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Music on: Electronic Keyboard - DSiWare App Review

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Music on: Electronic Keyboard

DSiWare | Abylight | 1 Player | Out Now | 200 Nintendo Points
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27th June 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

To everyone who has a background in the world of music, listen up. Abylight is developing a set of instrument-based games exclusively for DSiWare that will surely appeal to you. The first release is entitled "Music on: Electronic Keyboard", and Abylight hopes to follow up with additional releases in the near future. But before they get ahead of themselves, it would be wise to first consider how accessible their first application really is. 

    Although it may not seem so at first, the interface is quite simple in the way everything is laid out. The organization is easy to follow and once you understand alternate ways of accessing certain functions, you'll have less trouble making use of these in the middle of a composition. But if you do run into any problems, you can tap the SELECT button at any time to pull up the Help manual further insight.

    The entire application is set up in such a way that you'll be paying attention to both the bottom and the top screen. Under its default setting, the top screen displays extras such as pitch and tempo, while the bottom screen contains more pertinent info like the keys themselves. The screens can be switched simply by tapping the designated icon located in the top-right corner of the touch screen.

    Now in terms of instruments, you're not only able to make use of multiple types of Pianos. There's also woodwind instruments such as Flutes, stringed instruments such as guitars, and even less-common devices such as the Accordion. There are 5 numbered slots where you can assign a different instrument to each of them. This makes it for easy, single-tap access while you're in the middle of a song.

    You have the ability to choose from a limited selection of themed tracks. These will act as background themes or riffs that will play as you input key combinations. Reggae, Samba, and Polka are just some of the options you have to choose from. Each of these have 4 different variations that you can change simply by pressing one of the ABYX buttons. If you want to change the variation while a specific track is playing, it'll transition at the appropriate time when the next measure hits.

    If desired, you have the option to isolate the treble or bass clef or mute the background audio entirely. And, in addition to changing the tempo, the application also comes equipped with a built-in metronome. It's simple, yes, but if you were thinking of purchasing the 'Nintendo DSi Metronome' application, likely the practical usefulness of that release will decrease in your mind. Nevertheless, it's great that they included this function as the package can be seen as containing even more value.

You can adjust various aspects that pertain to the keyboard itself to suit your needs. For one, the pitch can be increased or decreased as desired, simply by pressing the "+" and "-" icons under the Keyboard menu. The setup of the keyboard can be changed so that the first key begins with F as opposed to C, perhaps making things even easier for you. There's also an option where you can adjust the Modulation of a given key, either by tapping the relevant icon or temporarily activating it using the L/R trigger. When it's activated, you can slide the stylus left and right while having a key held down to produce a cool effect. In fact, if you move the stylus back and forth, the noise produced may unintentionally resemble middle-eastern instruments, perhaps giving your piece more flair.

    Additionally, chords can be used interchangeably to make your composition sound a certain way. These can be activated by tapping the arrows on the top, or, rather than switching screens in the middle of a song, you can use the D-Pad for easier access. Although all of the chords are defaulted to the Major designation, you can assign your own chord functions by changing them to 'Min' for Minor, or even 'Aug' for Augmented. This feature, too, has been designed well, with the player in mind.

    There's one more function that deserves special mention, and that's the ability to save your creations. Sure it seems obvious but after my experiences with the Electroplankton releases, I appreciated this even more than I otherwise would have. You can record and save up to 8 different creations, and you can load them up and use playback to listen to or even enhance them by applying an additional instrument. Unfortunately, you can't name your files, and you don't have the ability to export your creations to an SD Card or another external source. I sincerely hope Abylight looks into exporting creations for future releases, as it's something I'm sure would make these releases even more appealing to the masses.

    Further adding to the list of things you can't do, players are unable to record multiple segments and string them together. This would've been great for those who are trying to learn or master songs gradually, a few measures at a time. I was somewhat surprised by the fact that there were no labels for the keys as well. I think this would've been of great benefit so as to make this application more user-friendly. They could've gone even further and allowed players the ability to isolate specific labels, perhaps with a specific colour. This way, it would be easier to memorize key combinations for those who are trying to work at learning how to play a song from a sheet of music.

    For only $2, I think this is a great pick-up-and-go application for your DSi. It's an easy recommendation for lovers of Pianos and Keyboards. There's a good number of different functions to toy with and although certain areas could definitely be improved upon, I can see this is a good start to what could become a successful set of apps for the service.

22/30 - Good

Functionality 7/10 - Contains a good number of helpful features, lacks in certain areas such as exporting, can save up to 8 of your creations
Presentation 7/10 - Simple interface, lots of buttons to use but it's all laid out in a user-friendly manner
Value 4/5 - Reasonable asking price, includes a built-in metronome, good number of things to toy around with, composition-enhancing capabilities
Lasting Appeal 4/5 - Something that you can take out on the fly, those with a music background will see this to be more useful than others

Equivalent to a score of 73% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Music on: Electronic Keyboard
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