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4 note ratingReview of Music Lab




usic Lab has all the right ideas for acclimating music students to ear training and notational exercises. If you have a microphone hooked up to your computer, you'll get the chance to match your voice to pitches, too, which is an important but often overlooked part of instrumentalists' music education. This review is based on the IBM-compatible DOS-based version 2.8, although there is a Macintosh version available for Quadra, Centris, SE/30, PowerMac, and most Performa models with a microphone. Windows users will find it inconvenient that Music Lab will not run from Windows' DOS prompt shell; you must close Windows altogether and run Music Lab from native DOS.



Once you do access the program, NAMES is a good place to start among the eight different menu items because you'll get acquainted with relative pitch. You'll have the chance to tune your ear to the tonic chord, after which a pitch (or two) plays for you to identify according to its name in solfege. Although Music Lab displays a tally at the end of these exercises as to how many correct answers you give within the minute(s), the program would be even more effective for ear training if it incorporated explicit and immediate feedback - to right and wrong answers - as students respond. The NOTES section contains similar exercises, with the added feature that students see the pitch in question notated in relation to the tonic chord. The ability to adjust the tempo at which pitches are played is an important feature which the manufacturer has incorporated throughout the program.

PLAY exercises, where students tap rhythms of phrases notated on-screen, will be of particular interest to any music teacher who's ever pleaded with students to "Count!" in a piece. The program also contains an ECHO section where students tap rhythms by ear (without notation), and a WRITE section where the more finely trained ear is asked to replicate both pitch and rhythm.

The musicality of the exercises and graphical presentation of the program need to be improved in future versions of Music Lab. It would be more musical to use combinations of dotted rhythms and triplets, for instance, to increase the complexity of advanced rhythmic patterns rather than the unlikely combinations of notes and rests which are used. Graphics, while not material to function, should be used to greater advantage in such an interactive program where HELP info or tallies of scores could be presented with some fanfare.

All in all, however, music teachers will be pleased with the broad range of exercises Music Lab™ offers. The manufacturer has incorporated lab management and group assessment features into the software, which are detailed in an accompanying teacher's guide.

Amy Y. O'Grady

Music Lab, Version 2.8, $79 list price, Town4Kids, P.O. Box 144, Redmond, WA 98073-0144 . Phone: 425-869-6075 Fax: 425-869-6116. System Requirements: PC - IBM-compatible 286/386 (or newer) computer, sound card, microphone, hard disk, VGA or better graphics.; Macintosh - works with Quadra, Centris, SE/30, PowerMac, and most Performa models with a microphone.
Page created: 9/3/97
Last updated: 01/30/15
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