Last week, I was contacted by the developer of Octavian, an app that has been on the App Store since 2009. The app is a keyboard calculator, which allows you to see chords, scales, progressions, and also identify chords and scales. It does so with a keyboard interface, and the number of options provided by the app–including a huge list of non-Western scales and chords beyond traditional triads and sevenths.
I used a new app called Display Recorder to make a video about Octavian, and then edited that video on iMovie for iPad before uploading it to YouTube. That video appears below. If the app appears slow at any time, it is because of the recording app–Octavian itself runs as fast as I could press keys.
A couple of additional notes: last year, I spent a good amount of time teaching both major and minor scales, a well as key signatures to my lower level choirs. Without a doubt, my task would have been easier with Octavian. I wouldn’t want to teach those concepts again–or music theory–without this app. The app doesn’t reinforce any literacy, so you would have to pair the keyboard focus of the app to a musical staff. You could use this app at any level that you would normally teach scales or chords. My guess is that would be secondary music education in most cases, but I do know a number of elementary music teachers who teach advanced scales and chords to their students, too.
The iPad version of the app will work beautifully in a iPad-mirrored classroom. The text is large, the keyboard is large, and students will be able to see what you are discussing (the highlights on the piano keys is also a great feature). The developer mentioned that he always considered the iPad app to be the “large text” version of the app–but in a classroom with a projector–that “largeness” will be of a huge benefit to the teacher.
The developer is very open to feedback (as always, comments sent directly to a developer make it easier for a developer to respond to those comments–whereas comments left on the App Store cannot be addressed directly by the developer). My biggest suggestion was to make solfege labels (moveable do) available in addition to the other keyboard labels that are available.
Some additional YouTube videos about Octavian appear below.