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Audio Card Games

1886plc_lifestyle Most classrooms have a boombox or stereo for listening to books on tape, music and even the occasional radio broadcast, but Califone adds an SD flash card player with the Spirit portable stereo. The oval machine costs $150 and includes an AM-FM radio, CD drive and an SD slot for digital tracks. Students can listen to material or record their own with the built in microphone. It can run on AC power or batteries and can work with SD cards up to 2GB.

Musical Monday

Ucreate Music today goes beyond the piano, saxophone and glee club, and Radica’s Ucreate Music machine can turn loops and samples into beautiful music. The small device sells for $35 and lets kids (and music teachers) mix and match various pieces of digital music, distort it, mix it and add a voice track. It can create final works that are up to 85 seconds long that can be saved to a PC via a USB cable, and the company offers a good assortment of samples online.

Thang_virtual4[1] I’ve found that the music classes that veer off from traditional orchestral and band pieces are the most successful these days. Beat Kangz Electronics Beat Thang Virtual can help provide a steady background to a variety of music projects. The system comes with 3,000 professionally recorded samples, the ability to add your own and high-end electronics for editing and customizing the sound. For example, a project can start with a snare drum that you add reverb and delay to, followed by changing the pitch and adding the scratchy sound of an old record. Anything created can be saved as a .wav file for playing for the class or later use. The software works on either a PC or Mac and costs $149.


Throw Out That Pitch Pipe

Tascam_pitch_trainer Tascam has come up with the perfect replacement for a music room’s worth of gear. The PT-7 not only can put out a variety of perfect pitch tones for tuning and getting the choir or glee club on the right note, but is a precise metronome as well. As if that weren’t enough, the PT-7 is a high quality recorder that can capture up to 20 minutes of performances with its own built-in microphone. It costs $100.

Feelin’ Groovy

Groovy city a 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.   

Groovy city b 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

The School Music Player

Califone_MP3_Player If Apple sells an iPod stocked with nursery rhymes and kids songs, I haven’t heard about it, but Califone’s MP3 player now has these items already loaded on them. The digital music player includes material from Twin Sisters Productions, including songs about phonics, speech, nursery rhymes and an album about sea life. The device costs $161 or $273 with four headphones and a hard case. 

Singing Better Grades

Chorus It may have something to do with the new TV shoe “Glee,” but a recent study by Chorus America shows that members of a school singing group do better in school and have better social skills. According to the survey, 70 percent of choral parents say their child has greater self control and discipline as well as improved memory. Meanwhile, 9 out of 10 teachers add that chorus can help at-risk students stay in school and keep them engaged. The study was paid for by the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The McKnight Foundation and The National Endowment for the Arts.



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