compiled by Doug (e-mail
magicref (at) lycos.com)
Last Update: Jan 2016
With the increase of Apps for iOS and Android,
music learning has taken a new twist from just a few
years ago. This article was first written back in
2009, so was way due for an update. While the focus
here is still on PC software, I have updated the
listing to remove programs that are no longer available,
and to add some new ones I've learned about.
Please realize that software is always
changing and being updated, so you should always check
with the developer on the latest features. For
example, I may say a program does not support a MIDI
keyboard, and then they release a new version that
does. Also, any prices listed are just estimates based
on the website information at the time I checked the
software; they are subject to change, so again the
best information will be found at the manufacturer's
Changes to the page include: added "quick
update" header to each entry;
Added: Jalmus Musical Instruments; Musiah Virtual Piano Teacher; PianoBooster; Piano Marvel; Presto Keys
Deleted the Sibelius Software entry: Sibelius
is alive and well with their Composition and Scoring
software, but their "Groovy" Children's education line
seems to be gone
Deleted PianoMouse, which seems to have changed from software instructional games to book/Audio-CD lessons for the very young
Deleted Band in a Box (www.pgmusic.com) , since it isn't teaching Music Theory (but is well regarded in the educational field for music generation)
Also, deleted the following - their websites
seem to be gone:
David Bagno; PianoisFun; Electronic Courseware Systems; Interactive Digital Design (midisoft.com); MiBAC Music Software; Northern Lights Technology;
|MIDI Keyboard Suppot?
Piano Suite Premiere
|Piano Suite Premier tutorial software by Adventus is designed to
be used with a MIDI keyboard. The software is designed
primarily for ages 8 to Adult. You can import and save MIDI
files. There are no software demos to download, but the
website has some video demonstrations.
The video demonstrates one of the neat capabilities of Piano Suite. When you get to the point where you can play written music, you follow along the notes displayed on the screen. You can use the "wait for note" method that doesn't force you to keep going if you have hit a wrong note. That is, if you hit a wrong note, a small "x" appears on the screen showing if you hit a too high or too low note, and won't "go on" until you've hit the right note. You can also use the the "notes and timing" method that uses a metronome along with the song, that encourages you to keep up with the timing of the song. Base price is $89.95, or $189.95 with a USB MIDI keyboard (currently featuring an Acorn Masterkey 49)
Adventus also sells:
Children's Music Journey: a three volume set. Offers animated interactive lessons with games and songs, and is designed for children ages 4-8. While no demo is available, you can watch a video and download the manual online. Prices are $59.95 for each volume, and bundles are available.
Ear Training Coach is available in two volumes.
MusIQ curriculum is intended for a complete Home school or government school music education.
|Aha Software (Family Games Freeware)
Aha Software's Notecard 3.3 is a note-learning program that allows you to use an on-screen keyboard or even an attached MIDI keyboard (paid version only) for note entry. Includes both Piano and Guitar Fretboard screens (7 and 12 strings). It is primarily designed to help you learn the notes of the piano or guitar. Can be set to treble, bass, alto, or tenor clefs. Good, uncluttered interface. Freeware or $19.75. You can download the free version to see if you like it.
Essentials of Music Theory
|Alfred Publishing is a large publishing
company for sheet music books, piano methods, and also some
Essentials of Music Theory (EMT) is now up to version 3 (released 2010) and provides a basic course in music theory with 75 lessons. It can utilize MIDI on selected screens, though MIDI use is minimal. The format provides animated instruction with music samples, and each lesson is followed by an interactive test for the student. Using EMT is sort of like watching a PowerPoint presentation with a soundtrack, with the additional feature of providing some interaction with the student for tests. It is designed for the older student (ages 10 - adult). . Costs are about $30 for each volume or $60 for all three. Educational institution editions are also available. EMT is also available as a subscription-based online version, which appears to be designed for schools as you need a Teacher Account as well as individual student accounts.
I have version 2 and find it well done, although not all that exciting.
|2015 Update: it does not appear the software has
been updated since the below was written in 2009
Selectsoft (formerly ArcMedia) programs seem to be found in the "bargain" areas of software stores and are packaged in jewel cases. You can also download Easy Piano from the SelectNow website.
Easy Piano is stated to provide "Step-by-step video lessons; Print chords and tunes; Complete guide to reading music; Learn about piano history & famous players". You can download a demo, which I would recommend as I can't say I was very impressed with the level of instruction. I found the beginner lessons jumping in too quickly in some of the subject areas, and the text instruction is pretty limited. The demo has about 30 videos included, and I believe this is all there is. There is no MIDI support.
|Ars Nova develops Practica Musica 6, a music theory and ear training program for the advanced student. Uses a music notation engine for interactive sessions. Includes real-time rhythm tapping. MIDI compatible but does not require MIDI. It appears from the website that most of the theory is in a written book, while the software program concentrates on Ear Training and lets you set up exercises to implement that theory. While no downloadable demos are available, instructional movies on the operation of Practica Musica can be viewed online. Available in Student $45; Standard $100; or Site Editions (any number of students)
Piano Coach Deluxe
|2015 Update: Piano
Coach Deluxe is still offered, but doesn't list an OS
past Windows Vista, so it appears unchanged since 2009.
From the Charanga website: "Piano Coach Deluxe uses video and interactive software to let you learn at your own pace as your computer guides you through easy-to-follow in-depth lessons..." Piano Coach Deluxe provides music theory and piano instruction using a multimedia experience. It provides text to read (no vocal soundtrack), videos for selected lessons, and a neat, interactive keyboard that plays music appropriate for each lesson. The keyboard music includes several channels that can be toggled on or off: a metronome rhythm, background music, and the piano sounds. Software can be used with a MIDI keyboard. Music Coach is available as an entire package or you can download the free player and purchase individual downloadable lessons. Package is about $48 (US), Individual lesson downloads about $13. Music Coach is also available from TOPICS Entertainment as "Instant Play Piano Deluxe". I own the TOPICS version and it runs fine in Windows XP. I haven't used it too much yet, but like the interactive electronic keyboard feature. Also, Music Coach has you playing "songs" almost right away to make the lessons more interesting.
Dolphin Don's Music School
|From the Don Bowyer's website: "Dolphin Don's Music School is a set of thirteen educational music games suitable for ages 6 and up. These games teach ear-training and reading of notes, rhythms, key signatures, intervals, and chords – from absolute beginning through college-level material. Effective for individual or classroom use, the program keeps track of personal scores for an unlimited number of players." Covers Treble, Bass, Alto, and Tenor Clefs and lets you select your instrument of choice so that your lessons start out appropriately. The first time I played I was surprised to hear Dolphin Don's voice as I was expecting a high pitched voice. Rather, Dolphin Don speaks in a low, gruff voice. In the current version, you can choose from three voices, but all sound like the same person making his voice either low, high-pitched, or "falsetto" (the voice of Donna certainly doesn't sound female to me!). The program supports multiple student logins so each child can progress at their own pace, and you can also compete against other students. The graphics are simple. The learn mode is fairly simplistic, with the student clicking on a note name, for example, and Dolphin Don showing where that note is on the staff. The level of instruction is very minimal. The games provide drill practice to help you remember note values, intervals, and so forth. As you play a game, Dolphin Don will make a remark after each right or wrong answer, such as "sweet", "That's the ticket, baby", "yea yea yea yea yea!", "go beans jellybean", "you'll get the next one", "where's your head", and so forth, which I found quite irritating. While you can turn voices off, in some screens it also mutes other important sounds, such as the note that plays. The game progresses slowly, offering 3 notes in treble clef, then 3 in bass clef, moving up to 5 notes in each and so on. In the game area, you need a score of at least 90 to move on to the next lesson. There is no support for using a MIDI keyboard. $39.95
Piano & Keyboard Method;
eMedia Piano For Dummies;
& Keyboard Method is up to V3 and has over 300
step-by-step lessons starting from basics such as hand
position, rhythm and playing on black keys, and moving on to
music notation, sight reading, scales and more.
Features over 70 teaching
videos by instructor Irma Irene Justicia, M.A.The
program works best with a MIDI keyboard, though one is not
necessary. An on-screen animated piano shows active keys.
Music scores include Guitar Chords in case a friend who is
learning Guitar wants to play along. In the soundtracks, you
can toggle piano only, voice only, or the full soundtrack.
When you play back a song, the coaching tool provides
interactive feedback with messages such as, "Held too long"
or "played to late" pointing to the note that played
incorrectly, and the animated keyboard will show what notes
should have been played. Also features variable MIDI speed
so you can play at your own rate, a metronome, and digital
recorder. Piano and
Keyboard Method seems to be a very well-rounded
program at a reasonable price of $59.95. It is also
available in an Academic version for schools.
Intermediate Piano & Keyboard Method offers 158 lessons for the more advanced student. It features over 50 videos by Vadim Gihn, M.A., and uses a similar interface to the basic package.$59.95, or $99.95 for both packages in one.
Also available with a MIDI keyboard.
|2015 Update: last "update" entry is from 2011,
but this online (or downloadable) drill set still
appears to be active. Be sure to contact them before
purchase to make sure.
eMusicTheory provides a nice collection of online JAVA based drill software (so will even work in Linux). eMusicTheory has tons of free on-line drills, and now you can download the JAVA application to use off-line with your own MIDI keyboard. Includes drills for music theory, piano, guitar, cello, and more. Note that this does not provide instruction, but is a tool to help you practice what you have learned. The drills that I tried were all clear and straightforward. Free to use online, or $12 to download for use off-line.
|Happy Note Software
Play It By Ear;
Treble & Bass Clef;
Sing 'n Learn
|2015 Update: website is active with current
updates. Pricing has gone down a bit, with all three
programs available as a set for $30.
Happy Note Software of France produces the Sing 'n Learn drill program to help you learn to read music. They also offer some additional shareware and freeware music games to help you practice what you've learned. There is no MIDI keyboard support for any of these programs.
Sing 'n Learn is the main product, and teaches note recognition using 64 note readings in Bass and Treble Clef. It is a web-browser based drill program that shows a staff with indicated notes, and allows you to play a MIDI tune, with which you are to sing or say the notes as they play. An on-line or downloadable demo is also available. $19.95
Sheet Music Treble and Bass Clef is a music notes game to help you practice what you've learned, and was designed to go with Sing 'n Learn. The notes on the staff scroll from right to left, and you need to adjust the "shooter" at the bottom of the screen so it reflects the proper note (using the up and down arrow keys), and then shoot the note using the space bar before it leaves the left side of the screen. Avoid the bombs! You can adjust speed, music & sound, and so forth. Looks like a decent game for note recognition. $19.95
Play it By Ear is a game for Ear Training and provides for note recognition. In this game, you press the space bar to hear a note, and then click on the appropriate note on the scale. An animal will pop up when you get it right, and you get bonus points for clicking on the animal before it leaves the screen. $19.95
All can be downloaded and tried before you buy, which I would recommend as the prices are not that cheap (in my opinion) for what you get. Package of Sing 'n Learn, Sheet Music, and Play it By Ear is $29.95
|2015 Update: website is active, and mentions
Windows 8 support, so it seems there have been updates
since the below was written in 2009.
Harmonic Vision develops the Music Ace programs. These programs look very good for teaching young children (grades 1-8), and could even be used by adults if you don't mind the cartoon professor. The professor speaks to you, and the note characters are cute. The notes do not have stems, however, and rhythm isn't taught until the 2nd program. Demos are available for download and are well done. MIDI Keyboards are supported but are not necessary. Music Ace Maestro is designed for the school environment and allows teachers to track many students and for the software to operate on a LAN.
I purchased Music Ace Deluxe for our own family and can recommend it.
Music Ace: 24 lessons on staff & keyboard, pitch, note reading, sharps & flats, games, etc. $49.95
Music Ace 2: 24 lessons: Rhythms, Key Signatures, syncopation, melodies, harmony, intro to ear training. $49.95
Music Ace Deluxe: combines 1 & 2 $79.95
Music Ace Maestro: combines 1 & 2 with Student Management. $128 stand alone, and network pricing is available.
|Jalmus Musical Instruments
by Richard Christophe
|Jalmus is Open Source software
designed to provide exercises on sight reading for notes and
rhythms. You can use the computer keyboard or an attached
Development has ceased as of April, 2013, but the software is still available.
(various - see text)
|2015 Update: the website is active; Pianonimo
(for example) was last updated in 2011; and the
developer now seems to just ask for a donation
Metronimo by David Graton is a French company offering music related Shareware and Freeware programs. These programs lean more toward drill with little or no tutoring. The programming is decent, and the programs would be useful for drilling basic note and rhythm facts. As of version 2, MIDI is now supported in Pianonimo.
Metronimo Music Theory: Presents music theory drills for the treble and bass clef, music symbols, key signatures. The basic game is clicking the letter that corresponds with the staff notes. The 2nd game style is a drag and drop matching game.
Pianonimo: A piano/note drill for Treble & Bass Clef with 6 games and MIDI keyboard support. Probably the best value of the lot.
Rhythmonimo: game software to learn rhythm
Book of Composers: Hangman style game to guess composers from a set of clues. Includes 104 composers and their music. In French only!
Metronimo Quiz: Over 600 questions about music history and terminology for 1, 2, or 3 players (in French only).
Tetronimo: Advanced music "Tetris" type game. Drills Treble, Bass, Baritone, Soprano, Mezzosoprano, Alto, and Tenor clefs. Move the falling staff notes to their corresponding value at the bottom. For one or two players.
Mini-Tetronimo: move falling notes to proper note name box
Musical Instruments: Drag and drop the correct instrument over the sound
Musiah Virtual Piano Teacher
|Musiah is an online Artificially
Intelligent Virtual Piano Teacher. "Using the latest
patented A.I. technology, Musiah follows your every move and
responds to your playing, so you'll feel like you have a
live piano teacher sitting next to you giving you continual
guidance and feedback." It supports a MIDI keyboard, or you
can use a virtual syth with the computer keyboard, though
this is not recommended. Musiah is a subscription based
service. Musiah provides a free 14 day trial.
|2015 Update: the MIDISaurus program now appears to
be an on-line program, but works only with Windows XP -
Windows 7 (Win 8 and 10 are not mentioned). A MIDI
keyboard is optional.
Town4Kids MiDisaurus used to be a CD-based 12 volume program, but is now provided as a subscription service designed for classroom or individual student use. It is designed for young children (pre-school through 4th Grade) and uses cute dinosaur characters. The dinosaur character have child-like voices and the lessons are presented at a pace for young children. For this reason, MiDisaurus would likely be too irritating for an adult to use. I had purchased the software version years ago for my own children and couldn't stand to use it myself (as opposed to Music Ace, which is quite bearable). Also, the new online version does not seem to support MIDI keyboards.
Wizard provides a unique approach to learning to
play the piano. It is designed primarily for younger
learners, although students of any age can use the program.
The main program works in four stages and starts off with a
game and color coded keys on your MIDI keyboard. In stage 1,
you simply press the appropriate colored key on the keyboard
as the notes cross the on-screen keyboard. In stage 2, the
horizontal keyboard is moved vertically, and the game-play
works the same. In Stage 2, the student is getting used to
the positioning of the notes on the staff, and you can even
replace the background image with a staff. In Stage 3, the
"eggs" are replaced with colored notes, and the student
begins recognizing actual notes with their position on the
keyboard. In Stage 4, the colored notes are replaced with
traditional black notes to complete the note-to-key
recognition. Stage 5 is for advanced students and change
from the Piano Wizard game to a set of instructional DVDs.
There were no demos of the DVD instruction, which is quite
expensive. The unique 4-Step approach sounds interesting,
and I do wonder how well it really works in helping students
learn the piano. I've never tried the system, but it looks
clever and does teach real music theory so is not just a
"play by number" type system. Currently only available in a
Family Pack for $397 or with Keyboard for $447. Supports
Windows up through v10.
|Open Source by Louis B.
|PianoBooster plays Standard Midi
Files and allows you to change the speed of playback and
transpose the music. It allows you to play along on a midi
keyboard with the scrolling notes shown on the screen. The
notes you press on the keyboard appear as colored lines, the
color of which depends whether you have pressed the right or
wrong note. Free
|PrestoKeys allows you to play a MIDI song file and play along with an on-screen keyboard or through a MIDI attached keyboard (Pro version only). The display will show whether you've it the right note at the right timing or not. It is configurable to match your skill level. Free or $30 for the Pro version with MIDI input and Key Signatures, Smart Notes, and more.
|PianoMarvel is an online subscription
based Piano teaching method designed for use with a MIDI
keyboard. From the website: "It features thousands of songs
and exercises designed to challenge all ages and ability
levels, feedback to see where mistakes are happening and
lots of tools to help piano learners correct those mistakes.
It also tracks your progress as you move through the lessons
and saves your practice information to the cloud so you can
practice using almost any computer, any time." They
offer free and premium accounts, as well as a school
account. The software installs a driver on your computer to
provide interaction between your MIDI keyboard and the
online software. Costs are free, or $15 per month/$99 per
year for premium.
Step By Step Note Teacher
|2015 Update: the below (written in 2009) appears to
still be valid. The last version of Step by Step Note
Teacher indicates only WinXP support and the file dates
are from 2004.
Pianosoft makes Step By Step Note Teacher: A note drill program with MIDI support. $24.90
I would recommend downloading the demo and trying it first before buying.
|Max 7.6 OS-X
|2015 Update: This software has been updated to
v4, and there are now a Cloud and iOS App versions.
Musition is "a complete music theory and musicianship package, suitable for students of all ages. Interactive drill based teaching makes learning music theory fundamentals fun and easy! Complete with 34 topics, a clean and simple interface and sophisticated yet easy to use record keeping features..."
Musition provides lessons in the form of textual screens that provide the basic information. You can then drill yourself on the concepts learned through the interactive exercises. A MIDI keyboard is supported, but does not see to be a major part of the lessons. A demo version is available for download. $99
Rising Software also makes the Auralia Ear Training program.
|Take Note Publishing
|2015 Update: website is still acvtive, and the
Tech Support page states that the software has been
"successfully used on" Windows 7 and 8.
Take Note's Computer Aided Theory Skills (C.A.T.S.) is designed to teach and test music theory up through grade five. Volume 1 covers Beginner to Grade 2, and Volume 2 is Grades 3-5. Each volume is broken up into Learn and Test sections. CATS teaches Notes & Rests, Pitches, Intervals, Triads and Chords, Scales, Symbols and ornaments, Musical Terms, Key Signatures, Time Signatures, and more. The graphics used are very simple, and no demo is available. Volume 1 $23; Volume 2 $38; 2 volume set $53
Home Concert Xtreme
|2015 Update: product has been updated and works
Timewarp Technologies makes Home Concert Xtreme, which is a clever program that lets you load any MIDI song and display one or two tracks to a notation display. You can then play the MIDI song, and the software can either determine your location, tempo, and dynamic expression; musically coordinate the accompaniment tracks to match your playing; or "turn your pages" intelligently. It has Learn, Jam, or Perform modes. In Learn mode, you can't move forward in the song until you play the right notes. Jam mode always moves forward. In Perform mode, the song will very depending on your tempo and dynamics. The video demo is really neat! $99.95. A downloadable demo is available. For Mac or Win (Vista, 7, 8), as well as iOS.
|2015 Update: Treblis has new software called Music
Interact, updated for Win7/8, and also versions for Mac
and iPad. See website for information.
Treblis Software's MusicInteract is an interactive music software product that can literally be called a Virtual Piano Teacher. For Mac, iOS, and Windows 8, a subscription model is used. Use of a MIDI keyboard is required. It appears to be interactive music playing software, which provides interactive feedback on correct notes and timing accuracy.