Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: Adventus Piano Software

For the past 6 weeks or so the kids and I have been busy exploring a software package called Children's Music Journey, which is part of MusIQ Homeschool, an awesome creation of the folks at Adventus.

We started in Children's Music Journey (CMJ) 1, which is the first in a 3 part series aimed at the 4-8 age crowd.  CMJ 1 has 25 lessons, and CMJ 2 and 3 each have 35 lessons.  For older children and adults you can jump right into Piano Suite Premiere which includes four sub programs of its' own:

We use CMJ 1 daily and it's not hard to convince Bentley to hop onto the piano bench and spend some time.  During this time we've been reviewing the program I focused mainly on consistency with Bentley but I also spent some time on it with Jake and Viva.  All three of them give this fun program a thumbs up.  We try to spend at least 15 minutes, and sometimes closer to 30, and we use the software 4-6 times a week.

How does it all work?  You need a keyboard with MIDI on it, which you hook up to your computer.  Then you power up your computer, turn on your piano, and open the program!  Upon logging in you see the lesson icon front and center in the middle of the screen.  Lessons are taught by famous composers who tell you about themselves and their music throughout your lessons.  From Bach to Beethoven to Joplin and Mendelssohn.  After lesson time the practice room opens up and you can practice what you learned about in the lesson.  In addition to the lessons and practice rooms there are games, a library (more info below), and an improv room (more info below).

What's to love?

  • The integration of great music pieces and historical information about famous composers.  I love that you "have" to sit through this part before your lesson starts!  Great exposure for the kids.
  • The fact you can use Adventus with your toddlers all the way up to your virtuoso pianists.  There are skill levels to cover it all in this great program.  There's even a few levels of "ear training" coaching, which I am really looking forward to trying myself.
  • The price - it's $10.95/month for music instruction that all the kids can use.  Not a hard call in my opinion.  If you think you're going to use the program for years there is also an option to buy the software as opposed to paying a monthly subscription.
  • It's fun and it gets kids playing music quickly.  It keeps them engaged and wanting to come back for more.  
  • The "game" like components that draw kids in.  There's a library where you can listen to tunes you've created, practice extra songs, and enjoy the classics.  There are games to help develop everything from your listening skills to your timing and tempo talents.  There's an improv "lab" where you learn to compose your own notes with or without the backdrop of great classics.
  • The focus on improvisation and the constant encouragement to compose your own tunes.  It's not just about learning to play existing pieces, but also about the development of your own creative genius.
  • The extra resources that come with the software.  It's not simply a computer program, it's a well thought out curriculum and includes additional study tools and handouts.  You can see some of them at the Adventus blog, here.
  • How easy this program is for parents to oversee.  It remembers what levels you have completed, and lets you know when you can move to the next level.  While practicing you can't "move forward" in practice, or a song, until you get it right.  You get warned with a "careful" if you aren't hitting the right notes and at the right time and for the right length of time.  It's all built right in!  That being said the company does recommend that parents take time, at least weekly, to watch their children play and offer encouragement and enthusiasm for what is being learned!
  • I love that this program helps reinforce the quality of perseverance and the rewards of consistent practice.  Piano skills don't develop overnight, but the extra "fun" that Adventus provides makes it easier for kids to be consistent.  The fun doesn't mean it's a light weight program though - I have been impressed with the breadth and scope.
  • The flexibility to use this program many ways.  Use it as a fun supplement to existing lessons.  Use it in a hands off way as a tool to get the kids playing the piano.  Use it in a more structured way, with additional parent guides you can purchase, to offer a complete and quality music education for your kids.  Or do a combination of those as time permits and interest calls!

The $10.95/month subscription gives you access to all of the different product offerings Adventus has.  You will download the program software to your computer (Piano Suite requires Windows and Children's Music Journey can work with both Windows and Mac), and then put in your login and password to validate you have access to a active subscription. Then you're good to go!  We have had a few instances of program "hiccups", but computer reboots have solved those problems.  I'm not sure if the problem was in our use of the software or somewhere between the keyboard and the cable.

I really love this software!  I have been amazed at the progress Bentley has made, and how easily and happily he has taken to it.  I love it when the use of technology can add something new and valuable to an existing arena of instruction and I think this program is a great example of this.  Seeing the notes you're playing on the screen in front of you, with instant feedback, is awesome.  The visual cues that help you learn rhythm and timing are great!  If you have kids interested in piano and you want to get them started in an easy and painless way I'd defintely recommend checking out Adventus.  If YOU want to learn piano I'd recommend checking it out as well!

Even Lincoln endorses this program:

Still reading, and intrigued?  If you want to learn even more try checking out the Adventus channel on YouTube which features some great clips from the software.  Also be sure to check out other This Old Schoolhouse reviews of the Adventus software here.  Reviewers from This Old Schoolhouse have tried out not only all the different levels of the CMJ, but also different pieces of the Piano Suite Premiere package.  I'm off to read those particular reviews myself!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Sometimes the connection between your computer (Windows?) and the software will be cut off(cable being moved can easily cause this).

If you are in Children's Music Journey, and part way through your lesson, it may not be convenient to exit.

The quick solution is to power off and on the keyboard, wait a few seconds, and press F7.