Bin that scratched Verdi album and return those dog-eared scores to the shelf - what you need to help music lessons go con moto may be a CD-Rom, discovers Jon O'Connor.
A must for the music department is Music Ace 2. Quite simply, it's what good teaching is all about; a mixture of didactic instruction, with reinforcement, application and assessment, in a package that's also entertaining.
This covers a wide range of subjects for the near-beginner in musical theory and practice: standard notation, key signatures, tempo, rhythms, melodies, harmony and much more. The progression and pace of the 24 lessons is finely judged, with plenty of opportunity to repeat activities until they are fully learned. In addition, the programmers have incorporated a system that recognises the point at which difficulties are experienced and offers the learner more finely graduated steps of repetition.
While you work through a lesson, automatic checks on progress identify success ratings in a non-judgemental form, creating accumulative records of learning experience. After each session led by Maestro Max, an affable and, for a change, non-irritating cartoon character, there's a simple interactive game to reinforce and extend earning.
To really learn about music you have to be able to hear it and Music Ace 2 boasts over 2,000 audio examples covering a variety of instruments. The samples are of good quality, depending to some extent upon your PC and soundcard. This is where music becomes real fun and easy to get into.
More technology-obsessed is Magix Music Maker Generation 5, from a well-established European software stable that produces PC studio packages for music technology buffs. If that sounds daunting, don't worry - given its facilities this is surprisingly easy to use.
The package comprises a 32-track arranger, Internet sound search function and a programmable analog synthesiser and beatbox. It allows composition, editing and mixing using the familiar drag-and-drop controls. And all the budding DJs out there can use it to import and remix audio CDs.
Better still, the mix being digital, the package includes over 2,600 sound and video clips within the three-CD set.
Music Ace 2 from Guildsoft
Price: pound;25.49 (exc VAT)
Tel: 01752 895100
Magix Music Maker Generation 5 from Magix
Tel: 0181 968 3666