Sunday, March 24, 2013

TOS Review: Adventus

If you happen to be my friend on Facebook, you have recently seen me posting photos of the kids taking piano lessons at home.  Or, you may have read my status updates about how I just took a piano my pajamas.  Many of you have asked me how I managed to do that!!  Well, here is my answer :).

We were recently asked to review a program called Adventus.  Adventus is a web-based software designed to teach piano lessons at home!  Using a Midi-capable keyboard, you connect your keyboard to the computer and you can begin learning without leaving your home!

Adventus offers a number of different programs designed to teach children ages 4-18 how to play the piano, read music, write music, music appreciation, composer studies, and much more!

For the 4-10 year old student, Adventus has created Children's Music Journey.  There are three levels of Children's Music Journey, and children begin at either level 1 or 2, depending on their age.

Let me walk you through our lessons to give you a feel for this program.

First thing, is to set up a profile for each of your students.  You can use this program with multiple children, so I set up Level 1 for Charger and Level 2 for Mustang.

Charger's lesson began with an introduction from Ludwig Beethoven.  Okay, not really him, but a cartoon figure of him.  But, what a better way to learn how to play piano AND get a composer study at the same time??  

The lessons are very age appropriate and present music in a unique way.  He didn't start off with note names or treble clefs.  Instead, the program focuses on what a child can understand-high birds and low whales!  The notes above middle C are high bird notes (you can see the seagull in the photo).  The low notes are low whale notes (see the whale??).  When middle C gets introduced, he comes through as a man in a motor boat!  Genius I tell you!!

After their lesson-which lasts probably around 10 minutes (I actually didn't time it), the student can move on to one of the other activities.  They can practice their lesson with a sweet character named Miss Melody.  Or they can play games with the skills they have learned.

Here Charger is playing a game to catch the low whale notes!

The lessons were so easy to understand, that I went ahead and allowed Mini Cooper to start doing the lessons, too!  She is only 3 1/2 and is firmly understanding the information.  I sit and do the lesson with her, but I don't have to help very much.  I loved the other day when she said "I'm playing the piano like Mr. Beethoven."  So sweet!

I started Mustang on level 2, and she did quite well even though she had never had a piano lesson or even a music lesson-save for the 3 tin whistle lessons she had at our school co-op.  The first lesson of the 2nd level does a review of things learned in the first lesson to help catch a new student up, or remind a veteran student of what they learned.  

After the lessons, the student also has an option of going into a 'recording' room and recording a new song.  This is always Mustang's favorite part.  She likes to play LOUD and crazy songs using all the keys on the keyboard.  

Each of the levels of Children's Music Journey contains about 30 lessons, which can be advanced through at the child's pace.  

In addition to the computer lessons, there are also recommended lessons, activities, and printables in the MusicIQ Homeschool Manuals.  These lessons provide lots of great ways to help children remember what their 'teachers' have taught them.

Doing 1-2 practice sessions per week, Mustang has advanced through 5 levels of the program, while Charger has mastered 4.  Mini Cooper has just done 2 1/2. I say half, because even though she got through the 3rd lesson, I think she needs a bit more practice before I let her move on to the next lesson.  

According to the website, once they advance all the way through the 3 levels, they will have
  • Completed 95 interactive lessons taught by 18 famous composers!  These composers are:  Beethoven, Bach, Joplin, Mendelssohn, Villa-Lobos, Satie, Dvorak, Mozart, Beach, Tchaikovsky, Handel, Chopin, Scarlatti, Haydn, Bartok, Chaminade, Debussy, & Schumanm!!  (Even I don't know know who all of those composers are!)
  • Completed 95 practice sessions with Miss Melody
  • Played 150 learn to play songs and famous pieces
  • Played 20 games to reinforce the theory they have learned
  • In addition to playing as many unique songs in the recording room as they want!!

To use the Adventus software, you must have a Midi-capable keyboard and a midi adapter.  This means, it can be connected to your computer through a USB port.  You need Mr. Beethoven and Miss Melody to be able to 'hear' what you are playing so they can teach you :).  If you do not have a Midi-capable keyboard, Adventus sells two different ones.  The one in my photo is the M-Audio KeyRig 49.  We received a discount if we ordered it from Adventus for this review.  I think it works great!  It can only be used while hooked up to the computer, but it does well with the computer.

Once you have a keyboard, you have a couple of different subscription options. 

You can buy the entire 3 volume set of Children's Music Journey plus a keyboard and the MusicIQ HomeSchool Lesson Plans for $309.95.  But, if you already own a keyboard and want to purchase just one level, it runs $89.95 with the MusicIQ HomesSchool Lesson plans, and $69.95 without the lesson plans.  You can also purchase a monthly online subscription to all the software for $10.95 per month (does not include the lesson plans, they are sold seperatly).  You can view all the different pricing options in the Curriculum Store.  They really do have a plan for any budget.

Now, just in case you forgot about my piano lessons, let me assure you I have not been practicing my high bird notes and low whale notes at 1 in the morning!!

We also tried out the lessons available for older students....the ones that are 10-18...or in my case 30 somethings.  The Program is called Piano Suite and it is a totally different format then the Children's Music Journey.  It is a much more traditional type lesson, with theory and music reading from the very start.  It seems to believe you have some music knowledge going in-but very little.  

Piano Suite is broken down into 6 different areas:  
  • Piano Player
  • Library
  • Theory Thinker
  • Composers Corner
  • Games
  • History Happens  

While I dabbled a little in the other areas, I spent most of my time over at the Theory Thinker.  I was in band for a number of years as well as choir and have a pretty good handle on music reading and theory.  It is the actual piano playing I need work on.  But, I wanted to go through the lessons and see if I need a refresher on anything.  

I could have just wondered over to the Piano Player or Library, but the Theory Thinker introduces songs a few at a time, in order of difficulty.  This allowed me to master one song before choosing one above my ability.  The Piano Player allows you to choose the song you want, and it does tell you on the side the level of  ability.

Because I know theory quite well, I was very thankful for the ability to quickly move past a lesson if I didn't need to hear it, and move right on to the music practicing portion or the next theory lesson. The lessons were super easy to understand and you could replay anything you didn't understand.   

Piano Suite is certainly geared toward an older student, in that, there aren't a lot of fun frills like the Children's Music Journey.  So, I would consider that when choosing which music program to go with if you have 10 year old.  Piano Suite does have a few games, but I didn't find them all that fun.  I don't think they were aimed at me, however, so please checkout some of the other reviews to see what the teenagers thought of the games.  

Piano Suite and the accompanying lesson plans retail for $109.95.  It is also part of the monthly subscription package-which is awesome if you have more then one level of student wanting to play at the same time!!

I even tried out the Ear Training Coach program that comes after Piano Suite, but it was very obvious I wasn't at that level yet!!  

Really, one of my most appreciated parts is that I could practice playing Mary had a Little Lamb and no one had to know that this 30 something mom couldn't play anything harder then that!  Well, now YOU know, but you still didn't hear me!  I also didn't have to find a babysitter or drive all the way to town.

I know that Adventus programs require a little financial investment.  But, really, if you compare them to the cost of a live piano teacher. Not to mention the cost of gas (especially if you live in the country like me) then it's really not expensive at all!  I mean, $90.00 (for the Children's Music Journey individual levels) and you get piano lessons for as long as you need that level and you can reuse it with the next child???  A lot more affordable in that light!

If you can't tell by now, we really love Adventus!  I have been trying not to gush this entire review, but it may have come out anyways.  I have been wanting to have the children learn to play piano, but I really didn't know how it would logistically work.  Adventus has solved that problem in ways I couldn't have imagined!  

The review we are doing is a 12 month review of the subscription, so next year when we no longer have access, I already intend to purchase the programs permanently.  How's that for a recommendation? :)

If you already have a Midi-capable keyboard, I would recommend starting with the monthly subscription for at least 1 month to get a feel for which level your students need and just verify that Adventus will be a good fit for your family.  If you don't have a keyboard, we like the one we purchased from Adventus and I would recommend it, so one of the packages that includes a keyboard may be the place to start for you.  

I am one of many crew members that tried out Adventus, so be sure to check out the other crew reviews and see what they thought!

Thank you so much for stopping by!!

God Bless,

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