Bottom line: Worth a look if you want to teach your child about the specific orchestral instruments, but it needs more interaction to really engage the target age-level.
The premise behind Meet the Orchestra is to teach children the names, appearance, and sounds of orchestral instruments in a fun and interactive environment. According to the iTunes description, it also promises to be “the best introduction to classical music for your kids.”
The app contains two sections – learning and quizzes. In the learning part, the child is introduced to the main components of an orchestra – strings, woodwind, brass, percussion and piano – as well as some of the instruments in each of those sections. The child is shown what each instrument looks like and can discover what it sounds like by listening to samples of classical music which, according to the developer, were recorded in a professional studio by musicians of national symphonic orchestras.
The quiz section tests the child’s ability to recognize instruments by sight and sound. There are four quizzes – find an instrument by appearance, find an instrument by its sound, identify the instruments in the sequence they are played, and a match-by-pairs game.
The graphics in the app are crisp and high quality and both the sound and the music selection are good. There are however a few things that I would suggest the developer needs to reconsider:
* The app takes about 15 seconds to load, I’m not sure why and at first I assumed the app had crashed.
* In the learning section, it takes four touches to get to an individual instrument, something which could be accomplished in one tap. Once there, all the child sees is a picture of the instrument and they can listen to music being played on it. There is no interactivity at this point; the child is simply passively listening to musical excerpts.
This section could be made a lot more engaging for children by (1) Including information about the music being played – at the very least, identify the name of the piece and its composer, (2) Having pop up information with facts about the instrument – how is it made, for example, and/or (3) including videos showing how the instrument is played.
* Include information on how the instrument is incorporated into an orchestra. Is there only one in an orchestra (e.g. piano) or many (e.g. violin)? Does it have a dedicated musician playing it (e.g. flute) or does the same person play more than one instrument (e.g. timpani)? What is the role of a conductor?
* Include an activity for the child to enjoy while they are listening to the music – for example, they could complete a puzzle of the instrument they are learning about, draw the instrument, watch some animation inspired by the music (think Fantasia on a smaller scale) or even ‘play’ the music by touching the screen.
The quiz section of the app is more interactive and I like that the quizzes are progressively more challenging. However, I did feel that this section would best be suited to children who are already familiar with these instruments. For example, the “Define Order” quiz requires you to identify a series of instruments, in sequence, by sound only – this is pretty challenging for an app that is supposedly an “introduction” to classical music.
In my opinion, the best introduction to classical music is still to simply listen to it. This app includes some lovely sounding musical snippets but provides no way of finding out even the names of the pieces being played.
If the visual and interactive elements of the medium were utilized more effectively then the app could be used to trigger a deeper interest in classical music. As it stands, the app is only worth considering if you are looking for a way to teach children or students the look and sound of individual orchestral instruments.
If you would like to purchase Meet The Orchestra please use the links provided. The cost is the same, but Smart Apps receives a small percentage. Thanks for your support!
This review was written by Deanne Shoyer who is a big fan of Russian ballet and Italian opera. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.