The award-winning Music Ace series of music education software by Harmonic Vision has been in use in classrooms and school music labs since 1991. The programs are used by more than 7,000 school districts in English-speaking countries around the world, according to a Harmonic Vision Spring 2005 news release. Music Ace Deluxe aims to bring that same quality of computer-based music education into the home. How well does the software transition from music education in the school to music education in the home? Let’s take a look at it together.
About Music Ace Deluxe
The box touts the software as being “For All Ages.” Pictures on the box and style of delivery suggest that an audience of ages 6–10 is probably the best spot for their product. The lessons are presented by a little animated conductor, Maestro Max. The instruction is delivered orally, with a written repetition in little balloons. The notes are presented with cute little faces. As the composition plays, the notes open their mouths and sing.
The list price of Music Ace Deluxe is $79.95, although it currently is available from Amazon.com for $50.49 or lower if bought used. Internet-accessible demonstration lessons are available online through Harmonic Vision’s webpage.
Overview of Contents
The program has 36 lessons from “Introduction to the Staff” to “Introduction to Harmony.” Most of the lessons cover the kind of theory that a student would get in their first year of band class. Depending on the instructor and the student, a private teacher would likely cover this material a bit faster. As the lessons progress, the student is prompted with regular questions (the first is “Is this note on a line or in a space?”). Some of these are multiple choice questions where the student must click a button with the answer label on it. To effectively use the program, students will need to read at around a second-grade level to use the program on their own (or have help from an older sibling or parent). Other questions prompt the student to move notes around on the staff. The notes will play their pitch as they are moved. If students get one wrong, they are encouraged to “Try Again.” In some cases, Maestro Max will offer a hint if the student struggles with a question. These questions make the lesson more accessible (and more fun) for the younger children.
Stand alone or a complement to music lessons
The publisher, Harmonic Vision, says the program is most effective when used as a complement to traditional music lessons rather than as a replacement to them. I would agree with that recommendation. I think this could be an effective way to help a beginning instrumentalist pick up basic music theory more quickly, and I could see using it as part of my home-school curriculum.
What Users Will Love About Music Ace Deluxe
Graphics and Animation
My six-year-old and three-year-old enjoyed the singing notes. Our five-, ten-, and eleven-year-old friends trying out the software enjoyed that aspect as well. It kept their attention and made earning enjoyable, even making them laugh.
Ease of Use and Installation
The hardware and operating system requirements are very modest, so you don’t need the newest computer setup to use the software. Any machine purchased new within the last seven or eight years should be more than adequate for running the program. Music Ace Deluxe is designed for both Mac and Windows use. Internet-accessible demonstration lessons are available online
Potential Drawbacks to Music Ace Deluxe
Older students might bore easily
Music Ace Deluxe is marketed as being appropriate and useful for all ages. My ten-year-old daughter described the program as “too kiddish.” Playing the software for the first time wasn’t engaging enough to hold our childrens’ attention for the length of an entire lesson. However, the children who were visiting our house during the time I reviewed the software all really enjoyed it. The big winner was the doodle pad option where students could create their own composition. All of the children who played with this software tried to create their own composition in the doodle pad section.
Students Might Need Encouragement to Stick With the Software
My children, and many others, are used to being entertained when playing computer games. This software does make it fun, but it is different than a computer game. With more exposure to the software, children might begin to understand that the more they play the games and the more they learn about music theory, the better and more involved their compositions in the “Doodle Pad” become. One of our guests had this software at home and their whole family enjoys it.
Tech Savvy Parents Might be Dismayed
The program looks and feels quite dated. The only supported resolution is 640×480. You have the option of running the program in a window, letterboxed, or full screen. In the default setting, the program will only fill 1/4 of the monitor or less on recently purchased monitors. Also, the sound samples for the instruments were very basic. The installation is simple, but one drawback is that the disc must be in the drive in order to run the program. In my house, this always means you are risking a child removing the disc and losing it!
The overall goal of the Music Ace software is to teach music theory, and I think it does a good job of getting the concepts of theory across in a fun and accessible way. I do feel like Music Ace Deluxe is software that would be used more as a lesson tool and less often as a game to play. It makes learning about music theory possible for very young elementary-age students, and having that exposure will serve them well as they learn instruments later in their education.
**Music Ace Deluxe was provided to the Untrained Housewife for review.**