The iPad Chronicles, part II

Posted: May 21, 2012 in Music Therapy

It’s been a few months since the first edition of the iPad Chronicles, so I have a few more apps that I’d like to share with you.

Go Go Xylo

Go Go Xylo is a free app produced by Barrett Productions.  As you may have figured, it’s a xylophone app.  You can use it in free play, and just play around with the nicely color coded two-and-a-half octave xylophone (as well as a number of other instruments that are also present on the page).  Or, you can play one of three basic songs (Baa Baa Black Sheep, The Blue Danube Waltz, or Old MacDonald).  The songs play in sheet music form, complete with accompaniment and lyrics (well, not for the Blue Danube).  The notes on the xylophone light up as the music goes by, and you can choose between easy and hard mode.  It purports to be a game, but I don’t have any idea if score is kept or not.  If you end up wanting more songs, you can pay $3 to download a six-pack of new music, or 99¢ per individual song.

Go Go Xylo is extremely colorful and sounds great, but it’s not really very useful to me outside of free play.  The songs move a little too fast for the lighted keys to be any help.  If they lit up slightly before the beat, it would be better – as it is, they light up right on the beat.  So, if you’re playing with the accompaniment and don’t know keyboard instruments, you’ll be perpetually behind.  As a learning tool, I’d give this a pass.  As a visual freeplay experience, it’s good.  And it’s free, which is always a plus.

Dr. Seuss Band

Dr. Seuss Band is a similar app that costs 99¢, and was developed by Oceanhouse Media.  You get a single octave, C to C, represented by colored circles at the bottom of the page.  In the center is a weird instrument that resembles a trumpet, but more like a Seussian representation of one.  As you play the notes, the trumpet moves its bell up and down.  You can also swipe at the instrument to change the bell, center, and valve area (this action changes the type of sound).  You can use it in free play, or you can play one of 10 songs that have three levels of difficulty each.  Some of the songs are locked, and only become unlocked as you achieve high scores on earlier songs (this app does keep score, though I have no idea what the system is).  The songs are played in a kind of Guitar Hero style – colors fly at you over the note you need to play, and you need to hit the note right as the color gets to the appropriate circle.

My clients absolutely LOVE this app.  The songs are not great.  It’s nothing instantly recognizable, just music that Oceanhouse uses for their other Seussian products (I have clients that are huge Dr. Seuss fans, and they told me).   However, they’re fine, and they serve their purpose in providing a challenge to people.  The easy settings can still be fairly difficult for non-musical people, while medium and hard provide a challenge even for me (it doesn’t help that the chords are not always logical).  In the hard mode, you can switch octaves, and as you progress, you can get new instrument parts (I just unlocked a kind of bellows thing for the middle of the horn).  There’s no marching Seuss characters, or even much apart from the shape of the horn and the titles of the songs that is Seussian, but apparently it’s enough.  I definitely recommend this app, both for the visual stimulation and for the reinforcing effects.

Magic Piano

Magic Piano is a free app produced by Smule.  Like Dr. Seuss Band, it’s a music game in the style of Guitar Hero.  However, this is different in that you are simply trying to hit different points of light in rhythm.  The lights appear across the screen in places where they would be on the keyboard, and you’ll be playing in combinations of 1-4 notes at a time.  There are some free songs that come with the app, and others can be purchased using the in-game currency called Smoola.  You get Smoola by paying for it with real money, or by watching ads, or by doing other things that Smule thinks you deserve money for.  Smoola is hard to come by in the game, you’re probably better off paying for it if you want it.  However, the app adds free songs every now and then.  They’re not usually familiar songs, but they’re free.  Genres range from classical to popular music.

Magic Piano is an absolutely beautiful app.  The piano music is great, and the lights add visual appeal.  There’s no real practical application for it – you’re not going to learn how to play piano.  However, there are good visual processing skills involved, and it sounds like you’re playing these amazing piano pieces after a little practice.  You don’t really get any tempo clues, the lights just cross an orange line at the right time.  If you don’t hit them in time, they’ll stay and wait for you – unlike Guitar Hero, you still have to play them to continue.  If you don’t know the song being played, it might be difficult to figure out speed and rhythm.  I’ve grown to like the app more and more, and would recommend it as a fun activity to engage in with your clients.

Piano*

Piano* is a $1.99 app from Apps for Hunger.  The app itself is basically instructional.  Each of your fingers is color coded – the thumb is blue, the index finger is red, the middle finger is green, the ring finger is orange, and the pinky is yellow.  You can choose one of the songs in three different genres (classical, kids, or Christian), choose a tempo (half speed, 3/4 speed, or full speed), and you’ll get a keyboard.  You can choose to have the lights coming down in colored circles, or going across the screen in sheet music form.  Each note you need to play will light up in the proper color on the keyboard, so you can play along just by looking at the keys.  All of the pieces are fairly familiar, so that helps.  The colors help you know which fingers to use while playing, and the theory is that, as time goes on, it will become more intuitive.

This is a nice app for a couple of reasons.  First, the variable speeds works well for different learners.  The sheet music mode helps you to actually learn how to read music since the colors appear in their proper spots on the staff (you still don’t learn any rhythmic markings, but you learn notes).  It’s a little limited because you’re only using your right hand, but I think this will probably be a good instructional tool for beginners.  I’m only speaking theoretically as I haven’t tried it with anyone yet.  I should also mention that Apps for Hunger donates half of their profits to help feed hungry people around the world., so that’s a good thing too.

Pro Metronome

Pro Metronome is a free app by Xiao Yixiang.  Really, it’s nothing spectacular, just a basic metronome.  You set the speed using a wheel, and can set the meter to anything you want.  You can also visualize the beat on the screen as lights flash for each one, and you can change the tone to one of seven options.  What I really like about the app, however, is the ability to calculate tempos of songs by tapping a button along with the beat.  So, if you’re listening to music, you can tap along to find out the speed.  It’s been helpful to me, and nice to have a metronome right on the iPad.

Photo Goo is a free app developed by Touch Studios.  It’s kind of an off-the-wall choice for this blog in that it has virtually no application to music therapy.  However, since I’m always looking for art projects to combine with music, I am recommending this app.  It’s very simple – take a picture of the subject, then mold the picture into all kinds of weird shapes.  Here’s one I just made of myself:

I’ve been trying to think of some good applications for the tool.  I think I might try to do some emotional expression activities with it – take a straight face and say “What would this look like when happy?  Or sad?  Or angry?”  You can always revert back to the original picture, but there’s not really a way to undo a mistake other than starting over.  Still, it’s a fun app, and I’ve had a couple of clients make some creative faces.

OnSong

OnSong is the final app I want to talk about.  It costs $7.99 and was developed by OnSong LLC.  The app is essentially a song organizer.  You upload chord sheets to the app, either manually or from the internet, and it will store them and allow you to format them to your liking.  Entry is very simple – type out the lyrics and use the chord tool to insert them where you want them in the text.  When you’re done, it will automatically be aligned as you want it.  But that’s not all…you can hook up to your computer and show a slide show of the lyrics you’ve entered.  A built in metronome will keep time for you (you can set it to the tempo of the song after using Pro Metronome to figure out the exact speed).  You can upload the song to play with you while you’re playing/singing along.  You can transpose the songs into easier keys or better ranges with the touch of a button.  It was made for bands, so you can make set lists and e-mail/tweet them to your bandmates or your fans.

In general, I try to find apps that are either free, or at least no more than $5.  However, I stumbled across this one through looking at sales and found it was being offered for free, so I snagged it.  I am very glad I did.  I’ve been trying to use less paper in my practice, and this will potentially replace my big ole songbook binder.  It will take a while to enter all of my music, but I’m very happy with it so far.  I heartily recommend it to everyone.

So there you go.  Thanks for reading!

-Jesse

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