iPlayMusic promises to teach you guitar and let you sing with your kids. Rainy Day Magazine wanted to find someone who had a guitar and kids to check it out. Your reviewer fit the bill. This software is a good example of what can be accomplished when you have good video content and use the Mac’s quicktime toolbox.
The folks at iPlayMusic have combined a series of play along songs, like what you might find on Sesame Street (yes there is even an enthusiastic muppet, named Capo) with various kinds of annotation, “jam tracks” that give you a band, a karaoke mode that shows you the words and chord changes, and slower paced, teaching, versions of the songs.
All of this is presented in a familiar list picking interface like the one used by the Finder in its column mode.
There are 6 songs (7 if you count ABCs and Twinkle Twinkle as separate songs) that use simple combinations of 5 chords (A, C, D, F & G). Each song is presented in multiple versions for learning or playing along. There is even a DVD that contains many of the songs so that you can play them through, or play along with them, on your TV.
My 3-year old loved the video content. We watched and listened to the songs over and over. Sometimes I played along, often she just listened and sang and clapped. Being able to pick the songs was helpful, since she had definite favorites (esp. Wheels on the Bus).
The level of guitar playing is very introductory and while the music in the video includes fills and more interesting bits you don’t get taught those things. The web site indicates a second level and the catalog of songs is growings.
The lesson on tuning seems to miss an opportunity to get the player to tune to the video since they will be playing along. Instead, you are told how to tune the guitar once you have one string correctly set. These days electronic tuners are so affordable that show how to use one of those might have been more helpful. (If you buy one of iPlayMusic’s starter sets they throw in an electronic tuner.)
In the “basics” section along with videos on chord changes, practicing, and guitar anatomy, there is even a short video on changing your strings. This is handy, though the suggested method, taking all the strings off and replacing with all new strings, does make for the maximum change in tension on the neck of your guitar and some might argue for changing one at a time. And given how much tuning and retuning will be required after this a bit more warning and discussion wouldn’t hurt.
There are a few more extras. The same interface that lets you pick songs will let you see pdf versions of a chord chart and coloring book pages that go with each of the songs.
Finally you can use Apple’s GarageBand software to manipulate and layer the song tracks that are used in the example songs. I am not sure who would know enough about music to use GarageBand but still be in the sweet spot for the very basic level of guitar playing in this package. But still its neat that you can get there. And the GarageBand UI is the perfect place to play with all of the different instrument tracks.
Given all of the work that iPlayMusic has done with what is essentially a video music lesson browser you could imagine many more songs and many other levels being provided in this way. And from their web site this does seem to be happening. As a training vehicle it might not be restricted to music. We could imagine presenting everything from martial arts and exercise videos to instructions for home repair and hobbyist’s kits being delivered this way. Currently the annotated versions of the songs seem to be independent QuickTime movies. In the future this may become an authoring environment that could be used for all kinds of mixed mode training, combining annotations, video audio, synchronized animation, text crawls and other file type extras (like PDFs and GarageBand projects).