Wow! There is so much to say about this program! It’s hard to believe that I started my college career as a music major. I was a performance and music education major with the flute as my major instrument. As a music education major, we were required to study a wide range of instruments, including piano. I wish I had a program like this at that time!
There are four components to this suite. It is used with a midi keyboard, which is an electronic keyboard that plugs into your computer and interfaces with the software program. Wikipedia.com tells us,
“A midi keyboard is a piano-style digital keyboard device used for sending MIDI signals or commands to other devices connected to the same interface as the keyboard. MIDI is an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface (protocol). The basic MIDI keyboard does not produce sound. Instead, MIDI information is sent to an electronic module capable of reproducing an array of digital sounds or samples that resemble traditional analog musical instruments. These samples are also referred to as voices.”
So, essentially, it’s an electronic keyboard that you use with your computer. Just for fun, I priced midi keyboards and learned you can get a very basic model for $70 or so, or a very nice professional one for thousands of dollars.
So, back to the Quickstart Music Suite. The first component is the Quickstart Music Mentor. This is an education, appreciation and history program. There are 500 lessons that cover composers and the fundamentals of music. Students are also introduced to musical instruments and their sounds. They can take quizzes to test their knowledge, play along with songs on the keyboard, change instrument sounds and experiment with a simple audio mixer. Students of all ages can use this visually delightful program to begin or expand their general music knowledge.
Quickstart Piano is an incredible tool, and the second component of this product. It turns your computer into a piano teacher! Using an innovation called “Magic Hands,” students see where the hands go on the keyboard, giving a foolproof lesson in where to place fingers. Students learn songs and theory through 400 easy-to-use lessons. The program begins with the student choosing their lever, from rank beginner to intermediate proficiency. The lesson shows the “sheet music” at the top of the screen and the “Magic Fingers” at the bottom. You cannot fail! The program also monitors student progress and remembers where you left off. It is a song based approach to learning, using familiar tunes. If you no nothing about music, it takes you from orientation to middle C to some fairly complicated stuff. Your beginner student could easily spend a few years working through this rich, comprehensive program.
A third component is the Quickstart Digital Recorder. It is an 8-track mixing/editing board. Students record their pieces and can save them into MP3 or other streaming formats. If you’re lost just thinking about this, fret not. The program includes a video tutorial to completely walk you through the program. This is so nice because your student can burn their recordings to a CD and make them portable – to give to friends or to send to music producers! They can also make the music available on web sites or other applications. Something this complex used to cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. It’s hard to believe it is just one component of this suite.
Finally, the Quickstart Studio Composer rounds out this powerful educational tool. Students use this program to write music, record it, mix it, and print out sheet music. Perfect for the beginner or intermediate musician, this program helps you to compose, record, edit and arrange either from a MIDI keyboard or other MIDI instrument. After composition, the notes in playback are animated, adding an extra level of interest for the beginner. This gives our students some of the capabilities of the sophisticated equipment of the professional musician, for a fraction of the cost.
If any of these features seems intimidating, do not fear! Each disk has a full manual in pdf format to walk you through the richest use of the programs. It is absolutely incredible that you can get all these tools for your student for about $100.00. (As of this writing, the suite was available on the website for $99.00.) Whether your student is at beginner or intermediate level, this is an incredible resource sure to bring lots of interest and excitement to your budding musician.
-Product Review by Christine Field, Senior Contributing Correspondent, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, June, 2006