Music Apps- ‘The Woodchuck Rhythm’

I came across this free app (by Marion Wood) when searching for some fun interactive rhythm games for younger drummers. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this app but it is a great find. It is available for iPad but not as an android app or for iPhone.

There are many positive points as well as some areas of improvement. I will summarise my findings as succinctly as possible.

+ Pros

  • This is a great app for young musicians aged 5-11 who need reinforcement of simple rhythms. Alternatively, an adult just starting out on music learning will find this game approachable although the app really is designed with children in mind.
  •  As an app for younger musicians, the interface is simple and quick to self-teach how to play.
  • The levels progress quickly, once achieved.
  • Everyday words with illustrations are used to match up to music notes to make pattern recognition easier. (Although we do not have woodchucks in the UK as far as I can find!)
  • You could apply the rhythms learnt to a musical instrument for further practise.
  • You can go back through the levels completed if you feel the difficulty increases too quickly and repeat the previous exercises.
  • You can skip ahead levels also (previewing what each window has) if the levels move too slowly for you.
  • On the alien game featured, you can speed up, slow down or replay to suit ability.
  • This is a really enjoyable app in my opinion. I found it hard to put down after a while, and it reinforces excellent rhythm teaching points.

– What it lacks

  • There are not many levels in this app so it really is a beginner’s rhythm tool. Depending on the user’s level of learning, some could find the simplicity of the rhythms “follow the” and “wood chuck” repetitive after being repeated again after each stage of progression (which cannot be skipped).
  • The sound effects are limited to seven (inc. spoken words) so variety of percussion instrument effects are not vast.
  • Saving/recording/storing patterns to return to/practise another time is lacking. This would have been an especially useful feature for users to play on instrument to reinforce rudiments. My only suggestion here is to take screen shots for later use.
  • Sometimes even when dragging an icon to its correct place it does not drag and drop easily so there is a bit of patience required when playing around with some patterns.
  • When rhythms are correct they are not accepted as such unless the note legs are ‘matched correctly’. In the app this means when a pitch is high, note legs are down, when a pitch is low, note legs are up. Personally, I don’t see a point in this considering most instruments’ higher pitch notes actually have legs down. (I think the designer just wanted to get across that rhythms are the same no matter if the notes’ legs are drawn up or down which is a true point.)

Other notes:

Although there are just 7 different rhythms to learn here, for a free app I don’t think this is something can be complained about! I would be prepared to pay a few quid for its use.

Users can ‘move on’ even if they have not used all the necessary rhythms for the patterns in the jigsaw mode so there is  room for going beyond a level of completion (although on the plus side, boredom may not set in as quick if one pattern is tricky).

I would recommend having this app for exploring simple rhythms with children. There are plenty of features for free!

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