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Duckie Deck Homemade Orchestra

19 May

duckie deck homemade orchestra app iconMy children all loved banging on pots and pans and making noise with all sorts of common household things. Duckie Deck Homemade Orchestra brings this experience to mobile devices in a way that is fun for children and easy on the ears of those around them.  Helping me test the app was Mr 3, a proficient pots and pans player who has recently taken up playing the spoons.

Playing the Game

The two game modes let children play with a virtual orchestra, or with individual instruments.

Orchestra Mode

Eight “instruments” appear on the screen. As the child taps each one, the object animates and begins to play. The lovely thing is that all the objects will play with rhythms and melodies that complement each other, so any combination will be harmonious. A button in the corner will see a different combination of instruments selected. Mr 3 found it very easy to distinguish between instruments that were playing and those that were not, and he had a lot of fun experimenting with different combinations.

Individual instrument

In this mode you can choose an instrument then play with it, making your own rhythms and melodies. There are twenty different items to play with. These include toys, kitchen items, stationery and other items found around the house. It is great to see a few body parts included: lips whistle, fingers click, a foot taps, and hands clap.  Each instrument is played by either tapping on the instrument or screen, or dragging the instrument around to shake or vibrate.  You can see some of the instruments in action in Duckie Deck’s YouTube trailer below.

Things We Love:

  • The app is easy to use with intuitive controls. Mr 3 was able to play without needing any help from me and was quickly able to turn the instruments on and off as he wished.
  • The game spills over into real life and can encourage children to be creative away from the iPad.
  • There is a great variety of instruments, and we can find all of them in our house. Some of these you can grab and use straight away, such as pots and pans or keys.  Others require a bit of assembly, such as the glass xylophone with different water levels.  I’d never thought of making a xylophone from an egg carton and spanners, but we are going to give it a shot.  Some instruments are your own body parts.
  • The graphics are colourful and fun, with a clear layout that makes it easy to use for little fingers.  Mr 3 found the animations amusing too.
  • Unlike our real life homemade orchestras, this virtual one sounds great!  All the rhythms and melodies compliment each other. Also, unlike our real life homemade orchestra, you can control the volume on this one.

Verdict

Duckie Deck Homemade Orchestra is a great creativity app that will amuse children for ages as they experiment with with endless combinations of instruments.  The instruments selected are easily found in real life and children will be inspired to create their own real life instruments that will possibly not be as melodic, but will be great fun.

Developer: Duckie Deck
Universal – Requires iOS 6.0 and above
Price: $3.79 (Aus)

Little Lost Note

11 Apr

lostnoteLittle Lost Note is the story of, well, a little lost note. The note wanders through the story looking for the instrument it belongs to, encountering a piano, guitar, trumpet and drums throughout the story. We get to explore the sounds made by these instruments until the Little Lost Note finally finds the way home to her right instrument.

 

Features

  • Interactive elements – The major interactive elements occur when the Little Lost Note meets the different instruments and you get to play them. The piano is similar to those piano simulation apps you may have seen, and you can tap a couple of notes at a time to play chords. We had fun strumming the guitar and even more fun when we found we could tap the fret markings and change the notes. The trumpet was a little trickier, until we found that you had to hold down the keys and tap the mouthpiece at the same time. It was interesting to find that each combination of keys on the trumpet can produce both a high and low sound. You can skip straight to the instruments via buttons on the front page of the app.
  • Other Interactive Elements – Each page features some fun interactive elements, some of which repeat on other pages. Tap on a pile of dirt and Mole may appear (or disappear), birds might sing etc.
  • Narration – The narration is clear and well – for a quiet, calm story.  We love the British accent.  You can turn narration off on the main page.  We couldn’t find any way of making the story repeat, except by flipping the page back and forth.
  • Highlighted Text – The text highlights as it is read, which is very supportive of emergent readers.
  • Nighttime Mode – If you tap on the ZZzzz (in the top left of each page) to activate a special mode for calm, quiet, bedtime reading.  The app dims to a level that makes a comfortable read in a darkened bedroom.
  • Background Music – The background music is delightful, and you can listen for the different instruments that appear in the story.
  • Illustrations – I love the original, colourful illustrations that are not too bright for a calm, bedtime story.  There is a lot of clear space left for the text to display without it being obscured by different elements on the page.

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Making Music practice sound less like fighting cats

14 Feb

violin scroll

My girls are learning violin and need to practice often.  The problem arises when their violins are out of tune and that learning-to-play-the-violin sound turns into a several-half-dead-cats-fighting sound.  Pianos or electric keyboards are really handy, but if you don’t have one of them, there are Apps to help you tune just about any stringed instrument.  They all work the same way:  Just tap the strings on the virtual instrument to hear each note, then tune your instrument’s string to match.  Most have in-app advertising, but that tends to disappear if you turn off wi-fi.  Other apps such as virtual metronomes can also help.  I’m only mentioning free apps in this post, but there are many paid apps that claim to help students with music theory and practice.  Feel free to mention any music apps you use in the comments section. Continue reading

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