Music expert apps pty Ltd brings us a challenging app that tests, both, our ear for music and our understanding of musical annotation. And as if that wasn’t enough, it tasks you with using both at the same time. The app is suitable for musicians of almost any experience. However, for students to truly make use of it to its fullest, I feel they do need to have some understanding – no matter how basic – of sight reading. Rhythm Expert challenges the user’s ability to match the rhythms that are heard to its written form, with the aim to develop rhythm reading skills and improving their ‘ear for music’. The app bases its activities on 2/4 and 6/8 timing signatures and the user has the opportunity to assess their progress across music with 2, 4 or 8 bars.
In Rhythm Expert’s opening sequence, as well as having a link to Facebook and rating the app, it allows the users to: select from the two beat-signatures; establish the levels for the challenge (i.e. choose the number of bars to be used); revise musical annotation and hear them used in context; or follow a YouTube ‘information’ link that explains how to explore the app. If I am honest, the YouTube link, despite being quite rudimentary, is necessary in taking your first steps with this app. I struggled to set up the challenges without it – though following the explanation, it was much easier to navigate. The YouTube link is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKhSBNkazwY
The main premise of the app is ‘practice makes perfect’ and the challenging nature of the software makes this evident. With a quick review of musical annotation seen in context, the more au fait user is ready to begin the activities, where the novice can spend more time analysing how notes appear in written form and apply these to what they hear. The ‘etches’ above each note – ‘red’ denoting when the note is played and ‘white’ denoting that note’s duration – is a cleverly, visual way for students to understand what is going on with the music in an auditory and multi-visual way. These same, aforementioned, etches or short hand are used to help the musician notate what they hear and, thus, facilitate the thought process for working out the type of note(s) that are required. An added challenge can be found as the musician chooses the note values on which they wish to improve, the number of bars in the piece and, then, it is a simple case of practice, practice, practice.
The user’s work is assessed in a ‘to-the-point’ way, in that each bar will highlight in ‘green’ if correct and in ‘red’ if there is an error. To further support this, the Treble Clef at the bottom of the page will allow the user to listen back to what they have played and compare that to the initial audio piece – a useful and progressive way for students to discover any inconsistencies with their knowledge.
In summary, once you become familiar with the user interface, the app’s good quality and concise audio, the reasonably comprehensive revision of musical notation and the supportive activities, all, combine to produce a challenging app that can be appreciated by all manner of musician in search of refining their rhythmic knowledge.