App Review – Apps for Kids – My First Orchestra App
App review – Naxos Digital’s “My First Orchestra App”
Solid educational value for younger children.
This app review takes a look at My First Orchestra App, an iPad app targeted at children ages 4 and up.
The app presents an overview of all the instruments of the orchestra. It is narrated by a green troll named Tormod. There is a sort of mission in the app to help Tormod find his way home to the mountains but it is not particularly prominent.
The application is controlled from the Home screen, which presents a view of the orchestra. The user can click on each instrumental section, and is then presented with an introduction to and information on the given instrument and/or section.
There are a few good things about this app. Firstly, the excerpts are consistently good and interesting. Naxos Digital made some interesting and unusual choices in the solo highlights, and also uses things like woodwind quintet excerpts and brass sectional excerpts that you don’t hear everywhere. Beside the excerpts are little drawings of the composer in question, which, when clicked, usually say something of interest or amusement. The majority of the text on the instrument pages can be read out by clicking on it, which is useful for children learning to read. Tormod as a character has some funny moments (such as when he questions whether he’s a percussion instrument because his head makes a particular sound when struck). The information provided on each instrument is solid, factual and again, presented in an amusing and engaging way. Looking at “The String Family” page, there are lots of clickable drawings including a horse and a frog which provoked a smile even from this slightly jaded adult. 🙂 Navigation of the app is clear; navigation of the individual instrument sections isn’t super-clear, but it does encourage exploration, which I think adds to the fun.
Now this app review will take a look at three not-so-good things about the app. Firstly, as an adult, I feel that the age target is somewhat muddled. The illustration style is a bit old-school. Tormod is a fairly irritating sing-song type of speaker, although thankfully he doesn’t need to talk that much. But the written text is quite dense. I wonder whether younger users might be put off by the text density, and slightly older ones put off by Tormod and the illustration style. Secondly, I experienced inconsistent audio – I’d play one section, then another, and on the third, the animation would play with no audio. Returning to Home and playing one of the orchestral excerpts remedied this issue. Finally, there is mention in the app store writeup of “A full album of music with over 40 different pieces featured throughout the app, in excellent recordings.” Not only is this nonexistent, but the link embedded in the app Extras to the iTunes store fails to take you to a relevant screen. Clearly the issues around the recording are easy to remedy and hopefully will be taken care of in an update.
In addition to the Orchestra introduction, the app has a set of simple exercises involving instrument and section identification and conducting.
To conclude this app review, I would recommend the app for ages 4-6 and it is certainly well worth the £2.99 price. There is a lot of interesting and well presented information and music in it and it is a solid introduction to the instruments of the orchestra. There are some issues, however, as outlined above, which is why it doesn’t get a higher star rating.