One of the music applications that has been available is called Karajan, available in both a beginner (free) and full ($14.99) at the Apple AppStore. It is a music and ear trainer for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Music theory is a challenging college course, but ear training courses tend to be more so. Karajan, from the introduction of the AppStore, has provided an application that is geared to help the musician learn some basic theory items, and more importantly, to train the ear.
The beginner version of the program allows you to “train” in several areas: Intervals, Chords, Scales, Pitch, Tempo, and Key Signatures. The full version of the program may offer more areas of focus.
In the beginner version of Karajan, you are tested on your ability to identify specific intervals (only a Perfect Union, Major Second, Perfect Fourth, Perfect Fifth, and Octave). All other intervals are likely included in the full version. When you identify intervals, you are told by a pop-up whether you were correct or incorrect in your answer.
I personally believe that the interval part of the application is valuable, as identifying intervals is a key component of successful sight reading, as well as dictation of music. It would be nice if the user had the option to identify intervals visually as well as aurally.
Another useful element is the Chords area of the program, identifying each kind of chord (only Major and Minor in this case) by ear.
Another interesting feature focuses on scales, identifying them by ear. I can see the benefit of this task…but I had never heard a minor pentatonic scale before.
The last truly useful element of the program featured a visual identification of Key Signatures (Only three in the beginner program).
The last two components of the program did not seem very useful to me, as a music major. First was a set of exercises which focused on identifying specific pitches. I know some individuals believe you can develop perfect pitch…I have not experienced that fact for myself. I have seen how musicians develop relative pitch. Ultimately, this exercise isn’t very useful, at least in American music education.
Another odd component was a set of exercises built around identifying specific tempos, within twenty beats per minute. This also appears to be a useless exercise for me, partially as tempos are relative to interpretation–and as metronomes are so accessible in our culture. The exercise would be more useful, in my opinion, if a specific tempo was played and the musician was asked which Italian tempo terminology (Andante, Allegro, Presto, Grave, etc.) was most appropriate. This component really missed the mark for me.
Although Karajan is a well-designed, attractive, and functional program, I’m not sure it does all the things it could do as a music and ear training tool. The program has some very useful tools (to a point, with the beginner program), but it also has some tools that are basically useless for American music students. The program already covers some visual literacy (key signatures) and should do the same for scales, intervals, and chords. Perhaps the full version of Karajan includes these items…but at $14.99, I’m not going to take the risk and buy the program. And the beginner program is so limited in function that I can’t recommend it, either.
As a result, I don’t recommend this program…unless two things happen. First, a decrease in price, matching other programs ($5.00 tops) would perhaps make the additional ear training with intervals, chords, and scales worth the investment. Second, visual tests of intervals, chords, and scales would also be very beneficial.