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4 note ratingReview of Alfred Adult Piano Course for Windows, Part 1




roviding a positive "first experience" for all piano students seems to be the goal of the co-developers of this software, Alfred and Musicware. The Alfred series combines appeal to teachers and students with Musicware's expertise in straightforward software. Alfred's Adult Piano Course for Windows, Part 1, could be utilized by a student for home use or a teacher for their studio. It provides a secure learning environment for the older beginner and enhances the music experience by providing Song Player, an opportunity to "perform" with an attractive accompaniment.



Alfred Adult Piano CourseInstallation of this software was uneventful on my 486 66 MHz PC with 8 MB RAM, using Windows 3.1 or on a Pentium 133 MHz with 32 MB RAM and Windows 95. Both ran smoothly. The instrumental sound is satisfying whether using a MIDI-interface or the sound card. On the 486, the transition from the lesson to the Song Player took 31 seconds. So, be prepared to wait patiently if you have a slower machine.

Alfred's Adult Piano Course for Windows, Part 1 includes ten units, with an overview of the concepts covered before you enter each one. These are divided into lessons which provide an assortment of exercises for each unit. Each lesson has exercises which follow the curriculum set up by the Alfred Piano Course from posture, hand position, hand exercises, note and key recognition, sight reading, rhythm and identification of music symbols and chords plus assignments to complete writing pages in lesson book. Ear training activities would also be a helpful addition to the package for the older student.

The Student Manager allows you to enter all students in a studio (I put in 80 names just to test how many it would hold) and keep track of exercise scores for each one. It conveniently marks which lesson the student last completed and opens to that exercise when you choose a name. You can remove any student and their scores and set up specific preferences related to exercises given by the program.

Setup gives you an opportunity to check MIDI setup. At the bottom of the screen you will see an "Advanced" button. Entering this screen will allow you to select MIDI sound for instrument and metronome or adjust volume and tempo settings for the exercises, with the exception of rhythm activities. Since I prefer a "stick" tap for the metronome, I changed from the high piano pitch by typing in 10 (percussion) under Channel and the number 85 for Key. You can select any pitch or percussion sound your sound card or keyboard instrument will make. I like the "?" button which explains to you what each setting does.

It was easy to work through the first exercises for a beginning adult. The directions and explanations are clearly stated for musical points and software "how-to's". The reward for a correct answer is a bright green check and a written one word exclamation like "Excellent", "Right", "Yes!" and "Correct". The first exercises direct stickers for the keyboard marking keys that, when played, automatically signal the software to "Go on", "Do Over" or to answer questions. I found that the lowest C or highest C worked for "Go on". Using the keyboard for commands makes using the software easier for adults without computer experience.

The examples for sight reading are without metronome and stress correct notes. I got correct scores even if my hands were not exactly together, or if I played a blocked chord unevenly - something an anxious adult student might encounter. The software covers concepts to the middle of the Adult Lesson Book. The student becomes acquainted with playing in C and G Major hand position, Middle C position, melodic and harmonic intervals through a 5th, rhythm exercises using quarter, half, and whole notes and corresponding rests, beginning dynamics (soft, medium loud, and loud) plus crescendo and diminuendo, I, IV and V7 chords in C and G Major, and a variety of technical exercises for relaxing the hands and strengthening the fingers. Students listen to an exercise or piece played correctly before they attempt to play. They are also given a staff which shows which notes they play with correct notes in black and incorrect notes in red. There are on-screen buttons to "try again", "go on", or, on the left of the screen, "skip back" or "skip forward" arrows. When a Unit was finished, I liked the feature that allowed the student to review their scores and repeat that lesson to improve an undesirable score. These lessons could also be reviewed just for reinforcement of notes, rhythms, and music notation by the student or teacher.

Watching an adult student use this software with success was enough for me to endorse it. After an initial lesson - the beginning exercises that reinforced the freshly introduced concepts at the acoustic piano, I found the student totally absorbed in working through the exercises. In one finger number review lesson, I knew the computer couldn't check which finger played a key but I saw the student correcting herself on the exercise that required playing a key with a specific finger. At first I wondered why put in an exercise that the computer really could not "check" but this adult was very aware and corrected her mistakes immediately. She also enjoyed the Song Player performance with "Ode to Joy", she experienced making music on the piano for the first time with an eager smile and much excitement.

Song Player arranges an attractive background accompaniment which will encourage repeat practice/performances by the student with a variety of options for each practice (LH alone, RH alone, or with accompaniment). The Song Player has many features that can be adjusted by the student. You can adjust the tempo, instrumentation, and whether to play with hands alone or together, with or without instrumental accompaniment, and/or drums. The Song Player feature is unique because it has a mode where the student plays after the correct notes are shown in "red". The accompaniment actually waits for the student to play the correct keys before it continues. The computer is very fussy about holding down the notes for the correct length, showing any notes you left early as red and waiting for you to play those keys before moving on. Luckily, this feature can be turned off by pressing the button on the left of the screen with the check mark on it if a student gets too confused.

My only problems occurred in Unit 7, Lesson 12 and Unit 8, Lesson 1, Exercise 4. In Unit 7, sharps are introduced. The flash card exercise involved finding sharps on the keyboard. When I found an incorrect key, the incorrect key was displayed as a flat note flash card. I'm not sure that would help a student without any music experience because they would be unfamiliar with the flat sign. The second problem was in Unit 8. The exercise was to play a 5 note cluster and play an individual finger 8 times. I got a "red note" on the reading exercise which indicated that I had played an incorrect key in the cluster.

In Unit 7, Lesson 1, Exercise 2, the screen came up with "This file does not exist. Keygmaj2". The program did not lock up and only required that I click the OK button to go on. I e-mailed Musicware about this, after calling a Musicware phone number from their Internet page. The representative was not aware of this message in the software and I was instructed to e-mail my question.

Alfred and Musicware are to be commended on the development of this excellent software to use with the Alfred Adult All-In-One Course. This program, Part I, covers half of the book. While Alfred's Adult Piano Course for Windows, Part 1 is not without some minor problems, at the price of $39.95, it is relatively inexpensive considering its valuable features. Teachers will enjoy having the student practice correctly and students never tire of performing with a friendly orchestra that is always available.

Peg Holzgrafe

Alfred's Adult Piano Course for Windows, Part 1, Version, list price $39.95. Alfred Publishing Co., P. O. Box 10003, Van Nuys, CA 91410-0003, Phone: 818 892-2452. WWW: E-mail: System Requirements: IBM-compatible PC using a 386 processor or higher, Microsoft Windows 3.1 or later, 4MB of RAM, 10MB of hard drive space, VGA (or better) monitor, mouse, 3.5" diskette drive, MIDI piano keyboard, MIDI adapter cable and a MIDI compatible sound card.
Page created: 9/3/97
Last updated: 01/30/15
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