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4 note ratingReview of Piano Professor




iano Professor is a well-thought out introduction to ear training and music theory from which even the advanced student can benefit. You'll find little arcade-style action in Piano Professor. What you will find is a well conceived and largely well-executed tool for teaching ear training and music theory. This software is probably not best for really young children, but older children and adults will find it very valuable.



Installation of Piano Professor in a Windows 3.11 system is fast and simple. As with most Windows programs, an installation program does most of the hard work of setting up the program, so most users should be able to get Piano Professor up and running quickly. The only difficulty you might experience is the need to tweak your Windows MIDI driver setup to get the best sound out of Piano Professor. You can usually accomplish this in a matter of minutes.

The program opens with an attractive graphical menu screen that allows you to access the various "chapters" of the program. These include: Name That Note, Note Tutor, Chord Encyclopedia, Great Staff, Key Signatures, Keyboard Screen, and Musical Terms.

Name That Note is a wonderful ear training exercise. The user hears a specific note and then needs to move the mouse and click on the correct key that you are hearing. The monitor shows a keyboard and keeps track of the notes played and if you were correct or not. To proceed to the next note, you either click on Middle C or hit the new note button. The range of notes can be determined by the user: from Middle C and higher; Middle C and lower, the entire range. The help screen is informative and detailed enough to enable anyone to be able to use this part of the program correctly and efficiently.

Note Tutor shows a specific note on the staff, and then asks the user to move the mouse and correctly click on the correct keyboard key. Bass and treble clef are equally used, as well as ledger line notes and accidentals. Again, good on screen help is available. After the note is identified by the user, it also can and will play the correct note for the user. This is a good way to train and test note reading skills.

Chord Encyclopedia provides a good first experience in learning about chords. It can serve not only as a good initial learning tool, but also as an extremely well organized reference tool. The software allows the user to pick the key, chord name and inversion, and, after picking the chord, the keyboard on the screen will play the chord, the correct notes being highlighted in red, and can also play the chord. Available keys are C, D flat, E, F, F sharp, G, A flat, A, B flat, and B. Available chords are Major, minor, 6,7, Major 7, minor 7, Dim., Dim.7, Aug., Aug.7, Sus.4, minor7, Flat 5, 9, Major 9. The user can also see and hear chord inversion which are available by selecting from a drop-down box. There is an extremely well detailed and organized help system for this and other sections of the program. This chapter also has a good first reference for construction of chords, and urges people wanting more info to seek a theory book.

Great Staff is a reference only screen display, designed to show the note names and where they are positioned on the keyboard and the great staff. This screen can be brought up from any other screen.

Key Signature has some problems. Although it discusses how important key signatures are to students and performers alike, we feel the discussion did not go into enough detail to explain the actual construction of key signatures, and the corresponding scales. We would also have liked to see a description and analysis of the construction of all major and their relative minor scales. The way the chapter works now is that the user can click on a Major/minor scale pair, and hear the major scale played while the name of the major/minor scale is displayed as well as the key signature. We would also like to see the minor scales played, all forms of them, the natural minor, harmonic and melodic too. The idea of playing the scales is wonderful but mistakes were made in listing the wrong minor scales with the relative major scale. OUCH!!!! We understand from the publisher of Piano Professor that this problem results from a programming glitch that will be fixed in the forthcoming version 3.0. We would like to see a more detailed analysis of how these scales are constructed, particularly the relationship between the major and minor scales exactly. Also, it would be great for the software to play all the major and all the relative minor scales. (Natural minor, harmonic, melodic). This key signature chapter does have a lot of good ideas which need to be expanded upon while correcting some major theoretical mistakes.

Keyboard Screen explains the different parts of the piano keyboard as well as some of the notation used on a piano keyboard. There are separate boxes on the screen, where you can get explanations of sharps, flats, octave, and organization of the natural keys by clicking with the mouse. This is a very clever and well done initial explanation of some basic theory tools.

Musical Terms is one of the better references for musical terms; we especially liked the way the terms were organized. Terms were organized by how they indicate tempo, changes in tempo, volume of sound, change in the volume of sound, simultaneous reduction of tempo and volume, and mood, degree , intensity or style. The only addition we would like to see would be how they are used to indicate the simultaneous INCREASE of tempo and volume.

This is a wonderful piece of software. The creators of this software are on the right track, but we would like to see more descriptions and analysis of the theory involved in scale construction, and please fix the mistakes in the Major/minor scales. Aside from these missteps, we would recommend this software for personal and studio use.   Bravo !!!

Nancy Ostromencki and John Zeigler

Piano Professor, version 2.5, SofTech Multimedia, 79 Springfield Ave., Rochester, NY 14609-3607. Phone: 716-288-5830 WWW: (for download). Requires a Windows PC and sound card, with a MIDI-compatible keyboard strongly recommended.
Page created: 7/13/96
Last updated: 01/30/15
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