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Entries in learning (18)

WildChords for iPad - Guitar Tutor Meets Pied Piper

Have you ever tried learning guitar? How far did you get?

If you're like a lot of people you probably learnt a few chords, maybe even a few songs, but never really got any better and you lost motivation. If you took guitar lessons you may have a had a guitar teacher who struggled to engage you and made learning guitar a chore, not fun.

WildChords icon

WildChords from Finnish developers Ovelin has been designed specifically to dispel these problems with learning guitar.

Using a gaming approach, combined with a carefully ramped learning curve, cute cartoon graphics and bespoke, fun sounding songs to play along with, we think WildChords has a good chance at succeeding.

We were in on the beta program for this app and we have seen it develop a great deal from the early versions but the core idea of the app has remained the same: to make it fun to learn.

Here's a promo video made for WildChords that shows off the quirky European sense of humour that we love.

The story

As you will have seen in the video above, the idea behind the game is that a lot of animals have escaped from a nearby zoo and are now terrorising the locals.

You play our brave guitar hero, who takes to the streets armed with the knowledge that the escaped animals can be corralled pied-piper like by playing the corresponding chord. A for Apes, C for Crocodiles, E for Elephants, and so on.

Using a real guitar (acoustic or electric) you play the chords shown as our cartoon hero marches down the street. No plastic guitars allowed here! This is about learning to play guitar for real.

As each new chord is introduced there is a little tutorial showing you how to play the chord and where each finger should go.

The iPad's built-in microphone picks up how well you play the chord and lights up the string for each note that is sounded correctly.

Moving on

Once you have started getting used to playing the chords and as you move up through the levels you get to move on and play individual notes. The cartoon-like graphics continue here, with cute little birds sitting on telegraph wires, getting zapped if you don't play the notes correctly.

Somehow, you are suspended from a bunch of balloons, guitar in hand and you have to play the fret and string indicated or the birds get it! As the stages progress it gets trickier, requiring quite a bit of concentration.

Even though we've played guitar before, we found ourselves sweating a bit and getting quite tense on these levels.

 

What's it like to play?

WildChords really is a lot of fun to play and at the same time quite challenging. Each time you strum a chord it has to ring out correctly and you have to hit the timing bang on if you want to do well.

Far from being the trudging, demotivating type of lesson that puts so many of us off learning to play an instrument, WildChords makes learning guitar fun and keeps you coming back for more.

Rewards

Do you like collecting gold stars? We do!

WildChords rewards accuracy and timing with the oft-used three gold stars at the end of each level. Which is clever, because not getting three stars is annoying, especially when trying to learn a new skill, like playing guitar.

If you're determined to do this right, you'll want another go at the level, and another, until you get those three gold stars.

More lessons

WildChords starts as a free download and this will get you a long way towards making more recognisable sounds from your guitar.

If you have completed all these initial tutorials you can extend your skills and buy further tutorial 'packs' which include new challenges and some new chords and even scales.

These packs are currently available as in-app purchases for just $2.99 (£1.99), which is not bad at all and a great deal cheaper than a single guitar lesson.

Even if you don't want to pay for the extra lessons, the WildChords app is a free download from the App Store, and we reckon you should go and get it.

If you do grab WildChords, don't forget to leave us a comment and let us know what you think.

Using DoInk iPad Animation in Education

Here's a video by DoInk demonstrating how their brilliant iPad vector drawing and animation app can be used in the Education field. We have already said how much we like DoInk, see the video description on Vimeo :-), so if you're not already familiar with it be sure to check it out.

If you are using DoInk we would love to hear about it in the comments.

Video Find: iPad Makes Music Education Fun

Here's a creative way to engage kids and help them learn how to make music using an iPad.

We've mentioned Kevin Honeycutt's inspirational teaching methods before and here he is at this year's ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference with a new twist on getting kids involved and motivated in education through music.

Using an iPad running GarageBand, attached to a Paper Jamz guitar, he demonstrates in this video just how tactile this experience can be.

We're tempted to go out and get a Paper Jamz guitar and try this out. What do you think, do you like Kevin's ideas?

Guitarists will love RiffMaster Pro for iPad

We were a bit sceptical before trying this on our iPad because many of these 'slow downer' type apps make the audio sound horrible, especially at the slowest speeds with clipping and stuttering.

In RiffMaster Pro for iPad though there is none of that. The audio quality is really fantastic. In fact, it is probably the best audio slow downer we have heard, on any platform.

Sample songs

We tried it out with two classic cover band songs, "Rebel, Rebel" by David Bowie and "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses. Both songs, but especially the latter, have intros that thousands of young guitarists have spent many hours listening to over and over again to perfect their covers.

In both cases we were able to slow the song right down to 50% speed without losing any detail and retaining perfect pitch to play along with. Actually, the audio was so clear and we found it so fascinating to hear the individual notes and words being sung, that we started slowing down all our songs to hear how they were constructed.

You can choose to change the Pitch instead and keep the same tempo, which will help Guitarists and bands who tune down, as many do to get a bit more grunge in their sound.

Play that again

Setting up repeated sections is very easy and the waveform display is fast, accurate and responsive when scrubbing through the song. You can also mark certain points in the song, useful if you are learning a particular section and can see it coming up in the waveform display or add notes for the songs.

An essential purchase

If you are a Guitarist with an iPad and you want to learn songs by other artists, you need this app - simple as that really!

RiffMaster Pro is available from the App Store for $4.99, which is a lot cheaper (although with less advanced features) than their Desktop versions.

Here's a video preview from the Developers showing how the app works. Remember if you get this app to let us know what you think of it in the comments below.

 

On the Music Path: Beautiful, Intimate and Effective

How would you like an intimate 1:1 guitar lesson from some of the top musicians in the business? In your own home!

With On the Music Path app, that is pretty much what you get. You can even say, “Hang on, slow down a bit and play that again”, as many times as you like without annoying your tutor.

If you want to improve your musicianship, appreciate high quality video and classy app design, we think you will love On the Music Path, and it is not just because our favourite actor/photographer/musician Jeff Bridges told us to.

Here’s Jeff to tell you more about the app. We'll give you our hands-on review after the video:

The Approach

As you can see in the video above, On the Music Path uses high production value video tutorials to teach a skill. We liked the teaching approach used in the videos. The guitar videos, for example, show both hands of the tutor on the guitar, all the way through the lesson, so you can see exactly what they are doing.

These videos are supplemented with onscreen guitar tabs (or optionally music notation) highlighting the notes being played with a little blue arrow above or below the Tab.

IMG 0359

Each lesson begins with a short introduction from your tutor where they demonstrate the skill your are going to learn, what will be covered and how it can be used. These introduction videos are very personal and although it may sound a little hokey, it really feels like they are talking directly to you. Try it and see.

You're In Control

You can control the speed of the video playback and even slow it right down to quarter speed whilst retaining the exact same pitch. Very useful if you need to break a riff or song down note by note.

There can be some strange sort of echo like stutter if you play the video at the slowest speed, but you have to expect this really from the audio and the notes are still clearly audible to play along with.

Another great feature is being able to set in and out points on the video so that you can loop and repeat a section that you are trying to learn, very handy. 

Once a video lesson is finished the app pauses with a screen that lets you tap once to carry on to the next part of the lesson, or double-tap to replay the last video. This seemingly small detail has a big impact when you are learning.

Instead of breaking your concentration, going back to a menu or rewinding a video, just double-tap to practice the skill again, and again. It is a very useful feature (one we had to use quite a lot!).

Your Tutors

This app is not for wannabee super shredders or death metal fans necessarily, not at the moment anyway. The style of music being taught and the manner of your instructors is relatively sedate with Blues and Folk style guitar playing being the current topics covered.

Some well known musicians have lent their talent and knowledge to these tutorial videos though, talented and authentic musicians who love their craft.

Our teachers have won Grammy’s, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, played at the very top of the charts and even been nominated to Parliament…But that’s not why we chose them. We chose them because they’re great teachers: They have the patience, generosity and talent to inspire you to become a better musician.

Among these is Jackson Browne (Rock and Roll Hall of Famer); Songwriter, Folk Rock guitarist and Brit legend Richard Thompson (OBE); and noted guitarist Steve Postell who delivers a stellar series on the fundementals of guitar. These are really good, solid basic lessons that any beginner guitarist will find invaluable to starting them off on the right foot (or leg actually) in their guitar playing lifetime.

Only acoustic guitar lessons are available right now, covering mostly folk, blues and classical playing, but the app shows a 'Coming Soon' label on electric guitar lessons with Eric Johnson, Sitar with Ravi Shankar Piano with Vonda Shepherd and Drums with Steve Ferrone, amongst several other instruments, so there is a lot to look forward to.

Video Size and Quality

The videos are gorgeous and look fantstic on the iPad screen if you opt for the full HD quality lessons. You are looking at around a 750MB to 1GB download that will be stored on your iPad though.

If, like us, you are struggling not to overstuff a 16GB iPad, you will find yourself deleting a lot of apps, podcasts, music, photos and other video to make room for these lesson downloads.

You do have the option of Standard quality downloads or the much smaller low-res versions.  These take about 380MB and 180MB on average respectively. We tried them all for most lessons and the low-res videos are ok to watch on the iPad screen if you don't need to see the detail but the Standard quality videos were more acceptable to watch on the iPad.

If you can make room for them though, the HD quality is worth it, especially if you plan on hooking your iPad up to a larger display whilst using On The Music Path. We used HDMI and VGA out to watch the video tutorials on our HDTV in the lounge and they looked and sounded fantastic.

The guitar tab overlay is always clear, no matter what quality video you have selected, so you won't have problems seeing the notes you need to play.

No Streaming

We think it would be better if there was an option to stream these lessons, meaning we wouldn't have to keep them on our iPad. This may mean we lose the portability of the lessons, but if your main use for the lessons was at home where you have wifi and broadband available, having to wait for the stream each time wouldn't bother us too much.

The Cost

On the Music Path is a free download for your iPad, and most lessons have a sample provided for free.

Lessons range from $1.99 - $19.99 (£1.49 - £13.99) which might seem a bit expensive but, when an hour with your local guitar tutor costs around £25, consider what you're getting for your money:

  • 45 mins to 1 hour of personal instruction from a professional musician
  • Content to keep and re-watch again and again
  • 1:1 lessons with top names in Folk/Blues/Country and soon Rock music
  • Very high quality video
  • Well produced teaching tools, such as tab display and video slow down with pitch retention
  • Lifetime access to download lesson content again if deleted

If, like us, you are running a limited budget, then you may have to ration yourself to one or two downloads per month.

Given the size of the tutorials, especially at high quality and the amount of content in each one, you probably wouldn’t want to download all of the lessons at once anyway.

Overall Impressions

If learning to play guitar or becoming a more accomplished player , is something you have always wanted to do we think you will relish On the Music Path, especially if Blues, Folk and Classical is your thing.

As more lessons are added in the future in other areas such as Rock guitar, Keyboards, Bass, Ukulele and Drums, so the app has the potential to become your portal to all manner of musical instruction, right there on your iPad.

We highly recommend you check out On the Music Path, you have nothing to lose as the app is a free download from the App Store.

You will be able to tell if it is for you from the free samples that are included. Just be sure to free up some space on your iPad, especially if you are already struggling with your 16GB iPad like we are.

24 iPads + 1 Awesome Music Lesson = Must Watch Video

When we were at school, music lessons were just an excuse to muck around and, ever so occasionally, to actually play an instrument or learn a song. Needless to say we were generally bored out of our minds and completely uninspired by the whole thing.

If music lessons were like this though, using iPads and real instruments together to actually create something we would never have wanted to do anything else!

Neil Johnston the man behind Store Van Music, the company that made this song and video, is passionate about making music education fun and engaging. If this video is anything to go by we should all be listening to him.

This well crafted pop song will get stuck in your head, and if you really like it you should be able to buy it very soon from the iTunes store.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

Review: New iPad only KidsMag is Gorgeous, Fun and Great Value

Any Parent, Uncle, Auntie or Grandparent will know that keeping young children entertained is a full-time job. Fortunately for us then the iPad, with its bright colourful screen and touch interface, attracts Children like bees round a honey pot (not always a good thing of course).

New monthly mag

Already well versed in creating brilliant apps to entertain little ones, Portegno Apps has brought out a new iPad only app KidsMag.

This monthly book-style app includes lots of educational based activities led by Brother and Sister characters, Teo and Bianca. The activities echo the kind that you would get in paper magazines, you know, the ones the kids nag you to buy every time you visit a shop. The price is about the same, or even less, than the 'analogue' version.

What do the kids think?

The iPad Creative kids like this app a lot. As the app has an educational bent to it some of the commentary is a little long for kids impatient to see everything but most of the activities really captured their imagination. Things like dressing up the Fire Fighter characters and for my three year old Son the Fire Engine noises. My just-turned-Six Daughter enjoyed the 'spot the difference' and 'find the things that don't belong' style activities.

The Farm activities are fun and the animal noises made the kids chuckle too. There is even a musical caterpillar page called 'Springtime Music Maker', that has a xylophone type of sound board plus some drums and bass guitar concealed around the picture, that the kids loved finding out about.

KidsMag Musical Caterpillar

They liked the narrated stories too. These pop up the words so your kids can read along. The writing and narration are clear and very well pitched for the age group.

KidsMag Story

You can access different versions of a lot of the activities by shaking the iPad (gently!), for example the 'match the shape' puzzles can be changed for a new set of puzzle pieces, and the kids had their favourites they wanted to use.

Overall they were thoroughly entertained by KidsMag and they will no doubt be asking for it again when they get their iPad ration later today.

Language learning

There are three pages at the end of the magazine that are designed to help your kids learn Spanish, by naming parts of a house, learning some Spanish verbs and Spanish words for things seen in this issue of the magazine. This is a nice teaching technique providing relevance and context, especially on repeated viewings, "What's that in Spanish?".

KidsMag Spanish

Whilst the Spanish language is not taught very much at school here in the UK, it is still nice for children to start learning another language at a young age. In the UK children are more often taught German and French at school, but with programmes like Dora the Explorer being shown on kids' TV, Spanish is becoming more common and personally, it is preferable as it can be more useful.

What about the cost?

We found that the kids seem to be more willing to play with the iPad app and spend longer doing so than with the paper magazines we buy them. These paper versions can cost anything up to £3.50 (~$5.70) each and we have to buy two of them to stop fighting!

KidsMag cost us just £1.79 ($2.99). The website does say $3.99 so the price may increase, but even so, the quality of narration, voice acting, animation and range of activities, easily makes up for that price. Plus the entertainment value of using 'Daddy's iPad' means the kids can't argue over who owns the magazine because it is not theirs to fight over. We just need to referee the iPad session!

Future issues and Publishing model

Portegno's publishing model interests us too. It is not a monthly subscription model but, like other magazines, they plan to make this a monthly issue, so it will be interesting to see how the sales go after the first issueand importantly if they can deliver fresh, new and entertaining content month after month.

In our experience kids will drop something like this as soon as they get bored, so it is a tough job they have on their hands. The next issue looks like fun though, with a Space theme and more Spanish learning so we'll see.

Advertising in a paid app?

We were disappointed to see 2 whole page ads for other Portenago apps in the mag. As much as we like their apps, having paid already for this app we don't like having to scroll past an ad page quickly before a little finger jabs the app store button, which they always seem to find.

We could be being a bit harsh here, it is not offensive, there is even some interactivity built-in to the ads, such as the 'iWash My Dogs' page shown below where you can click on each of the 4 washing stages and see the cartoon dog change.

But because the add pages look just like one of the magazine pages, skipping past them upsets the kids as they think they are missing out on something and that just annoyed us to be honest. This might not bother you at all but we thought we should mention it just in case. 

We know that a print mag will have adverts throughout, but somehow we don't expect to see them in paid for apps, and kids can't automatically buy things from printed pages, yet...

It's a small annoyance really, taken on balance we still think KidsMag is a great app.

Final Thoughts and Video

If you have little ones to entertain, especially around 5 years old and under, we think KidsMag is well worth the money. It is packed with bright, colourful and fun activities that include good educational value.

Kids will keep coming back to the activities to explore all the different variations and we think you will easily get a great deal of entertainment value out of this app.

The first edition of KidsMag is available in the app store now. you can see what to expect from the video below. A full description and feature list can be found on Portegno's site.

Inspirational iPad Educator

How can you teach kids who cannot or do not want to learn the traditional way? How do you make a boring subject fun and engaging for kids? Kevin Honeycutt is one of those big thinkers who has a creative approach to this problem.

If you haven't heard of Kevin Honeycutt and you are even vaguely interested in how technology like the iPad and iPhone can be used creatively to help people learn, then we highly recommend you check out his site and YouTube videos for some truly inspiring ideas.

The video below is a section from Kevin's keynote speech at last week's AESA (Association of Educational Service Agencies) National Conference. It is a bit of fun with an iPad being played live as a drum kit, along with iPhone lead instruments and even a real guitar, but it demonstrates how involving this new technology can be and how people immediately respond to it being used with curiosity and good humour. 

Kevin is a fantastic speaker and he also has a few other clips on his YouTube account from this keynote speech which really made us think about how technology can be used to facilitate learning, at the same time enabling learners to have fun and express their creativity so they do not even realise that learning is taking place.

We hope you enjoy watching the video, as we did, and Kevin's extraordinary presentation style. Don't forget to let us know what you think in the comments.

Lick A Day from Top Guitarists on your iPad

Nothing to do with ice-cream or lollipops, Agile Partners and Guitar World are launching today a brand new app Lick of the Day for students of the Guitar.

We think this looks great, it uses video and animated tabs to show you how to play some of the awesome licks you will of heard and more generic riffs in various styles, presented in a GarageBand-like lesson interface for your iPad.

Lessons will be hosted by top guitarist such as Joe Satriani and Zakk Wylde, covering various genres including Rock, Metal, Blues and even Jazz.

The free download of the app gives you five licks to learn and to access the daily lessons you have to subscribe. The prices are reasonable, $4.99 for one month, $12.99 for three months and $19.99 for a six month subscription (the best value option).

If you are learning guitar or if you want to improve your repertoire or keep your skills fresh this is a great idea. You can even utilise your subscription on your iPhone or iPod Touch too all for the same price.

The video above shows you all you need to know, a list of the features from Agile Partners' website is below, and the free download of the app should be going live in your local app store today.

As always, let us know in the comments below what you think and especially if you decide to subscribe.

Lick of the Day Features

  • High quality videos of Guitar World’s award-winning instructors and guitar celebrities, such as Zakk Wylde, Joe Satriani, Gus G., and Phil Collen, demonstrating licks in a wide range of styles: Rock, Metal, Blues, Bluegrass, Classical, Jazz and more
  • Timeless celebrity videos from the Guitar World Vault
  • Standard and tab music notation for each lick that scroll in sync with videos on iPad
  • Practice mode with settings that control music notation tempo, looping, audio synthesis, a metronome and more -- a great way for guitar players of all skill levels to practice each lick
  • Dynamic fretboard that shows finger positions synchronized with the music notation (lefties can invert the fretboard)
  • Performance notes written by Guitar World's instructors
  • “Star” your favorite licks to find them later easily, and sort licks by genre and difficulty
  • Download licks to any iOS-based device that you own -- iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

Hundreds of Photographers - in your iPad

Icon_512px-2010-10-6-09-34.png?fileId=8838404Have you ever been out and about taking photos and been presented with a situation where you had no clue how to capture the image properly, or you have tried taking lots of photos but not one of them came out right?  Us too!  Help is at hand, literally.

PhotoCaddy has been out for a while on the iPhone, but recently Aspyre Apps released an iPad optimised version of the app.

PhotoCaddy HD is basically a virtual photographer’s assistant (hence the name) offering tips, pointers and specific instruction on certain techniques for varying situations.

Covering topics such as Essentials, Outdoor, People and Landscapes each Category is broken down further into different areas, with some topics providing basic information and camera settings for the situation or subject being photographed and some discussing more advanced techniques for the photographer venturing beyond the basics.

In addition to the 500+ built-in tips, an innovative feature is the user contributed tips, allowing you to access advice and pointers from other photographers using the app. This community, collaborative learning, approach is great way to add value to the app and can provide a wealth of information from fellow photographers who have been there before, and perhaps already made the mistakes trying to capture the subject you are considering.

These kind of tips can often produce the little nuggets that you had never considered and may not be the obvious things. As well as being able to access tips from other photographers, you can also vote on them, saying whether you found the tip useful or not. Arguably, this kind of voting system for tips causes the more helpful ones rise to the top and motivate the contributors to provide quality tips that receive positive votes, providing a useful database for other photographers.

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The app also allows you to make your own notes for any of the topics, a nice touch for those of us used to carrying around little pocket notebooks for scribbling our observations in for future reference and critique sessions where we pick apart what we did, and could have done better, on our shoots.

PhotoCaddy HD is £2.39 ($3.99) in the app store, and we think it is definitely worth checking out for all levels of non-Pro Photographer.