Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: MusIQ Homeschool


I have a confession. My first piano teacher fired me. Isn’t that awful? I have vague memories of a stern lady with fluffy hair. She gave lessons in a musty room filled with stacks of music and an odd rodent or two.  I was fascinated with the piano. Sadly, I wasn’t an ideal student for Ms. Fluffy Hair. Instead of concentrating on the notes in front of me, I would mimic what I heard her playing. Which is what I now understand to be playing by ear!! I was only 7. Man. Talk about a harsh way to begin my formal music training. Thankfully, I come from a long line of musicians who appreciate being able to play by ear. I did learn to play the piano properly (more or less) and even taught music at an elementary school. Now admittedly vocal music is more my bag, but I do know my way around the 88 keys.
But here is the sad truth. My own son has never benefited from my own formal music training. He has spent hours strumming (at least that what we’re calling it) his guitar, but he wouldn’t know the difference between a quarter note and a full rest. Maybe because of my own personal early piano experiences I have been quite careful not to become piano teacher/psycho mom. This is why I was beyond thrilled to be able to review the MusIQ Homeschool program from Adventus.

What We Received (And How It Works)


The MusIQ Homeschool program (intended for ages 4-18+} is completely computer based. I received downloads of Children’s Music Journey Volume 1-3, Piano Suite Premier and Ear Training 1 & 2, 3 & 4.  A Midi-compatible keyboard is required. You will need to have a system that supports Windows 7/Vista/XP/2000 Macintosh OS X. I recently purchased a laptop with Windows 8 (that’s a whole other story in itself) and had no trouble downloading and installing the programs.
The Children’s Music Journey 1-3 is for ages 4-10 (I used it for Josiah...more on that in a moment).
The Student starts a lesson with a brief snippet of a famous musical composition. I was thrilled beyond reason (and I’m not kidding) that classical music was such a big part of this program. The animated “Teacher” is a famous composer (the first guy out of the gate is Beethoven). The lesson isn’t long (about 5 minutes) and moves along very nicely. For example, the first lesson starts with introducing the student with both sides of the keyboard.

In this lesson, the high notes are called bird notes and the low notes are called whale notes. The student practices along with the composer with immediate feedback. When an incorrect “note” is hit, the Composer simply says, “Careful.” If you are musically trained at all you might be tempted to rush your student along. But I caution against that. I found it to be a great speed for all kinds of learners. Often we push too much. The student becomes discouraged.
After the lesson with the Composer the student proceeds to the Practice Room with Miss Melody. Miss Melody reinforces what the student has just learned and builds upon it. Miss Melody teaches theory, hand position, music composition and more.
There are other “rooms” to visit within each lesson. The Game Room reinforces the lesson with fun interactive games. I liked that games only opened up after the student learned a particular lesson. The Library Room allows the student to explore music by famous composers and the Improvisation Room allows the student to record their own music.
One of Josiah's favorite games from the Game Room
Piano Suite Premier is intended for ages 10+. I’ve decided that since I am most certainly 10+ that I am going to use it to give myself some refresher training!
The Piano Suite is more advanced. It begins with some history of the piano and moves on to more music theory. The Piano Player is where the student can play songs. The Theory Thinker is the lesson section and there are 6 different levels to choose from. Lots of visuals with this one! In History Happens the student learns about composers, etc. The Composer Corner is exactly what it sounds like. The student can write their own music. There are also Games to reinforce a variety of Music Theory.
The Ear Training Coach program is pretty awesome. It’s also tough.  It allows the student to practice rhythm, melody, intervals and sight reading. Josiah won’t be ready for this for quite some time, yet. I plain on honing those site reading skills.
I also received PDF lesson plans. They contained review ideas, lesson helps and printable worksheets. In the appendix of each level there are printable alphabet cards and more.  There is so much here. I couldn’t even begin to review it all. But I have loved what we have used so far. (I believe these are only available with the software purchase and not the monthly access).
Considering that any sort of music lessons can be pretty pricey, MusIQ Homeschool is pretty doable. You can go two different ways.

Monthly Access (access to all programs) – 10.95

Software Purchase:
Children’s Music Journey (bundled + MIDI keyboard) – 279.80 or individual levels – 69.95.
Piano Suite – with MIDI – 189.98
Ear Training Coach – 34.95

How We Used It

I started Josiah with the Children’s Music Journey 1. He is 11 and older than the suggested ages (4-10), but considering he has had no formal music training, I decided that he would do better with starting from scratch. He is dyslexic and I didn't want to overwhelm him.
It turned out to be a good move. He really loved it. I initially had some trouble with my MIDI keyboard setup. I am “MIDI Ignorant.” But the MusIQ Homeschool software itself was easy to navigate and after we found our groove it was a snap. I also had technical difficulties with my laptop that had nothing to do with the software. In fact, my laptop lost its mind (after we had started using the program) and I now have a new laptop. Which wasn’t in the budget! But that is neither here or there. I installed the program again on both my new laptop and my husband’s desktop. There weren’t any issues whatsoever. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated a “no issue install!”

Josiah went through approximately 2 lessons a week. He would cover a new lesson and the days in between he would practice and play the games associated with that lesson. I loved he was able to hear classical music throughout his lesson. I also loved that the lesson was so interactive!
A shot of the Improvisation Room
I really feel that MusIQ Homeschool is a perfect solution for bringing music education into the home. I know it’s been the perfect solution for us. I can’t wait to dig into it some more! I
I want to share with you just a brief video of one of his lessons. I wish I would have panned over for you to see what the screen looked like. But I think you can get a good idea about what it’s all about. No rodents and dusty music piles involved! Though I can't promise I haven't gone the route of the "Fuzzy Hair," myself. Happy Playing!


You can read more reviews at the TOS Review Crew Blog.

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