Digital masterclass

20th February 2004 at 00:00
Sibelius Education Suite. Compass pound;119; Auralia pound;85; Musition pound;85; Starclass pound;79; Instruments pound;99; Notes pound;49. www.sibelius.comses.html

The launch of Compass completes the Sibelius Education Suite. Made up of six separate programs, the suite presents a huge range of topics - including performing, theory, oral recognition and composing - from primary to tertiary level.

Compass is intended to be a "structured method to support the study of composition at different levels". The homepage takes users to the seven different musical components: pitch shapes, chords and harmony, scales, melody, form, rhythm, and texture. Learning is reinforced by information pages, recorded examples and quizzes. Compass is also fully integrated with the main Sibelius program.

Two other features worth mentioning are the tracker - basically a sequencer that enables the manipulation of material using devices such as inversion and pitch mapping - and an excellently written manual, half of which consists of teaching aids and examples.

The other programs are Starclass, Auralia, Musition, Instruments and Notes.

Starclass claims to be the first comprehensive software designed to help primary school teachers teach music, has more than 180 lesson plans, a full explanation of musical concepts, and an audio CD with music clips and printable pictures.

Auralia and Musition are drill-based teaching tools originally developed by Australian company Rising Software. Auralia is an ear-training program that encourages users to develop skills in rhythmic competency, harmony, rhythm and chord identification. There's an impressive proactive element to this program that sets it apart.

Musition, like Auralia, can be used across a network and employs tests and quizzes to introduce and reinforce a wide range of musical theory. The main topics are further divided into graded levels of difficulty and there's certainly plenty to learn. Both programs feature a configurable virtual guide, "the Professor", who acts as a friendly mentor suggesting when it is appropriate for students to move from one level to another.

Instruments is, essentially, a multimedia guide to orchestral and band instruments and features superbly recorded sound samples of more than 50 instruments as well as examples of instrumental techniques. Despite the inexplicable lack of an index, this package, with well written lesson plans and an engaging multi-level quiz, is an indispensable guide to instruments and instrumental techniques.

Composer Notes is the revamped version of the exceedingly useful Teaching Tools, originally developed to help teachers and students exploit the full potential of the score-writing program. It includes worksheets, exercises and a CD-Rom with music files.

Sibelius Education Suite is unquestionably the most comprehensive curriculum-based ICT resource presently available to music teachers and students and whether you buy one of these programs or blow the music department's funds on all six, you won't regret it.

Hugh John

A full review of the latest version of the new version of Sibelius will appear in Teacher's music Subject Focus pages on March 26

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