Music theory made fun and very easy

3rd January 1997 at 00:00
A godsend for budding musicians.


Music software (4 floppy discs, handbook, 24 worksheets and Opus, the user group magazine) for Acorn Risc OS computers, Pounds 49 ex VAT single user, Pounds 89 for site licence Sibelius Software Tel 01223 302765.

Following hot on the heels of the acclaimed Sibelius 7 and its secondary school translation Sibelius 6 (also for upper primary), comes Junior Sibelius for primary-aged children and beginners to music. Installing the software is straightforward, but be aware that you only own one copy, so to transfer it to another machine requires de-installing it and re-installing it again. Oh dear!

Junior Sibelius is not just a cut-down version of its bigger sibling - it has been well thought out, providing just the features and functionality appropriate to its intended audience - roughly music theory grades 1 and 2.

It has one huge plus: the ability to plug in a digital (MIDI) keyboard for immediate playing and composing. The only other technical aspect is setting the keyboard instruments available in the software; even this is just a point-and-click task. I never tire of seeing the pleasure on children's faces when they see a bar they have just played appearing on the musical stave in correct notation, pitch and timing.

The program presents a manuscript comprising both bass and treble clef staves on which are bars containing 4-beat rests. Music can be entered either by MIDI keyboard or mouse. Notes can be picked up, dropped on the stave, repositioned if necessary, and a chord built round the note.

The software cleverly adjusts the rest of the bar to accommodate the timing. It assumes the 44 bar by default, but this is easily changed to any other rhythm. It is always possible to go back and edit any part of the score, and you can listen to your work as you go along, using a set of tape recorder-style controls.

If a lyric is to be included, then words too can be added in much the same way as a word processor handles text. The completed manuscript can then be printed out as hard copy.

The pack has a series of interactive lessons to develop and reinforce music skills in key stage 1 and to introduce some basics of music theory in key stage 2, eg pitch and note names, rhythm and time signatures, keyboard basics, accidentals and key signatures, scale and chords.

Up to four instruments, complete with correct clef, can be added to or deleted from the manuscript at any time.

This is a program packed with useful features. What sold it to me was its unique ability to transpose a whole script to any other key so quickly - all relevant notes and markings change automatically. Try doing that on paper. An excellent tool for children and budding musicians alike.


Sibelius Software stand 411

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