Thursday, February 16, 2012

DoReMi: 1-2-3

DoReMi: 1-2-3 was developed by Creativity Inc. to encourage kids to engage in music and to learn to play songs by hear. With the cutbacks to music programs in schools, it's important to find other ways to expose kids to learning more about music. But, as a product of a "Tiger Mom", I started piano lessons at a young age and know that learning to play music by hear can be difficult. Can an app really teach you to play music by ear? Price: $1.99

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.Requires iOS 4.3 or later.
Developmental Appropriateness: There are two modes to this app - one is a free play where you can make up and play your own songs. You can choose a background, the icons that are your "players" (i.e. stars or cows to represent your notes), and what sound you want them to make, ranging from a more traditional do-re-mi to animal sounds or to saying numbers or even colors. There's a record function so you can treasure your fantastic melodic (or not so melodic) creations. This mode is great - it encourages creativity and music composition. Kids will surely be amused by the different sounds it can make. 

The second mode is where you learn a song "by ear." It breaks each simple song like "Jingle Bells" into several parts, a few notes at a time. Within each part, it takes you through a progression where you repeat the pattern, then it increases the difficulty by changing from do-re-mi to an animal sound or something else, and then finally, the objects that represent each note turn around so you cannot see who is playing. It also goes back down the levels if you are getting it wrong, which is a nice scaffolding feature. I can see how this many be training one to play by ear, but I'm not sure how successfully it teaches one to play the song. First, it does not take rhythm into account - you just have to play the notes in the right order. Second, there is no exposure to actual notes, which may not be important to playing by ear, but is important to learning how to play an instrument in general. Third, the animal or other noises are hard to hear pitch wise. For a beginner or untrained ear of any age, transferring the pitches from a clear do-re-mi to silly noises like moo moo moo is hard! Finally, you never play the song in its entirety straight through. Breaking up the song into parts when learning it is a good idea, but I didn't feel I got a sense of what song I was learning during each part - especially since you don't have to follow the rhythm. The last part is to play the whole song, but it's still broken up into each part. I would think that to show that you have learned the song, you would play the whole song straight through. Further, the songs are very familiar songs which I'm sure some kids will want to sing along to, which you can't when it's so broken up. I really like the idea of this mode, but I'm not sure how many kids will successfully learn these songs - especially outside of this app. Rating: 3/5 (aim for around 6 years and up).

Balance: In the free play mode, there are interactive elements in the background that are not related to the music. I don't think it was necessary but I don't mind it since it's free play and it's all meant to be fun. For the learning mode, I would take out the non-music related sounds that the notes can make. They make learning the pitches hard. I assume they are there to add an entertainment element - having those sounds in the free play mode seems like a good idea and enough for the app as a whole. Rating; 3.5/5

Sustainability: I think kids will come back to the free play mode again and again. As for the learning mode, there are currently only five songs - looks like they will be adding more. It be great if there were more levels for each song. Right now, seems like there are two levels playing the whole song, the last level being that the icons for the notes are turned around so that you are "playing by ear." As I mentioned, it would be nice if the next level would be playing the song straight through without prompting. And then even further levels that change the pace or maybe adds different instruments. Rating: 4/5

Parental Involvement: Interestingly, this app links to "Fingerprint" which is a platform that allows parents to be involved. I did not try this part out, but the app can send the parents messages as their kid completes a section or whole song. Parents can also send their kids voice messages to encourage their progress. I like that the developers thought about how to involve parents. However, I'm not sure this type of involvement fits all or even most parents. You tell me! Many parents turn off the wi-fi function on their devices when letting their child play with it. As for the app itself, the recording feature in the free play mode is nice as kids can play back their songs and share with others. It'd be nice if the learning mode had a recording feature as will at the completion of each song. Rating: 4/5

Total: 14.5 out of 20 - 3 stars

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