Sometimes simple is best.
These days we have so much technology at our disposal and it is always tempting to look for tools that are complex and multi-use because we feel the more they offer, the more useful they should be. But sometimes we are just making things harder for ourselves. It’s like trying to work out all the complexities of a smart phone, when all we really want to do is make a telephone call.
Flashnote Derby is an app that solves a single problem and solves it simply.
Learning notes is a necessary evil with playing any instrument, and they are best learnt with repetition, including drilling. Flashnote Derby is fun and straightforward and will help a student to increase their speed of note recognition.
From a teacher’s point of view, this app works well because it is totally customisable. You simply select the notes you want the student to drill with the range being as small as one note and as large as thirty-four. Most other note-recognition apps only allow you to select a range of pre-determined notes.
The simple interface is a horse race, with your horse moving according to how well you are identifying the notes and it is really easy to set up. Go to the settings screen (the icon has a spanner and screw driver) and tap on the notes you wish to practise. Then it’s off to the races!
There are a few options for how you select your answer:
- Letter names
- Keyboard with letter names
- Keyboard without letter names
For beginners, I prefer to use the keyboard. They are usually starting to learn treble clef notes at middle C, so find it confusing to have the A and B showing before the C. The keyboard starts at C and is more familiar to them. As an added bonus, it is then also reinforcing their keyboard recognition skills, not just note names.
Identifying notes correctly will move your jockey and horse ahead of their competitor; each time you answer correctly, he moves ahead a little bit more. If you can’t answer correctly or take too long, your opponent will move forward and you may lose the race.
The difficulty can be increased by adding more notes and/or speeding up the race. The speed is determined by whether you choose to walk, trot, cantor or gallop during your race. Before you know it, you’re an expert at naming the notes of the treble clef, the bass clef, or both.
By starting with an easy race, beginners are likely to win; this then gives them the confidence to want to play more and new notes can be added gradually as they learn them in their method book.
There is also a small series of tutorial videos that can be accessed by tapping on the lightbulb icon at the bottom of the settings page. These will teach you the basics about the notes and where they are placed on the staff.
The soundtrack is a questionable aspect and can go either way… some students find the sounds of the crowd cheering and clapping faster and faster quite annoying (as do I) while others feel it urges them on.
In summary, it is a concise app that does exactly what it promises, in an easy-to-navigate way. All my students have loved using it.
The app is available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android phones and tablets and Kindle Fire tablets and can be found here in the App Store.
If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.