Toc and Roll - minimúsica-Sones

TocAndRollMinimusicaIOSApp.jpg

TitleToc and Roll

Developer:  minimúsica-Sones

Compatibility: iPad / iPhone / iPod touch // iOS 5.1.1

Size: 165 MB

Description:   I'm a big fan of Apple's Garageband app as a kid-friendly musical app -- tapping on the drum set or other "instruments" can produce a surprisingly interactive effect for something that is, well, tapping on a glass screen.  But it can be an incredibly complex experience, and if a kid were trying to put together an actual song, the sheer number of choices would probably him or her.

That's where Toc and Roll comes in.  Simply put, this is the app kids graduate to after getting bored with Toca Band but before they're ready to really create music in Garageband.  The app was developed by the much-beloved Barcelona-based minimusica, and it allows you the user to put together tracks designed to fit together harmonically.

There are 10 types of tracks -- piano, glockenspiel, guitar, voice (you can record those tracks), violin, drums, saxophone, trumpet, bass, and percussion -- and each of those tracks has well more than a dozen different modular units that are probably a couple measures long.  The user can tweak each instrument by changing the volume and providing effects (vocoder, delay, and reverb) and changing the overall tone of the song by changing the tempo.

You can save and title the songs.  It also offers you the option of saving your songs, but it requires a YouTube account.  (There is probably a technical reason, and possibly business reasons, but why oh why can't these types of programs just create an mp3 file?)  That's a minor complaint, and I guess my only other complaint is not minor -- that is, to say, there's no option for a minor-chord song.  The song is essentially a major-chord song, and I wish there was another option for a sad (i.e., minor-chord) song.  (I also wish they would offer an 80 bpm tempo in addition to the 100, 120, and 140 beats per minute tempos.)

But those are pretty insignificant complaints.  For kids with a musical bent, this is a playground well worth your money and their time.

Age Range: 5 through 9

Price: $1.99

LinkiTunes

 

Dr. Seuss Band - Oceanhouse Media

Title: Dr. Seuss Band

DeveloperOceanhouse Media

Compatibility: iPad / iPhone / iPod touch // iOS 3.2

Size: 42.9 MB

Description:   If this were 5 years ago, we could call this "Baby's First Rock Band" or "Baby's First Tap Tap [Whatever]" and lots of people would recognize the reference to the games that gave players points for tapping correct "notes" in time with the song.

This app is one of the many Seussian apps from Oceanhouse but doesn't really use the famous Seuss words or drawings (the songs are totally made up to Seuss' book titles).  The user gets to customize wonderfully goofy instruments (think trumpets with all sorts of crazy bagpipe-like attachments) and, once set, taps notes that  correlate to a C major scale in time with the lighted pulses coming down from the top of the screen.

You can change the difficulty level -- the harder the difficulty, the more notes you need to tap.  You can select a number of different songs, but some instruments and some songs are locked -- you need to achieve a high-enough score to unlock them (or you can just be lazy and pay via an in-app purchase).

While the app offers free play, we've never bothered to try it -- aside from the goofy sound and bright colors, there's no advantage to this over, say, Garageband (which we also have installed).  Also, until I was prepping this review I hadn't realized that you could also play this on an iPhone or iPod touch.  I have no idea why you'd ever want to do that on such a (comparatively) tiny screen.

As musical games go, this is reasonably diverting.  Once mastered, it probably won't hold much allure, but I think it could take your kids a long time to do that...

Age Range: 2 through 7

Price: $0.99 (plus in-app purchases -- $7.99 unlocks everything)

LinkiTunes

The Disappointing Pancake - Mibblio / Lisa Loeb

TitleThe Disappointing Pancake

Developer:  Mibblio / Lisa Loeb

Compatibility: iPad // iOS 5.1

Size: 91.7 MB

Description:   Another month, another stand-alone Mibblio app.  This one features "The Disappointing Pancake " from occasional kids' musician and author Loeb.  The song, like the titular pancake, has bounced around for awhile -- it originally appeared on Loeb's first solo kids album, 2008's Camp Lisa (with Steve Martin on banjo!).  As with other Mibblio apps, the song plays while the user can add or remove different tracks (e.g., guitar, percussion, keyboards) from the recorded song while simultaneously being able to play melody and stringed/guitar instruments in harmonically compatible keys, not to mention percussion.  It basically lets kids (and adults) play along in ways that allow some creativity but also help make whatever comes out sonically sound decently.  (You can also pinch out to expand it to full screen if you just want to read and sing along.)

In addition, the songs are accompanied by illustrations that feature lyrics to those songs.  The result is a musical picture book over which the user has some small control.  Along with the song, which is one my favorites of Loeb's, I also enjoyed the retro illustrations of Brad Renner; his pancake looks very happy as he goes on his adventures in Loeb's story song, which is kind of the point, isn't it?

The price for the app, $0.99, is pretty cheap, the same price as if you'd buy it through the main Mibblio app if in fact you could do so -- which you can't at the moment (or at least I couldn't find it in my app).  [Ed.: The folks at Mibblio say it's now available in the main app, too.]  As with the rest of the Mibblio apps, it's well-done, and this is definitely one of the more appealing songs in the Mibblio library.  Fans of Loeb or the song will enjoy it, and it would make a fine selection if you want to explore the concept for the first time.

Age Range: 3 through 7

Price: $0.99

LinkiTunes

Note: I was provided a copy of this app for possible review.

Dropophone - Lullatone

Title: Dropophone

DeveloperLullatone / Hayashi Yosuke

Compatibility: iPad / iPhone / iPod Touch // iOS 3.1.3

Size: 1.2 MB

Description:  A simple looping program, but, as the page for the app says, "This app is super simple on purpose. Simple is magic!"  Select from 30 different tone/instrument combinations (that would be one for each of those drops in the screen grab above), and set them to a-looping.  The sound is both from 1964 and 2064, hypnotic and charming.  It's too bad you can't record your kids' (or your) creations, but it's a beautiful introduction to creating song loops.  (Read the original review here.)

Age Range: 2 through 8

Price: Free

LinkiTunes

Animal Alphabet Band - Mibblio / Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke

TitleAnimal Alphabet Band

Developer:  Mibblio / Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke

Compatibility: iPad // iOS 5.1

Size: 82.2 MB

Description:   One of these days I swear I'll review the main Mibblio app, but they keep releasing stand-alone versions of their "Mibblets," and I get distracted by the shiny new object.  This one features "Animal Alphabet" from Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke's second album Pleased To Meet You.  If your family's seen the fun video, this app will seem very familiar.  It'll also seem very familiar if you've used other Mibblio apps -- the song plays while the user can add or remove different tracks (e.g., guitar, percussion, keyboards) from the recorded song while simultaneously being able to play melody and stringed/guitar instruments in harmonically compatible keys, not to mention percussion.  It basically lets kids (and adults) play along in ways that allow some creativity but also help make whatever comes out sonically sound decently.  (You can also pinch out to expand it to full screen if you just want to read and sing along.)

In addition, the songs are accompanied by illustrations that feature lyrics to those songs.  The result is a musical picture book over which the user has some small control.  Since Wilde is a trained illustrator of his own books, album art, and videos, naturally his illustrations (based on the video) are present here as well.  Wilde does a good job of conveying personality to the variety of animals with a minimum of adornment.

The price for the app, $0.99, is pretty cheap, the same prices as if you'd buy it through the main Mibblio app.  It's well-done, of course, and if you have ever wanted to try a Mibblio app (or if you're a KWMC fan), this is certainly a worthwhile one to try.

Limited-time note: The song (not the app) is available for a limited time here.

Age Range: 3 through 6

Price: $0.99

LinkiTunes

Note: I was provided a copy of this app (via the main Mibblio app) for possible review.

Wonder Wheel - Mibblio / Dan Zanes

screen480x480.jpeg

TitleWonder Wheel

Developer:  Mibblio / Dan Zanes

Compatibility: iPad // iOS 5.1

Size: 88 MB

Description:   Another month, another Mibblio app.  This one features Dan Zanes' popular song "Wonder Wheel" from his 2001 album Family Dance.  The basic structure of the app is the same as with the other Mibblio apps -- the song plays while the user can add or remove different tracks (e.g., guitar, percussion, keyboards) from the recorded song while simultaneously being able to play melody and stringed/guitar instruments in harmonically compatible keys, not to mention percussion.  It basically lets kids (and adults) play along in ways that allow some creativity but also help make whatever comes out sonically sound decently.  (You can also pinch out to expand it to full screen if you just want to read and sing along.)  I'll admit that it feels a bit odd to use "fake" iPad instruments to play along with a DZ song...

In addition, the songs are accompanied by illustrations that feature lyrics to those songs.  The result is a musical picture book over which the user has some small control.  In the case of this app, the illustrator is Aldo Saaf AKA Donald Saaf, who's illustrated a number of Zanes' albums and books.  Maybe it's just because I've so long associated Saaf's illustrations with Zanes' music, but I can't picture anyone else doing the illustrations for this.  If you're familiar at all with Zanes' music, the illustrations will feel very familiar.

The price for the app, $0.99, is pretty cheap, though you're probably paying for just the app because you already have the song.  (I couldn't find the song available through the main Mibblio app.)  Another song converted well into an app by Mibblio -- families with younger DZ fans may find it worth the $0.99 to try it out...

Age Range: 3 through 7

Price: $0.99

LinkiTunes

Note: I was provided a copy of this app for possible review.

House Band - Jumping Pages

screen480x480.jpeg

TitleHouse Band

Developer:  Jumping Pages

Compatibility: iPad // iOS 4.3

Size: 42.9 MB

Description:  I have a lot of "crazy animated figures make music" apps on my iOS devices -- it's the occupational hazard of reviewing music-related iOS apps.  One of the funkiest in both sound and design is Jumping Pages' "House Band," a spinoff from their The House That Went on Strike app.  Much like Toca Band, you get the option of selecting various non-traditional "instruments" set to play loops that all fit with one another.  Unlike Toca Band, these loops were designed by Vernon Reid (whom parents of a certain age may remember from his band Living Colour).  They're funky, eclectic, and not necessarily related to the "instrument" selected (the bespectacled iron is a simple bass line).  These are loops that parents would enjoy every bit as much as the kids.

While the music is pretty cool, the user interface, while lovely (and every bit as funky and handmade as Reid's loops), is not totally intuitive (or at least, not as intuitive as Toca Boca's).  You can record the songs and e-mail them, but I'm still not entirely sure I've done it correctly.  (I wish the help screen had more written directions to go along with the pictures.)

In summary, I liked the sounds that Jumping Pages produced, probably more than any similar app -- I just wish it was easier to share those sounds with others.

Age Range: 3 through 9

Price: $1.99

Link: iTunes

Note: I was given a copy of the app for possible review.

Jazzy World Tour (Musical Journey for Kids) - The Melody Book

Transient

TitleJazzy World Tour

Developer:  The Melody Book

Compatibility: iPad / iPhone / iPod touch // iOS 5.1

Size: 115 MB

Description:  Part of The Melody Book's "Jazzy" series, which includes separate apps on the alphabet, numbers, and more general music education, this latest app uses music as the hook into learning about basic music, instruments, and culture of various countries around the world.  As of this writing, your child can (via the 2 kitten explorers) "visit" Brazil, Ireland, Spain, Egypt, Kenya, India, Japan, Australia, and the United States in the full-featured version.  Each country's portion of the app lets the user tap on various objects and learn more about them via written text, "play" country-specific music (only the U.S. gets jazz) or make country-specific animals make noise, or create animated photos and videos which can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, or added to Photos in a manner similar to many video/photo sharing apps for kids.

The interactivity in the "learn" and "play" could be better -- there isn't much room for creativity in the play section.  I wish there was an option to have the "learn" text read aloud, and your kids will probably have more fun just banging around on the drums or guitars in Garageband.  But there's a nice selection of countries to explore and the app itself is laid out in a well-organized manner that should be intuitive even to preschoolers.

The move to in-app purchases on the App Store does mean that you can download the free version, purchase a $0.99 country and see if the full version is for you.  The app isn't broad enough to be an atlas, or full-powered enough to be a creative engine, but if you're looking to start exposing your kids to other countries' sounds and culture, Jazzy World Tour may work for you.

Age Range: 4 through 8

Price: $4.99 / free w/ $0.99 per-country in-app purchase

LinkiTunes (full) / iTunes (free w/ in-app purchases)