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Karaoke wonderland

WORDS AND MUSIC. Topologika. Single user pound;59 ex VAT, site licence Pounds 269 ex VAT, home edition. pound;21.27 ex VAT.

Is it a word-processor, a sequencer or a score notator? All three actually. Described by education software company Topologika as being positioned between pre-notation primary music software and professional score-writing software, Words and Music is designed to engage children and draw them into creative and educational musical and literacy activities.

Users can toggle between two on-screen formats. Trio Screen displays music in traditional style across three staves, while Paper Mode, more visually arresting, shows the notes in a simple colour scheme, above which is a single treble, alto, bass or percussion clef.

Both layouts have an identical set of playback and editing tools at the bottom of the screen. The pitch and length of individual notes can be easily manipulated as can the tempo of the piece. Time signatures can be added or changed and lyrics altered and, where necessary hyphenated to fit with the requirements of rhythm.

One of the really impressive features of this program is that lyrics can be easily set to music, or music to lyrics. They can either be imported from other programs or children can write their own and create a song. Sampled or midi sounds can be used with all compositions but not in the same piece.

The on-board sample library is grouped into traditional families - bass, brass, keyboards, percussion, strings, and the like - but there's also a fascinating selection of virtual world instruments that includes the sitar, koto, shanai, agogo, kalimba and taiko drum.

The accompanying spiral-bound resource book, linked to the curriculum, comes with a collection of 24 lessons subdivided into six sections: general and playback tools, note tools, lyric tools, selection tools, score tools and recording. Additionally there are links to Qualifications and Curriculum Authority schemes of work and an excellent set of worksheets.

You'll find a wide representation of musical styles and genres in the ready-to-load song folder. Nursery rhymes, traditional folk tunes, extracts from classical, jazz and calypso. All the songs, both words and lyrics, are editable and provide a great opportunity for children to learn how language and music fit together and the significance of accents and syllables in song composition.

And when the children have had their fill of song composition, transposition, time signatures and pentatonic scales (yes, you can even select that option) just tick the Replace Loop with Record Button option, plug in a microphone and let them loose in karaoke wonderland. They'll love it.

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