet?" as he attempts to get the program up and running.

Once properly configured, the program performed flawlessly, although the situation is further complicated in the program proper by the fact that the animated Maestro explains concepts in pop-up balloons, but produces no sound. This is documented in the manual (which most users never read), but is only likely to add to the confusion of someone installing the program for the first time. As the manual explains, the unfortunate Maestro has had an accident which has left him speechless, at least temporarily. Both these quirks seem out of place in a program whose entire raison d'Ítre is to provide education in the inherently aural medium of music.

The series consists of 24 lessons that develop and reinforce basic music skills and a strong understanding of traditional music theory. The staffs and the relationship between the notes on the staff and their position on the keyboard are well explained. Basics of keyboard geography are also explained in considerable detail, and for all the concepts explained, there are always lots of fun exercises to reinforce the ideas. A MIDI keyboard is not needed, as the lesson screens usually have a keyboard on them, and the user just needs to move the mouse and click on the appropriate note(s) or answers. Despite the keyboard focus of Music Ace, students of all instruments can benefit from the musical and theoretical instruction in this software.

A lot of time is spent on pitch identification and note reading, in addition to listening skills being developed. The lessons use delightful "live" notes that sing the correct pitches, and smile at you when you click on the correct pitch, or place the pitch on it's correct location on the staff or on the keyboard. If the user happens to miss, the note says "ouch" and disappears.

We especially liked the detailed analysis and teaching of whole steps, half steps, major scales, and key signatures. Instruction is done in a fun manner, with the Maestro (who does a mean boogie-woogie dance step during the introductory music) telling the student in cartoon balloons the information needed. Also, discussed in these lessons are the concepts of timbre. This reviewer appreciated the early introduction to the concepts of timbre, these ideas are usually left out in most beginning approaches to music and theory. It was wonderfully explained, and made crystal clear. Then the student follows the Maestro in doing some games during the lesson to further understand the ideas.

If the progress made during the lessons was not quite up to snuff, the Maestro will indicate that the lesson should be repeated again. Of course, it is up to the student to decide to repeat the lesson/or games again, but following the Maestro's suggestions for a repetition of a lesson or games will help in really making sure that the student fully understands the musical theoretical concepts and can successfully transfer these concepts to the related games.

After each lesson is finished, the user can play some fun, exciting and challenging games that help strengthen the understanding of the musical concepts learned in each lesson. These games are great, and designed to give the user a video arcade "feel", with the fun sound effects and everything that goes with a video arcade game. Again, the "live" notes are used, and it is so fun to see them give you an ear-to-ear smile when you hit the correct pitches. These games are not "baby"games but are fun and challenging to even the most jaded video arcade devotee. Another plus of this program is the Creative Doodle Pad , where beginners can easily compose and listen to their own music. Different instruments sounds are available to "orchestrate" the original compositions. There is also a Jukebox where one can hear different music pieces.

Another aspect of the program that we would change is that the the teacher is limited as to the number of students that could be logged in at one time for the software. Because of this fact, there is a constant process of deleting, adding, and then keeping track of the individual students progress. Most other programs allow an unlimited amount of students/users that can be registered/logged on. We would love to see that same feature incorporated into Music Ace. It seems counterproductive to make life difficult for the teacher who can provide so much free advertising for the program through studio use. We understand from conversations with Harmonic Vision employees that they have just released a Macintosh version of Music Ace and two studio versions which track the progress of 30 or 60 users. We have not seen any of these to date.

This software is great for all ages, from ages 8 through adult. It is pedagogically sound and appropriate for both the home and music studio, although the limitation in the number of simultaneous students will prove troublesome in many studio environments. We hope that Harmonic Vision will strengthen an already strong program by improving and clarifying the configuration process and restoring the Maestro's lost voice. We understand that the Maestro will regain his voice in a CD-ROM version due out Fall of 1996. Those issues aside, we have already recommended this software to other teachers and have found it to be an excellent reinforcing tool for transfer students, and more advanced students, as well as a musically/theoretically correct software program for the beginning student. You can download a demo version of Music Ace free from the Harmonic Vision Web site.

Nancy Ostromencki

Music Ace, list price $79.95, school version that includes a comprehensive teacher's guide; consumer version of Music Ace is $49.95. Harmonic Vision Inc., 906 University Place, Evanston IL. 60201. Telephone 847-467-2395 Fax 847-467-3008. WWW: System Requirements: PC: Windows 3.1 - 386 25 MHz or better, 4 MB RAM, 640x480 256-color Super VGA, 12 Mb free hard disk space, MPC compatible sound card or General MIDI required; Windows 95 - 486 33 MHz or better, 8 MB RAM, 640x480 256-color Super VGA, 12 MB free hard disk space, MPC compatible sound card or General MIDI required; Macintosh: 68030 @ 25MHz or greater, 5MB RAM, 640 x 480 256-color monitor, 11MB free hard disk space, System 7.0.1 or higher.
Page created: 09/22/96
Last updated: 01/30/15
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