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NoteWorks – a new, fun iPad app for note-learning and drilling

| August 17, 2012 | Reply

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As teachers head back to school for another year, it’s fun to look around for new iPad apps which we can use to enhance instruction.

iPads are being used in more and more schools each year, and the number of excellent music apps is growing rapidly. With a little bit of research, everyone can find apps which can really take learning in a new direction. Look out for apps which other teachers have used and found successful. You can often find discussions of successful apps here on mustech.net, and also on the Music Teachers facebook page. Also, you can usually find sessions on iPad apps and lessons at most Music Educators’ Conferences. If you will be attending Texas Music Educators’ Association conference in San Antonio, TX, in February 2013, please drop by the iPad sessions which will be run by Joe Pisano and myself.

This week I had the great pleasure to try out “NoteWorks”, a new note-reading game from DoReMi World. This is an app which a lot of teachers are going to want to add to their arsenal of learning apps. I believe this is going to be very popular amongst music teachers and students once word gets out of how much fun this app is, and how beneficial it is for music learning.

“NoteWorks” is a game for learning note names on the staff. In the game, you get to help feed a triangle-shaped hungry note-eater, called Munchy. The game has an agricultural feel (after all, where does our food come from?) Notes are fed from a harvesting machine and progress along the musical staff towards an incinerator. Underneath the staff is a piano keyboard (or note names or solfege symbols), and if you play the correct note, Munchy gets to eat the note. If you get any notes wrong they wait at the end of the staff by the key signature, and you get as many second chances as you need to play the correct note before you complete the level. The game progresses through numerous levels where the range of notes gets wider, and key signatures are added. There are also custom options which allow you to choose from all regular clefs (treble, alto, tenor, bass) as well as grand staff, and you can choose the speed of the moving notes. In this way you can set custom levels for advanced students. It’s also quite useful for those of us who need more practice in our alto clef!!! Viola teachers, rejoice.

There are many features of this app which are going to make it an instant winner in the classroom. The interface is attractive and uncluttered, and it’s very easy to navigate around the app, with no confusing menus or options. It projects very well through an LCD projector, or through Apple TV, and notes light up as a student chooses them, meaning the game can be played and enjoyed as a class together. Since I do not have access to a smartboard I have not had an opportunity to check that functionality, but I would not foresee any issues. The game is consistently challenging, but also very rewarding and fun. You have the opportunity to collect stars as you progress through the levels, and the game is always encouraging. Having a second chance to get notes right is really helpful, and I like how the app does not have nasty noises or discouraging message when mistakes are made.

The game includes some delightful extras; there are links to two youtube videos made by the makers of the app – a story book (with narration) of Munchy’s story, and also a version of Munchy’s song, which is used as background music throughout the menus. These certainly help to provide context for the game, and are a delightful distraction after some long periods of note-drilling!

Good app developers make apps which are constantly evolving and improving because of user feedback, and I am hoping that the developers of “NoteWorks” will make a few changes to make the app even better in the classroom situation. I would love to see Core MIDI functionality added so that an external keyboard could be used. I would find this especially important for special needs children who may have difficulties with the touch-screen of the iPad, and need a more tactile response to their input. It would also be very useful to have less keys on the on-screen keyboard, especially in the early levels. Four full octaves of notes means that the keys are quite close and it is all too easy to hit the wrong note, even when the correct note is intended. Again, this would be very important for special needs children who may have low muscle tone or maybe sight problems, and who would find the close keys too fine of a target. It seems rather odd that the first few levels use note ranges of a fifth or an octave, but the student has to peck at a four-octave keyboard. Thirdly, I think it would also be better to have the videos of Munchy’s Story and Munchy’s Song embedded in the app in full, rather than using the youtube links. Since many teachers find that youtube is blocked in their school, the students would not be able to access the videos, and of course the links take you out of the app itself. Having the videos embedded would increase the file size of the app, but I think it would be better to avoid blocked youtube issues, and keep the students in the app (once you get into youtube, who knows where you’ll go!!!!)

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In conclusion, I think that this is an app that many teachers will want to have on their iPads. It’s a great way of drilling notes, and it’s a lot of fun to play. I think kids will spend a lot of time working their way through the levels, and will get a lot of enjoyment and learning from it. I’m sure students’ speed of note recognition will improve dramatically, and this will of course pay great dividends in their music learning and sight reading. The app is available for $4.99 from the app store via this link.

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Category: General Education, iPad Apps, Music Technology

About the Author ()

Richard McCready is a composer, musician, and the Director of Music Technology at River Hill High School in Columbia, Maryland.  He was born in Northern Ireland and studied tuba performance, piano, and composition at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, England.  Since emigrating to the US in 1992, he has held teaching positions at The Park School of Baltimore, Towson University, and Mayfield Woods Middle School, Elkridge, MD; he has also played professionally with the Monumental Brass Quintet, the Lexington Brass Quintet, and the Denhard/McCready Duo.  He has earned two Masters degrees from Towson University, one in tuba performance and one in vocal performance.  He plays many musical instruments, but the focus of his teaching is Music Technology in which he is widely regarded as one of the outstanding innovators in the US.  His book, Making Music with GarageBand and Mixcraft, was published in 2010. Richard was awarded the TI:ME 2013 Mike Kovins Teacher of the Year Award and also the Howard County 2013 Music Educator of the Year.
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