As promised in an earlier blog post (Why I Avoid Classical Piano Teaching For My Daughter), here is an update on Little Musician.
Over the recent weeks, we’ve been working feverishly hard to get this out. One reason Little Musician has taken so long is that we kept wanting to add more features to it to enhance the experience.
Although I was a classically trained pianist many years ago, I’ve been learning a lot of new things about music education over the years, and the more I learned, the more I felt compelled to add new features to Little Musician. We’ve now got to a stage where I’m very happy with the features we have in it, and I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel!
Here are some of the key features:
The core section of the system displays musical notes in their written form (on the grand staff), with the sound of the notes played simultaneously. Notes are displayed on the treble and/or bass clefs, along with key signatures and accidentals. Sounds can be one or many different instruments, or can be a voice file, like a voice saying “C”, or singing “Do”.
Notes and sounds can also be displayed as how they are played on a musical keyboard.
Through this system, some of the things a child will learn to do include:
- Hearing a note and knowing what it is called, in terms of the note name and solfege syllable.
- Seeing a note in written form and knowing what it is called, in terms of the note name and solfege syllable.
- Seeing a note in written form and being able to sing out the pitch in solfege.
- Sight-singing multiple notes / melodies
- Singing popular nursery rhymes in solfege
- Developing a strong sense of relative pitch, and hopefully even absolute/perfect pitch
The child will also become familiar with:
- Different keys and their key signatures
- Scales and arpeggios (major, harmonic minor, etc.) in different keys
- Chords in different keys
- The musical keyboard
Like with Little Reader and Little Math, there are a lot of different options and display varieties. For example, the staff and notes can be displayed with different colors to make it more visually appealing, and notes can also be displayed with labels within the note head (like “C” or “Do”). The musical keyboard can also be similarly labeled, and even colored. Instruments used can also be set to random, so that a random instrument plays each time.
Lessons are structured as presets, and they are in many ways similar to how presets work in Little Math.
Another section of Little Musician focus on helping a child acquire a sense of rhythm. Nursery rhymes (or any song in midi format) can be played, and the child is encouraged to clap along to different beat rhythms. What the child sees will be a series of falling balls or icons, bursting when they hit a line at the bottom (which is when they are supposed to clap). There is also an animation of a child clapping along to that beat.
This is a bonus feature that will be available to those with Little Reader installed. They are essentially LR-style lessons relating to musical knowledge and concepts, such as musical instruments, music styles, composers, etc.
FREE PLAY MODE
This feature has two modes.
The keyboard mode allows you to play out music notes on an on-screen musical keyboard. You can play out the notes by using your computer keyboard to simulate a musical keyboard, or by using your mouse to press on the musical keyboard on the screen.
As you press on the keys, you can also show the notes on the grand staff, so it’s an instant display of the written note according to what key(s) you press.
What’s more, you can even click anywhere on the staff view and the relevant note will display on the staff and sound out.
The sound played can be chosen from a large variety of instruments, or even voice files like the solfege set – eg., by pressing the “C” key, you would hear “Do” sung out. Play out any tune on the keyboard and hear it sung out in solfege!
You can also switch from keyboard mode to ‘chord trainer mode’. There are 9 chords that you can choose to play back (C, F, and G chords in three different inversions). Pressing on one will display the chord in staff view and have the chord played out by an instrument, or sung out in solfege (eg., “Do mi so”). This is useful for chord recognition exercises which is perhaps the best way to train a child to develop absolute pitch.
Like with Little Reader and Little Math, you can import and export a number of things, such as presets or lessons that you create (which could be a simple melody, or even a fully-arranged song in midi format), and sound sets.
So, when will it be released?
We are looking good for a June or July beta release. This beta will likely be a ‘closed’ beta initially where only selected members will be asked to participate. More details will be announced but we are hoping to have people with a certain level of music understanding and experience to test it out first.
Not sure how long the beta testing period will last, but it’ll probably be around 2-3 months, I think.
Stay tuned for further announcements concerning the beta testing launch!
Ask questions or leave comments here, or on this Forum discussion thread:
KL Wong is the Founder and CEO of BrillKids, and also father of Felicity, aged 5. He can be contacted at KL(at)brillkids(dot)com.