Academic journal article Notes

Practica Musica 3.0.3, Listen 2.2, MacGamut Melodic Dictation 1.0 and MacGamut Intervals, Scales, and Chords 2.0

Academic journal article Notes

Practica Musica 3.0.3, Listen 2.2, MacGamut Melodic Dictation 1.0 and MacGamut Intervals, Scales, and Chords 2.0

Article excerpt

Serious and effective training in aural skills is best achieved through interaction in a workshop setting, the traditional milieu being one in which some outside person performs exercises and examples that test students' aural recognition. In addition, it has been proven that the efficacy of any single program relates directly to the consistency and frequency of training sessions. This fact is not surprising, considering the neuro-muscular nature of the skill; any muscle needs regular exercise, of gradually increasing difficulty, in order to improve.

With the aid of computer assisted instruction (CAI) in ear training, academic programs are no longer bound by limitations in human resources. As criteria of flexibility and interaction are refined, students are increasingly able to perform for themselves exercises that can be tailored to address specific handicaps, and to receive accurate and detailed feedback on their personal progress. The result is a significant reduction in the absolute need for human interaction. If the latest crop of ear training software is any indicator, it is conceivable that human interaction, except for guidance and supervision, may eventually become superfluous, at least for everything but the most advanced applications.

Practica Musica may be the most comprehensive software currently available, at least for academic, i.e., institutional, purposes, Ars Nova is well aware of the need to track individual student progress, and has come up with a variety of flexible solutions. A single copy can be personalized for up to four people, which is beneficial for home use or for very small classes. For larger classes the number of student users may be expanded through the use of Student Files, for institutions with only one computer, or portable Student Disks, which are particularly useful if students need to be able to use any available computer. Using either of these options, a Progress Report tracks individual progress through four levels of achievement, and keeps a running count of the points gained in each level. Passwords are available for the protection of personal files (Student File Password) and instructor options (Practica Musica Password); the latter also protects any custom melodies from being opened for editing. With or without the password option, students may see their own report at any time, and instructors may view anyone's report.

Like most available ear training software, Practica Musica is MIDI compatible. (Unfortunately, while it will play back anything to a MIDI sound source, it allows for MIDI entry of pitch only. Rhythms must be added via the mouse or computer keyboard.) A "MIDI Settings" window offers a number of choices for users who are well-versed in using a MIDI instrument. Significantly, however, even with its myriad MIDI options, Practica Musica's programmers have not ignored the need for better internal sound production. The use of finely honed sampled sounds for piano, guitar, and voice has greatly improved the lot for those users without MIDI capability (though a MIDI sound source is still the best option whenever possible).

At startup Practica Musica displays a piano keyboard (or optionally a guitar fret-board) and a single staff. Access to exercises and options is through a series of windows and pull-down menus, a format pleasantly familiar to Macintosh users. Entering notes may be done on the staff, keyboard, or fretboard with the mouse, computer keys, or MIDI instrument keys. A "harmony" setting determines whether notes will stick on the staff as they are entered (up to a maximum of four notes), or will disappear when the key/mouse is released. In "practice mode" Practica Musica will identify any intervals or standard three- or four-note chords played, an application that could prove both entertaining and instructional for students.

Practica Musica labels all exercises "Activities;" students can easily select the activity and the level of play (1 through 4) through a pull-down menu. …

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