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Music Software Reviews

Piano Discovery Software
from Jump! Music

For Ages 6 to adult

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Music software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of PC and Mac versions. Jump! also sells a version bundled with a MIDI keyboard, available as the Piano Discovery System for the PC.


Reviewed on:
Piano Discovery Software Screen Shot Macintosh Performa 6400/200 with 32MB and 8XCD
Pentium166 with 24MB and 12XCD

Description
This "computer music tutor" replicates the stereotypical little old lady piano teacher with startling expertise. It leads the user through beginning lessons with frustrating (but necessary) deliberateness, beginning with the most simple of tunes and requiring the user to repeat and practice until perfection (or somnambulism) is achieved.

Metronome beats strive to pound the rhythm into the player, despite the potential obstacle of total disinterest in the chosen material. And if a half note is held for only one and three-quarters beats the program can be counted on to point out the user's inadequacy without throwing any punches. When a particular piece is mastered, the user is invited to perform his or her rendition at the Discovery Island Performance Hall. Again, however, anything less than perfection is reviewed in the program's virtual newspaper with surprising frankness.

In deference to the program's creators, it must be noted that it is extremely thorough. The dedicated, aspiring pianist is certain to learn to play with accuracy. Tutorials are presented clearly, in many easy to follow steps, with plenty of opportunity to practice and receive feedback at each level.

Children have complained about piano lessons, practice and drills for generations. Why should one expect a computer tutorial to be any different?

Ease of Install / Use
Initial installation of Piano Discovery System was quite difficult on our reviewer's PC. The program made adjustments to the computer's sound card resulting in total loss of sound for the entire system! Jump! Music Tech Support was sympathetic, and able to help fix the problem with a few minor adjustments.

Additionally, an error message reoccurred occasionally throughout the review process. The user could choose to close the program, or ignore the error message. Frequently experienced small glitches in the program may have been the result of this error, which was never resolved.

Installation on the Mac went without difficulty.

Educational Value
With extremely well-planned, step-by-step lessons that teach everything from hand and body positioning to playing and reading music; amusing drills; and attractive extras, such as the Performance Hall, and the Jam Stage (where the player plays along with a band), piano mastery can be achieved with the use of this program.

Kid Appeal
It is unclear whether the makers of this program truly intended it to be used by children, or were mainly targeting adult users. The amusement park theme, and shooting-gallery drills suggest that the program is meant to appeal to young users. Because of the nature of the program however, with its intense attention to minor detail, it is inappropriate for young children. The alternative version of the program Kids Piano Discovery, although not as comprehensive, is much better suited to the younger learner.

Best for / Bottom-Line
This program is best suited to the older child or adult who is devoted to learning to play the piano, and has the patience and resilience to stick with the program despite initial boredom. Extremely well-planned and organized lessons, amusing drills, and attractive extras make it a promising tutorial.

Educational Value = 5/5, Kid Appeal = 2/5, Ease of Use = 3/5

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other music software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of PC and Mac versions. Jump! also sells a version bundled with a MIDI keyboard, available as the Piano Discovery System for the PC.



Children's Software System Requirements


PC

Macintosh
Operating System Windows 3.1; Win95 System 7.5.1 or higher
CPU Type and Speed 486/33 or faster 68040 or PowerPC
Hard Drive Space 10 MB (min); 25 MB recommended 25MB
Memory (RAM) 8 MB minimum 16 MB
Graphics 640x480x256 color SVGA 640x480x256 color
CD-ROM Speed 2X 2X
Audio MIDI compatible, Sound Blaster Pro compatible sound card
Other Needs MIDI compatible keyboard MIDI compatible keyboard and MIDI interface and cables

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