August 26, 2009 | Posted At: 09:23 AM | Author: Brian Nadel
Putting together a 21-st century music lab with the ability to help students write and present digital compositions might seem out of reach for all but the best endowed schools and districts, but with the latest software it’s easier and less expensive than you might think. Sibelius’s Groovy City can give elementary and middle schools a taste of what creating digital music is all about, but the software takes time to master.
The third of Sibelius’s Groovy series, the $69 City program runs on both Macs and Windows systems, although there are currently compatibility issues with the upcoming Windows 7 release. The company offers teacher tips and add-ons for nothing. It is based on a futuristic urban landscape with buildings, roads and space ships hovering above. In each, the student has his or her avatar interact with the program’s deep audio library to create anything from hip hop or jazz to the blues or some new form of music unknown to man.
The program’s database has hundreds of melodies, bass lines, rhythms and cords that can be arranged in a near-infinite variety of songs with the program’s 128 different instruments from violins to trumpets. On the downside, some of the sounds have an artificial sound to them. At any time, the student can use a plug-in keyboard to add their own riffs and chord progressions to a composition.
It’s all in an effort to teach children about complex sounds, music notation and the terminology of a band or orchestra. It works so well, most kids won’t realize they’re learning while playing and making their own compositions. My advice is to get headphones for each system using the software, because the sounds can get quite intense.
The best part is that while the creation phase is a very individualistic pursuit, once their done, the kids can share their songs with the class or upload them to Groovy Music’s Web site. If it’s really good, it’ll end up on the site’s top 10 listing.
As deep and inspiring as the program is, it’s not without faults. While it can teach a motivated student all about creating music, it takes a bit of trial and error to master the complicated interface. Plus, you can’t run Groovy City full screen, so it wastes much of the display’s real estate.
Groovy City is a program that every school music department should own and use. After all, it could bring out the next Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Sean Puffy Combs among us.
+ Inexpensive music software
+ Good variety of instruments and effects
+ Perfect for fourth- through seventh graders
- Doesn’t run full screen
- Complicated interface
- Sounds too artificial
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