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abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz Review

Posted by Nick Papageorge on June 22nd, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Yes, the name of the app I'm reviewing today is the entire alphabet. From this point on, I'll refer to it as abcdefg for the sake of my fingers.

I stumbled across this app thanks to the title, it initially seemed like a unique way to learn the alphabet and practice word sounds, but I soon found it was that plus a lot more and it turned into a favorite of mine and my daughters very quickly.

Upon opening abcdefg and hitting play, you're presented with a simple and easy to access play field. The alphabet is split into 2 halves, one on each side, running lengthwise on your device. At the top 4 different words: "Gravity", "Crickets", "Vehicles" and "Birds". At the bottom are 5 buttons, "Recycle", "Arrow", "Bomb", "Camera" and "Info". Honestly, this is all that you need to know to get started.

Simply take a letter from either side and drag it into the middle of the screen. When you let go, the letter will go off on its merry way. When my daughters first grabbed it, they dragged a few letters and nothing happened. Once the letters hit the edge of the screen, everything changed.

With gravity (the option selected by default), the letters simply move with your device. Each time the letters hit an edge, the "sound" of the letter is played.

Vehicles zip around the screen, making sounds as they move. Crickets skitter and make sounds when they group up together. Birds is the most diverse, with varied sound, tempo and pitch depending on where/how it's placed.

As each letter moves, it leaves a unique trail behind it, making a visual representation of the soundscape you, I mean your kids, are creating and it's easy to stop a single letter, group of letters, erase the whole picture or take a snapshot of the insanity using the buttons below.

People might dismiss abcdefg, but if you look closer at what the app actually provides, I think you'll find that it's an invaluable tool for kids. In the app, you're a conductor of sound, and you learn concepts like pitch and tempo. You also get a quick into to physics, seeing how the different letters move and interact with each other, things you don't often see in "kid" apps these days.

While abcdefg is no replacement for music lessons, it allows children to draw outside the lines of music and just perform these strange experimental mini-concerts with letters. Some of the things I've heard my daughters create simply blow my mind. They have to experiment in combining sounds together, finding ones that match in tone, pitch, whatever to create an appealing and melodic sound. They also end up with these crazy pictures of letters strewn everywhere. They get to interact with art in a way that I've never really seen, at least not in this medium.

I can honestly say that I think any kid would benefit from putting their hands on abcdefg, even if it's just to increase familiarity with the alphabet and word sounds. Beyond that, it's an introduction to physics and a way for kids to create experimental soundscapes, by simply placing letters on a screen, turning that into honest to goodness music.

For the price and for the features offered, abcdefg is much more than a simple novelty. It's an app that I recommend for kids and adults of any age. It's never too early (or too late!) to make crazy music and pictures. I look back in regret, wishing that I'd have had something even close to this as a kid, it might have gotten me that much more interested in creating and experimenting with music and sound.

Piano Ball App Review

Posted by Sharon Cohen on June 14th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

The app Piano Ball is a great way to begin to bring colors and sounds into your babies’ and toddlers’ lives, especially since they can make their own music with just a simple swipe or tap of their little hand. Young children are not very coordinated at this young age, so something as simple to use as this app, is just the key for little ones. It’s an easy way to develop motor skills. Older babies can just shake the iPhone or iPod, hear an array of musical notes and see a shower of stars. Then a random musical picture pops up on the page and its word repeated, “drum.”

You can introduce your young ones to new sounds by letting them listen to you playing the drums, horn, piano or xylophone. As they get older, you can tell them the names of these instruments. (I remember as a kid how I thought there were only two “X” words in the alphabet: X-ray and xylophone.)

The app has a variety of choices. First, there are four different balls: Color Ball, Tune Ball, Rainbow Ball and Instrument Ball. The piano keyboard is transformed into different colored pallets with the Color Ball, so the young musicians can learn their colors. With the Tune Ball, older children can play five popular songs by following the lit-up stars—and then get a rousing applause for their efforts. Then the song is played again for listening. More songs are to come in the future.

Or, if your children want to be more creative, they can play their own songs as the stars swirl around the keys. They can also change instruments, to the jazzy drum for example, and make up a song. If parents want to keep toddlers from switching from one mode to another every two seconds, there is a feature lock. This way, the child can be focused for what? About three minutes, which is par for a two-year-old. The Rainbow Ball turns the keyboard multihued. The tiny little arrow in the back left corner brings to back to the menu.

Of course, this app actually does not teach music. There are no notes, scales or musical letters. However, it’s a fun way to stimulate your child’s auditory and visual senses. The app says it’s for players nine months to five years of age. Think more along the lines of the younger ages. With all the other musical apps available, your five-year-old will be ready for something more challenging.