The Evolution of Theory

I often tell prospective music students that music is a two-part discipline. To truly become proficient at any instrument, music students not only have to develop the athletic skills associated with playing that instrument (finger independence and strength, breathing and proper posture to name a few), but they also have to understand the language of music (how to read, write and even think in musical notation). This musical language – called “Music Theory” by teachers – is an ever-expanding library of “rules” and “best-practices” that our musical history has given us and it forms the foundation for every student’s understanding of music as a whole. Thus, it’s critical that we find a way to motivate the Video Game Generation to study Music Theory with some of the same enthusiasm they bring to their Xbox.

In the Age of Instant Gratification, it seems harder and harder to keep a music student’s attention. Also, as music is removed for our schools, private music teachers find that they have less and less time in their 30-minute lessons to cover basic concepts that used to be “common knowledge” to beginning students. …so how do we find time in only 30 minutes a week to help our students unlock the power of the musical language? (Imagine trying to study Latin in only 30 minutes a week!)

The Video Game Generation

The Video Game Generation

When I was taking piano lessons, some 20+ years ago, I was equipped with my lesson book and my theory book. I remember the first time I looked at my theory book and thought “Am I in school? Do I really have to complete worksheets?” Today’s students all have cell phones and video game consoles. They do their homework on their computers and – in many cases – they do their research online instead of at a library. In other words, these kids eat, sleep and breathe technology to a degree older generations can’t comprehend. We never learned how to program our VCRs. These kids don’t even know what a VCR is! The World of Education is changing and we have to change our approach if we want modern music students to embrace Music Theory.

Luckily, the producers of today’s lesson materials have started to recognize the importance of making education more fun and interactive. Alfred Publishing Company – who prints one of the most successful lesson book series in the World – recently launched the third version of its Essentials of Music Theory software for PC/Mac. This interactive software uses the basic “question, response and instant feedback” formula that gamers have come to expect. The exercises are scored and a student can’t move on to the next level until he or she achieves a high enough score. …but, unlike Wii, the concepts they learn here perfectly compliment their music lessons – no matter which lesson book they are using.

The software covers all the material in the Essentials of Music Theory series and includes narrations of new concepts, animations, practice exercises, games and ear training quizzes to motivate students while strengthening music skills. Let’s say you come across a new term that you’ve never heard of before. This software shows you the term, pronounces it for you and gives you a musical example to help you understand how the term works. In short, it utilizes all the student’s senses in learning – speeding up the process and improving retention. Finally, the program will quiz you on the new term to make sure you understood it. Teachers can even customize the curriculum, import sample recordings, and keep an automatically-updated record of their students’ progress. It’s easy to give your student an assignment and then make sure they complete it before the next level. You can even involve “Mom and Dad” in the process!

The Alfred Essentials of Music Theory software is a great way to help students continue to learn during their practice times at home. It’s fun and interactive – so the kids love it – and it’s easy to keep track of their progress. The student version allows the student to access:

  • lessons
  • exercises
  • ear training
  • a glossary of terms & symbols
  • the ability to print individual scores
  • unlimited student records

The Educator version includes all features from Student version plus:

  • the ability to track student progress
  • set the “passing grade” needed to advance
  • syllabus maintenance
  • the ability to create custom tests for your students based on concepts you want to emphasize

Alfred even offers a Network version that is formatted for a multi-educator environment (like a college or music school).

There are other software options as well, but this is one is my favorite. Many of my teachers have used it and they all tell me how well it works in their lessons environment. I’ve also had parents buy it as a birthday or Christmas gift for their kids. Why not? What better way to encourage them than to buy a video game that teaches them something valuable? At Gist Piano Center, we know that technology is the gateway to The Future. Unlock your students’ enthusiasm for Music Theory with this “Essential” software. Trust me, you’ll hear your students asking “Please. Can I work on theory today?”


3 thoughts on “The Evolution of Theory

  1. Bill Romer

    Yes, it seems we must change with the times 😉 I know the latest Rock Bank has a real guitar that – get this – will actually teach game players real guitar licks! I haven’t played the new keyboard device yet, but the possibilities there seem endless, especially with our video game generation.

  2. Dan the Music Master

    It’s seems like a good product (I’ve had a look at the theory at my local retail music store). It’s amazing how colourful and inventive music books have become.

  3. Amber Scarberry

    I think it will be so exciting to see where music education & technology will take us next! I started my children’s music education with a computer game from Alfred simply titled “Music Games (#00-22649 $10).” They loved it & had no idea they were learning music theory.

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