My First Classical Music App is a wonderfully well-written, engaging and educational app for iPad based on the book of the same name that introduces classical music to children in a way that is most thoughtful and memorable.
This terrific app is broken down into three sections. The first section - specifically “When? Where?” - is comprised of an overview of situations that kids have already been introduced to in music, such as in television or cinema, as well as areas dedicated to dancing, concert halls, weddings and the theatre.
The people section introduces young readers to notable composers from Handel to Stravinsky, and it is nice that modern American composer John Adams is also included.
The instrument section is terrific as it introduces many instruments to children, both with a written and narrated explanation, as well as allowing one to hear each selection played, really bringing these instruments to life.
The App opens to a table of contents that nicely introduces all that this app has to offer, making the selection of any of these topics quite easy.
This book is a great read, complete with excellent narration that is triggered by the tap of each paragraph. Multiple interactive elements exist per page that children and adults will delight in, such as areas that trigger musical samples that further demonstrate the section one is learning about. I really enjoy how Jon Williams, the composer for Harry Potter, is touched upon here - an excellent choice of composers that most kids are somewhat exposed to.
Within these pages, one has a chance to play musical samples and also to listen for a variety of things, such as the use of percussion instruments that add excitement to the musical piece being played, or within the music from the play Peer Gynt, as one is asked to focus on the instruments used to represent the quiet footsteps of the main character as he enters the castle, really asking children to listen intently and with purpose to important elements of the music being heard. I really enjoy watching my son’s face as he listened to these musical selections, as I can tell he is focused on what is being asked of him in terms of music appreciation.
I am impressed with the section that introduces famous composers and their music. This section delivers very interesting facts not only about the music these composers wrote, but about the composers themselves, such as Bach’s 20 children or Brahms's love of collecting toy soldiers. The moods of these composers are also touched upon, such as Beethoven being “grumpy” or the emotions of Tchaikovsky being more sad than happy, and it is fun that composers can be tapped to hear them speak, sometimes giving some insight into their personalities as well, such as a cheeky-sounding Mozart or a melancholy Tchaikovsky.
I also enjoy the section dedicated to instruments, broken up into a nice overview of instruments in general as well as the traditional groupings of the string, woodwind, brass, percussion and keyboard families, with each of these instruments going into further detail as well as into the specific characteristics of each instrument as they pertain to classical music. How the cello is used in the musical piece The Swan as the sound of the cello invokes the sound of the swan gliding across water or how the double bass can be used to produce sounds reminiscent of an elephant swinging its trunk as is found in the musical piece The Elephant are nicely demonstrated.
I especially appreciate how the woodwind, brass and percussion families of instruments are grouped together on the same page as one can play each instrument, really listening for the differences and similarities, as even as an adult, I enjoyed hearing what makes the clarinet and oboe different as well as the sounds of the various kinds of drums, teaching kids the different sounds of the snare drum vs. bongs or tom tom, as well as the wood sound of the xylophone compared to the metallic sounds of the glockenspiel.
The orchestra as a whole is also introduced, as well as the voice as an instrument - a fun and interesting inclusion.
My son and I really enjoy this application. The narration is excellent, and I could tell that my son was really listening to the information provided as he sat up in bed slightly as each classical music piece played, sometimes commenting on what he previously heard. This app, although recommended for children five and up, could easily be enjoyed by those younger as well. The pages included here are full of interesting tidbits, interactive questions about what is being heard, and other areas to tap. Children will delight in the various animals that are found demonstrating these included instruments as well as dancing and singing within this application.
Because each paragraph needs to be tapped individually, parents can choose how much per page to enjoy in any one sitting so that the youngest readers are not overwhelmed with information, making this a nice first app for toddlers.
It is worth noting that this app does a good job of adding a page of full details to the music tracks found within the app, something I wish other applications that use classic pieces of music would also commit to doing. The music and instrument effects incorporated throughout these pages sound excellent, and adults will enjoy having their children exposed to famous classical music pieces that kids will be captivated by, such as Mozart’s Magic Flute or Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf - selections that make classical music fun and accessible to young ears in a way that could benefit them for years to come.
Although I have laid out the contents of this app, I have no doubt that I have not fully done this app justice, as its greatness lies in the quality of the written text as much as in the music this app delivers. The writing here is thoughtful, full of whimsy and geared towards the minds of children, such as pointing out that Handel is a German composer, not related to a door handle, or the observation that Johannes Brahms looks like Santa but without the red coat or the ho-ho-hoing.
The details that are found on each page that made me smile are too numerous to count, and I have no doubt that children of all ages as well as adults will gain knowledge from the app as well as walking away appreciating classical music a little more than they did before exploring this application.
I did notice, however, that this app begins with the when and where of music, but not an explanation of what music is itself. This app is also missing an explanation of what the term “classical“ music really means, as opposed to the other styles of music could also be found within the places touched upon in this section, such as on TV. or in the movies.
Having said this, the info that is included is wonderfully and impressively written in a clear and clever way that will teach and affect children for a long time to come.