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5 note ratingReview of Musicware Piano, Courses 1, 2, 3

 

 

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usicware Piano teaches note recognition, interval recognition, counting, musical terms, correct posture at the keyboard, and, in a particularly welcome feature, stresses sight reading from the beginning. The program does a thorough and pedagogically sound job of teaching note reading, intervalic relationships, and counting challenges. Musicware Piano does not provide little bells and whistles to cutesy-pie the program. It strongly emphasizes each musical point and does tons of review and exercises of each individual musical point. It then reviews each musical concept again to make sure of a secure knowledge. It does not teach music appreciation, and does not go through a detailed analysis of all the major and relative minor scales.

 

keyinfo.gif (1045 bytes)Musicware Piano is no longer available from Musicware and is no longer supported. We will maintain this review, as it can still be purchased from various third party suppliers.

 

Installation of the first course of Musicware Piano was simple and straightforward in a Windows 3.1 system. We had some trouble with repeated General Protection Fault (GPF) failures of the installation programs for Courses 2 and 3 of Musicware Piano. With a little work (and considerable experience with these types of install failures), we ultimately traced these problems to our use of the Norton Desktop as our Windows 3.1x shell. When we temporarily changed our Windows shell to the Windows Program Manager, we were able to install Course 2 and 3 without further difficulty. All the tested Courses of Musicware Piano work fine under Norton Desktop, once installed. Users of the Norton Desktop should take note of this apparent installation incompatibility, since it is not documented in either the printed documentation for the program or in the on-disk README file.

Each Course is divided into Units having anywhere from 20-30 lessons and anywhere from 200-400 exercises to help with the lessons. After the student has completed specific lessons, the program will suggest that the student refer to the printed songbook and practice/study the song specified. All the lessons and exercises are designed to work perfectly with each individual song. The student can then practice the individual song and then play along with a fully-orchestrated accompaniment, if they wish to do so. By the end of Course Three, the student should have a secure understanding of chordal structures, including inversions, major, minor and dominant chords, as well as knowing how to play major and minor scales. The rhythmic growth by the end of Course Three will incorporate a freedom and comfort with syncopation, and a good and solid background for use of the metronome in all types of counting situations. The student will also be very familiar with the most commonly used musical terminology. In addition, the student will be able to play these ideas fluently.

If the user is not a total beginner, he or she can take a look at each course's individual unit overlook. This was a great aid to adult students of this reviewer, who already have had some lessons, but wanted to start on Musicware Piano. The course/unit outline was very beneficial in that it summed up concisely the concepts that were to be learned in each unit as well as giving the student a sampling of the exercises that were to be under control. There is also a Unit Sampler, going into more detail of what each lesson is supposed to cover. Bravo to Musicware for incorporating this kind of flexibility in their program.

Musicware Piano exhibits an extremely thorough and fastidious approach to teaching piano. These courses stress constant repetition of musical ideas, theory, and terminology. Once the information has been given to the student, there is review, review, and more review. The floppy disk version that we reviewed had no verbal narration of the text; therefore, a younger user would need to be quite good at reading skills to use this program without a lot of frustration or use of a helper. We understand such verbal narration is available on the CD-ROM version.

We applaud the use of the metronome by the program from day one. We also appreciated the strong emphasis on development of sight reading, as well as ear-training skills. Musicware Piano does use games to help emphasize these skills: the Mystery Note-Pitch Finder, Mystery Chord, as well as ear training and flash cards. Another great feature of this program is its approach to rhythmic challenges. The rhythmic challenges are aided with the use of a visual rhythm line which shows the user exactly how long to play each note. The correct note durations are shown in a bold blue line; the student's playing of the rhythms is indicated by a bold green line, which is displayed while the student plays the rhythmic exercises. This reviewer was very pleased that there was not an overemphasis on playing by number, i.e., the thumb always meaning to play middle C, the index finger to always play D, etc. If anything, this piano course makes a strong point to stay away from a 'play by number' method of teaching.

Students are introduced to the sounds of major and minor scales through the use of five tone patterns and a brief discussion of the whole and half steps involved in these five tone patterns. We would have preferred that the Musicware course place the five tone patterns much earlier in the system. A more detailed analysis of major and relative minor scales would also be a valuable addition. However, Musicware Piano does work consistently with the apparent aim of its creators, having students reading intervals quickly, hearing intervals quickly, and hearing and identifying the sounds of major/minor.

Musicware Piano gives a good explanation of chord inversions, the difference between major and minor chords, and a very good explanation of different types of chords, beginning with I and continuing through to the minor, dominant, and diminished chords. To help the student learn and secure music terminology, each unit has multiple exercises and reviews of the terminology. Each unit and/or lesson also always has multiple exercises and reviews of all the concepts learned in each lesson. Bravo to Musicware for understanding that constant review of concepts and constant repetition of exercises is a great way to make sure that the facts/concepts have indeed been learned.

Musicware Piano also acknowledges the need for a solid technique. It gives the student many "finger aerobics" exercises to aid in technique development. Each one focuses on a specific technical problem and employs the concept of multiple repetitions to get the job done. This reviewer was also appreciative of the time devoted to developing good and fluent note and rhythmic sight reading skills. It seemed that literally thousands of exercises were devoted to making these skills strong and comfortable for the student. The repertoire in the songbooks includes original compositions, arrangements of folk tunes and a few arrangements of classical repertoire. The songbooks themselves are very good, and a great way to test the facts learned in the software.

The only complaint that this reviewer has of Musicware Piano is the use of the five tone patterns to introduce the student to scales (major and minor). We have had many bad experiences with students who have been taught via the position playing concept. Musicware Piano did not start out with an emphasis on position playing, but did refer to playing in the C position, G position, middle C position too much for this reviewer's taste. We recognize the need for constant repetitions of intervals, and notes, but would have preferred that the whole concept of position playing never be introduced into this software. To its credit, Musicware Piano did seem to recognize this problem and devoted literally thousands of exercises to being able to read notes and move smoothly all over the keyboard and/or musical staff. Outside of my objection to the concept of position playing, this reviewer would highly recommend this software.

We strongly recommend Musicware Piano for all students who want to get the concepts of music learned thoroughly and solidly. It is appropriate for both the home and studio. If you do not have the talking version, then a lab assistant or helper would be needed to help the younger user successfully complete the lessons and understand the concepts of the lessons. This system is also one that we can easily recommend to those who wish to have a good music program at home to supplement lessons or as a starting point for their study of piano. If your goal is to learn to play the piano correctly from the start, and you want a package that will grow with you as your knowledge and skills develop, you can't go wrong with Musicware Piano.

Nancy Ostromencki

Musicware Piano, Courses 1, 2, 3, Version 2.0.0. List price: $99.95 each course, $249.95 for first 3 courses. Musicware. System Requirements: Windows 3.1x, 16-bit version - Windows 95 or Windows 3.1, a 386 CPU, 4 MB RAM, 10 MB hard drive space, VGA display, 4X speed CD-ROM drive, mouse, MIDI piano keyboard, MIDI adapter cable, and MIDI compatible sound card. Requires ASP chip found on most Sound Blasters for text-to-speech. Works with all MIDI keyboards. Windows 95, 32-bit version - Windows 95, a 486DX-50 CPU, 8 MB RAM, 15 MB hard drive space, VGA display, 4X+speed CD-ROM drive, mouse, MIDI piano keyboard, MIDI adapter cable, and MIDI compatible sound card.
 
 
 
 
 
Page created: 12/18/96
Last updated: 01/30/15
 
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