I was pleased to discover that one of my son’s (he’s three) favorite app developers (Duck Duck Moose) created a music educational app called Musical Me. The app cost $1.99, and I immediately bought it. Duck Duck Moose has created other great interactive musical apps for children, such as Wheels on the Bus and Itsy Bitsy Spider.
The premise of the app is that the moose character takes you between five different screens that teach you about music. The first screen is about dance, the second about rhythm, the third about memory, the fourth about notes, and the final screen is about instruments. Several children’s tunes are featured throughout the pages.
The first page, Dance, allows children to tap the “monsters,” causing them to dance while children’s music plays in the background. The songs are sung by a child, and throughout the app, all audio feedback is from children’s voices. You can move the monsters on the page, but as the next song begins, they return to their original position.
The second page, Rhythm, asks you to touch birds to create the notes of a song. There is a drum beat in the background, but it is hard to know when the birds are supposed to be pressed–because without a guide, the rhythm of familiar songs can be difficult to decipher. I’d encourage the app developer to put some reference–even a line in the middle of the page to help children learn when the birds should be pressed, without forcing them to do so. There are three levels of difficulty featuring a number of different children’s songs.
The third page, Memory, is a memory game utilizing the root, third, a fifth notes of the scale, using traditional solfeggio. There are three levels which add additional notes in the harmonic series (additional mi and/or sol). The app plays a sequence (also highlighted with an action) which the child is asked to repeat. When they get the sequence right, there is positive feedback.
The fourth page, Notes, features moveable notes on the staff, in a set rhythmic patterns to the songs (just the first phrase or sub-phrase of each song) that are available. Children can move the notes to any line on the staff and create their own melodies. It would be great if the rhythm could be changed as well–and with that change there could be additional uses for this app in elementary education classes.
The final page, Instruments, allows the child to play one of a number of instruments while music is played in the background. As you touch the screen, the instrument plays.
In terms of educating a child about music, Musical Me (HD) leaves something to be desired. Without a visual guide for Rhythm, or any instruction about what kind of notes are used in Notes (or ability to try notes of different lengths and figure it out on their own), Musical Me is more of an experience rather than an educational app. I’m convinced that apps like Rock Band and even games like Bop It! will help create a generation of children that are music more rhythmically accurate than their predecessors. Those games involve visual cues which help develop rhythmic accuracy. At the same time, I believe that music literacy (actual notes and printed rhythms) is at an all-time low. It would be great if Musical Me could reinforce the names of notes and names/meaning of rhythmic notation.
Our family loves Duck Duck Moose apps, and Musical Me, like their other apps, is visual appealing to young children, and there is clearly a desire for the app to be educational beyond being cute and fun. I hope future versions of Musical Me will bring more education about the music to the table, just as there is a lot of added educational value to apps such as Isty Bitsy Spider. Is the app worth $1.99? I’d say yes, but I’m not sure I would recommend it at this point as a “station” for an elementary music classroom.