Music makers

Primary schools without a music specialist could be helped by a new online music course. The Tritone Music Series, which claims to be the first of its kind, was launched last month at the World Education Market conference in Vancouver.

Garnett MacMullin, president of Tritone, said the Canadian-developed system was a cost-effective way to get more students learning music. Tritone is part of a company that has developed music curricula over 17 years and whose materials are used by 250,000 people in 20 countries.

The system requires a MIDI keyboard connected to a computer with Internet access. Students log on to the website and work their way through a series of units and modules. Aimed at primary pupils, it features characters and interactive elements to engage them in learning the basics of music. One unique aspect is an evaluation feature that allows students to play sections of music and give them a graphical display of timing, pitch and expression to show where improvement is needed. A database allows teachers to monitor student progress and hear their work over the Internet. Students can also log on from home if they have a keyboard and a computer.

Traditionalists are likely to deplore any reduction in face-to-face music teaching, but Mr MacMullin argues that the Tritone system could free teachers from going through the basics and allow them to use their teaching time more creatively.

An online resource centre offers training for teachers in usig Tritone, while a lounge area allows them to get in touch with other users. The company says teachers who have not been trained in music are able to use the Tritone effectively. The service costs about US$100 per pupil per year for a school with 200 pupils.

Another Canadian company is using the Internet to offer live online piano lessons. Full Tilt has come up with software that allows piano teachers to offer live one-to-one lessons on the Internet. During lessons, both teacher and student can hear the piano, see individual keys being played and talk to each other online. The company says that in the United States alone there are 13 million potential customers with the necessary computer and MIDI keyboard. Full Tilt's system could also be useful to students in isolated areas.

* Many schools with old computers could find NewDeal School Suite software very useful, as it breathes new life into dated PCs - such as those with "286" processors first produced in 1984, five generations behind Pentium III machines - by giving them email and Internet capability.

The package includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database and other programs. It also has four skill levels, making it easier for younger users.

School Suite costs $59.95 (pound;39.64), with multi-user licences available, and is only available in Britain by calling NewDeal.

Tritone: www.tritonemusic.comFull Tilt: www.fulltiltdesign.comNewDeal: Tel: 00 1 617 625 1890

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