Review: School of Rock


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Jul 5, 2008
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School of Rock (hypothetically based on the movie of the same name) is an app that tries to teach you the ins and outs of music. You progress through a series of "schools" - school of drums, school of guitar, school of keyboard, etc.

Each of the schools tries to teach you about the specifics of that type of instrument. In each school you progress through a series of excercises, first testing you ability to recognize various cords or note combinations, then testing your ability to play back a series of notes or music (or timing of your playing). Eventually you move on to answer some trivia questions. Going through these trials, you gather points based on your performance. As you accumulate enough points, you unlock the various other schools (you starts with drums, school of bass is the most advanced).

The program also features a "jam" session in the playground, where you can play along with songs inlcluded in the app, or songs from your iTunes library. Unfortunately, you can only play percussion instruments in the jam session - I would have liked to see the ability to play strings, keyboard, or the bass with them. One cool feature is that you can record your jam session, and then listen to it in playback.

I really liked the tutorial features in this game. Rather than just giving you instructions, each help section (for each school and for the playground) provides a short video detailing how to play in each category. I like the video tutorials, it really helps to clarify some things. However, the game assumes a lot of knowledge already. It throws you in the deep in when it comes to trying to recognize cords, for example. There is no information on how to recognize cords or distinguish them from one another, so it was mostly guess work. The trivia also seems rather random, without some knowledge of music and the music industry, I found myself guessing at most of the trivia questions.

It would be nice if you could have difficulty settings, allowing you to choose what difficulty or background you have in music. That way, you could really tailor the program to your ability.

Pros: Nice inclusion of the jam session, some of the instruments can be fun to play

Cons: Doesn't "teach" you enough, limited instruments in the jam session

All in all, I have mixed feelings about this app. I think it is well designed and can be fun, but it wasn't really what I was looking for. I was looking for something that would both teach me about music as well as enable me to play along and "jam" to some music. The app offers a little of both of those, but not to the degree that I was looking for. In addition, it seems to assume that you have a lot of prior knowledge about music, instruments, and the music industry. It was fun, but the best feature was the jam session (playing percussion along with my iTunes songs). It is currently only $.99, so it could be worth picking up if it sounds interesting. I give it three and a half out of five stars, mostly because I felt it was a little too difficult for my music background and I was guessing a lot during the various schools.

Rating scale:

* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.

Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating.

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