10 Music Education Products Examined
Let's face it, I'm not the only fish in the sea, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Competition is healthy, and I get excited when I look at what is available on the world wide web as much as the local music store. There are a TON of creative people doing great things with music education, and with a new generation of technology, the options are truly staggering. But just like a lover of children's books does not have to stick with only Dr. Seuss, a lover of children's music can pick and choose the resources that will best meet the needs and budget of their family. Mix and match. Let's examine 10 music education products designed for children and compare them listed in no particular order.
1. Little Musician
Little Musician is one of my favorite music resources that we have purchased for our family, so I'll start here. Little Musician is a computer software curriculum. Lessons focus on solfege (Fixed Do), chord recognition, composer highlights, learning the instruments, rhythm, sight reading, and more. Easily navigate through the lessons and see where you have been and where you left off. See my full review here. They have a free download to give you a feel for the program to see if it is a good fit for you. Full price- $179. (You can get 10% off with my coupon code BKAFF13180). By the way, we are really big fans of Little Reader too.
2. Preschool Prodigies
To be honest, I haven't personally tried Preschool Prodigies, but I have gotten to know it's creator online and have browsed his website extensively and I love what I see. Rob Young is a professional percussionist and he has created a curriculum based around the hand bells. Music is color-coded and very large, which is great for the earliest beginners. The video lessons are colorful and engaging, and they come with printable sheet music to practice on your own. Membership is $99 a year, bells sold separately. He has a free mini-course to get you started. (Edit: I have now used his website extensively, and it is wonderful! I reviewed his materials here, and they've only gotten better since!)
Kinderbach is a piano curriculum available online as well as through DVD and digital CD. The lessons feature rhythm games and activities, pre-reading exercises based on colorful animal friends with names that start with A,B,C,D,E,F, and G. Dodi the Donkey is shown on the right. We have tried the free printables on their site and my kids really loved them. I still ask them if they remember where Dodi's house is when they can't remember where D is. Prices range from a yearly membership at $95.88 to purchasing lessons and videos separately in packages.
4. Piano Wizard
Piano Wizard is a computer software, DVD, and physical sheet music piano curriculum. Learn to play the piano in minutes through their color-coded guitar-heroesque game mode. It looks and feels like a video game. Then as you become more familiar with the game and improve your score, you move on to the next step which takes the music from vertical play to horizontal play, more akin to reading music from a book. The video-game background turns into staff music, and you're playing the same song with the same accompaniment. The final level is completely off-screen as you play it on your piano out of a real piano book. The curriculum begins on the black keys and is simple enough for the youngest beginners, not beyond older 2-year-olds in my experience. When you finish the curriculum, you can input your own MIDI files and learn to play just about anything with their fun software. I love it! See my whole review here. Their main package is $397.
5. Hoffman Academy (Piano Lessons)
Hoffman Academy has a great business model for those on a tight budget. Their piano lessons are free! The way they pull this off is the videos are all on YouTube, then if you want to have the supplemental worksheets and sheet music, you can buy them beginning at $17.50. See my review here. One thing I really love about Hoffman's lessons and curriculum is how he incorporates Kodaly activities into the lessons. For example, he uses Movable Do to teach about relative pitch as you learn your scales. He also has a charming story to learn and remember the letter names and locations of each of the keys on the piano The dog lives in the smaller house between the two black notes, and Grandma lives in the big house. She sleeps in the front room, and Aunt Annie's bedroom is behind hers...
6. Soft Mozart
Soft Mozart is a software-based piano curriculum similar to Piano Wizard in that you learn to read sheet music vertically, followed by horizontal reading. The key difference is that Soft Mozart requires that you play the correct notes before you can continue, which is really great for the tiniest beginners. Many 2-year-olds have been very successful with her program, although it is great for any age. There are also pdf activities and a few video-game-type learning activities to help students learn to read music. I was once affiliated with Soft Mozart and purchased their 6-month subscription and my children enjoyed the software. However, I had a rocky relationship with the company regarding online reviews and comparisons to the competitors, including my opinion that it is overpriced. Still, I have had a lot of people ask me about my experience and since I did really like the software, I include it in my list. Prices currently range from $49 a month to $749 for 3 years.
7. Joy Tunes
Joy Tunes is unique on this list because instead of being computer based, it is an app for your iPad or iPhone. Learn to read music by playing tunes on a touch piano built into the app, or you can play on a piano or keyboard. There is a microphone feature, so you don't have to wire anything up to a MIDI keyboard, you can simply place the iPad on the piano and play directly. They have a simple game to get you started called Piano Duster, as well as a more advanced piano curriculum. There is the option to plug into a MIDI keyboard for better accuracy (sometimes a kid singing in the background has thrown my score off.) There are options that make you play correct notes before you can progress as well as an option that requires you to keep a steady beat. The biggest limitation to the app is that is uses a smaller keyboard, so you don't get the broad range that Piano Wizard or Soft Mozart offers, but there is still a lot you can do, and this is a great place to start learning piano. The apps range from free to $0.99, with in-app purchases to gain more access to songs. Song packs range from $5 in Piano Duster to $59 to be a Premium Member in Piano Maestro.
8. Piano Anne Resources
Anne Crosby Gaudet is primarily a thriving piano teacher in Nova Scotia, but she is also well known in online homeschooling and music communities for her Barnyard Friends and Theory Tutorials on YouTube. The Barnyard Friends videos are my favorite. They help children learn how to draw the treble and bass clef, and where a handful of landmark notes are located on the staff. Every time I draw a treble clef with the kids I sing her little ditty, "Treble Clef, a fancy letter G". It's catchy! She also has a series on complimentary printables on her online store.
9. Teaching Children Music
I may be biased, but I think I deserve a place on this list. 🙂 Anyway, Teaching Children Music is an online learning resource with video lessons, printable games and activities, and stories designed to teach children rudimentary music skills such as rhythm, steady beat, sight reading, and solfege. A color-coded system is integrated throughout the materials, making Little Musician, Preschool Prodigies, and Teaching Children Music all very complimentary to each other, as well as any materials made for boomwhackers. The materials are available to members with prices ranging from $5 for individual components to lifetime access to everything at $200.
10. Music K-8 by Plank Road Publishing
Music K-8 is a treasure trove a music education physical materials available for purchase. From live-action movies featuring children and composers, songbooks, clapping games, musical instruments, and classroom kits and activities, you can find just about anything here. But the reason they made it to this is list is their animated YouTube videos. My kids love watching the tortoise run and the rabbit crawl at a grueling pace in the Presto/Largo piece, and we all love singing the Whacky Do-Re-Mi song. These clips are really worth watching with your kids!
One last bonus entry: though not a single product by one author, I also want to point out that there are thousands of music education print-outs created by classroom music teachers, private educators, and other musically-inclined individuals available on Teachers Pay Teachers. There sure are a lot of creative people out there! No matter who you are, a classroom educator, private teacher, or parent, the face of music education has dramatically changed in the last decade and I am thrilled that so many kids are having the opportunity to learn with these fun and effective tools. Good luck in your search for the best music resources for your family. Don't get lost in the details, though. Pick something and go with it. Work Play with it consistently and you are bound to have success.
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