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3 note ratingReview of Fanfare!

 

 

  F
 

anfare! presents a wide range of theory concepts in great detail, though in a format that could be more interesting and beneficial to both younger and advanced students. Although the program contains a number of options that allow the user to tailor the lessons to meet specific theory needs, the appearance of each lesson never changes, resulting in a confusion of choices not necessarily applicable to posed questions. Fanfare! will be attractive for the teacher well-versed in all facets of theory and desiring a program that presents these in the most basic of fashions or the advanced student wishing to work on specific areas of music theory without the distraction of a "game-playing" setting.

 

 

Screen shot of Fanfare!Fanfare! is available in both a full commercial version, reviewed here, and a smaller demo version that can be downloaded on the manufacturer's Web page. The commercial version of Fanfare! comes on a CD-ROM that is easily installed under Windows 95 or Windows 3.1, using the Run option from the start menu or the Add/Remove Programs applet from the Windows 95 Control Panel. The most difficult problem we encountered was in getting the MIDI sound to work, which took a number of attempts with different computers until I finally met with success on one system.  I e-mailed Tech Support about this problem. They responded promptly with information about how to reconfigure my Windows MIDI drivers, but that still did not work with the first system I tested Fanfare! on.

Once I got Fanfare! working, I found that, even though the overall musical clef background of Fanfare! is quite colorful (see screen shot above), the various lessons themselves, when opened, are rather drab, with a boxed black and white appearance that only takes up half the screen. Integrating of the program into a feasible tutorial session is somewhat less than self-explanatory. There is a large help file available, as well as a help button in each of the lessons presented, but these are rather cumbersome to read, especially for the younger, beginning student.

Fanfare! covers the recognition of clefs, notes, keys, scales, chords, rhythms, intervals and cadences, with the capability of identifying these at the most basic to very advanced levels. For example, it tests the recognition of major and minor scales, along with all types of modes; triads and their inversions; all types of seventh chords and their inversions; chord doubling and inversions; and cadences of authentic, deceptive, half, phrygian, and plagal types. You can either identify these concepts through clicking on the correct answer button or by using the keyboard provided at the bottom of each lesson box. It is possible to notate answers by either clicking on note and accidental buttons or, again, by using the keyboard at the bottom of the box. Ear-training is available for the recognition of rhythms, notes, scales, intervals, triads, seventh chords, chord doubling and cadences. This feature is activated by having the sound box checked in a given lesson, but not the staff box. It was fairly clear, for the most part, although I did run into some inconsistencies with the rhythm section. At times the program failed to recognize an exact replica of the rhythm featured when I responded by using the mouse button and clicking on the ‘rhythm pad' provided on screen. One further interesting ear-training feature found in Fanfare! is under an activity titled "tuning" whereby the player uses a tuning slider to match pitches to either the top or bottom of an interval played.

As mentioned previously, you can set the difficulty of each section by opening the options box and selecting or de-selecting pitch ranges, clefs, chord and scale types to be used, but it is not possible to remove these options from the answer box once opening the desired lesson for review. I found this rather awkward, especially for the beginning student who has not come into contact with a number of these terms and, thus, might be confused by having them offered as answer choices. The format of each lesson in Fanfare! is presented in a more "flash card" approach, whereby the student is posed questions to answer with no set number to finish or timer to compete against. Thus, for the younger student attracted to colorful and graphic-filled game-type theory programs, this one would prove quite monotonous. In order to prove more effective for the younger, more basic student, I believe Fanfare! would benefit by adding more colorful graphics, a game-type format for the assorted concepts presented, and the ability to close off answer keys not relevant to a particular level of the participating student. I also believe the program could benefit from the addition of an on-line tracking record for individual participants to monitor their successive progress as they complete various lessons.

Fanfare's exercises provide a good opportunity for the advanced student to hone in on desired theory facets without the distraction of working against a timer or the necessity of winning a game to achieve a new level of difficulty. Furthermore, the presentation of questions in a random order provides a beneficial opportunity for the student to strengthen their recognition of these concepts without the possibility of simply memorizing a set pattern of problems or game-levels. The training provided in Fanfare! offers students a chance to continually build on ear-training, notation and recognition skills at their own pace, with the ability to change the level of difficulty at any given moment.

I would not recommend Fanfare to a music lab that caters primarily to young, beginning students due to its lack of color and graphics. However, for the lab with advanced or conservatory students who desire to hone in on chosen theory concepts in a basic 'question/answer' type format, Fanfare! can be a beneficial tool. Perhaps with the addition of various elements mentioned previously, it could be more effective for the younger students. In its present format, Fanfare! is most useful for the teacher well-versed in all facets of theory and desiring a program that presents these in the most direct manner, or the advanced student wishing to work on specific areas of music theory without the distraction of a "game-playing" setting. The trial version of Fanfare! can be downloaded free online at http://www.stardock.com.

Jennifer Olson

Fanfare!, Version 1.0. List price - $99.95, or for students with an ID at $56. Stardock Systems, Inc., 17292 Farmington Rd., Livonia, MI 48512. Phone: (734) 762-0687; Fax: (734) 762-2338; Orders: 1-800-672-2338. E-mail: info@stardock.com. WWW:  http://www.stardock.com. System Requirements: Windows 95 or Windows 3.1, 386 16 MHz PC or higher, CD-ROM drive, sound card, and mouse. Not available for Mac.
 
 
 
 
 
Page created: 9/14/98
Last updated: 01/30/15
 
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