Review of Music Maker Pitch

InteracTive, October 1996

Graham Keeling

Music Maker 1 from RESOURCE Flying Start Software is an excellent attempt to provide meaningful music software for those children not yet ready for the equally worthy, award winning Music Box. Young children sometimes have great difficulty handling real musical instruments, many being too big and heavy for tiny hands to cope with. Also, music software is all too often complex and notation based.

Music Maker 1 is a program for those just beginning to understand some basic principles of music. It begins with Up The Stairs, a feature which allows children to explore the idea of musical notes being displayed along a staircase, with higher notes near the top, lower notes down below. Instruments can be chosen from a range including bells, keyboard, oboe, cello and cat miaow.

Up The Stairs also includes a game of 'Simon Says', where the computer plays a series of notes and the child has to follow by clicking the mouse on the correct notes in the correct order. There is both a sound cue and a visual prompt, the most obvious being the bell, which actually shakes as it rings. Icons at the base of the screen allow either sound or visual prompts to be removed, but beware - this game is really hard if the visual prompt is disabled. Children can record and play back their own tunes and these can be easily saved.

The second game is The Jolly Keyboard. This is similar to Up The Stairs, but we now have a keyboard replacing the stairs and access to sharps and flats. Recording, playback and Simon Says can by played as in Up The Stairs.

The Trombone is a piece of sheer magic. Presented with a trombone and a record/ playback button, children move the mouse pointer along the trombone slide to access a really good trombone sample. When they wish to playback their efforts the screen changes to the Cool Cat Cafe, where a 'real' cat performer gives a spirited rendition of the child's tune.

The fourth aspect of the package is Making Tunes, where the children can do just that by placing pictures of their chosen instrument on a staircase that now slopes away from the user, with time being represented by movement across the screen.

Finally, Name that Tune gives the children exercises in accurate listening. Four tunes are displayed as patterns of dots on the screen. One of these is played and the child has to choose the correct one. As with all parts of this package, a correct response is rewarded by an appearance of Albert Mouse playing a little tune, although this can be disabled via the options screen.

Music Maker 1 is an excellent package for young children and should find a place in Nursery, KS 1 and the home market. At the moment it suffers from a rather bland manual, but I'm led to believe that this is to be upgraded soon.