Australian-based Rising Software has entered the field of ear-training software with Auralia ($149). Auralia provides an interactive environment for learning ear-training skills and allows students to sing and perform rhythms that the software grades and evaluates.
Auralia's straightforward layout is easy to navigate. Twenty-six lessons are distributed among four main topics: Intervals and Scales, Chords, Rhythm, and Pitch and Melody. You access topics using the large buttons located below the Menu and Toolbar. Auralia calls those buttons topic groups; clicking on them reveals their respective lessons.
For example, select the Chords topic button, and nine lessons appear: Cadences, Chord Progressions, Jazz Chords, Chord Recognition, Advanced Chord Progressions, Jazz Chord Singing, Chord Singing, Cluster Chords, and Jazz Chord Progressions. Click on one of the lessons, and the drill begins. The Toolbar controls volume and tempo, changes exercise difficulty level, and provides a score for the drill.
A quick tour through one of the lessons gives an idea of what being an Auralia student is like. I began with the topic group Intervals and Scales and then selected Interval Singing, one of the group's seven lessons. Selecting a lesson brings up a level-selection menu (the number of levels varies). Interval Singing has seven levels and a Custom-level option that lets users create a custom set of intervals for testing. The level-selection menu also provides a brief description of the lesson and how to use it.
I selected Level 7. Auralia immediately played a note with a piano-like timbre and prompted me to sing a tritone above it. (You can change the sound Auralia uses in the Administration screen.) I sang the correct note and was rewarded with a jaunty little fanfare accompanied by a window displaying the message “Correct!” and a cute red eighth-note caricature bearing a toothy grin. From that window, I could choose to hear the interval played back on the synthesizer, go to the next level of difficulty, continue with the current level, or quit. The pitch-detection software worked well for the most part; only occasionally did I have to repeat an exercise when the program didn't “hear” me.
I sang some incorrect responses to test the program's diagnostic Help function. After responding with a whistling, falling-bomb-and-explosion sound and the message “Incorrect,” I was given the option to play the question again or exit.
I chose Continue, and Auralia took me back to the beginning of the lesson. When I sang the wrong response again, the program displayed its “Incorrect” message. That time, however, it showed the incorrect interval I sang and didn't let me try again. Fortunately, when you configure custom tests, you can change the number of retries allowed.
Auralia provides substantial onboard help. Each lesson includes some theoretical background and interactive instruction about the lesson topic, as well as a Help feature that explains the lesson's structure.
Auralia provides ample customization options for the instructor. Although you can't add new topics, it's possible to add new chord types, edit existing chord types, and change certain terminology.
Making up tests with Auralia is easy. The Tests entry in the Administration menu lets you name a test, decide which topics and levels it will cover, and determine the number of questions and the number of replays. When students log in, the program informs them that tests are available and lets them choose which test they want to take. It will also tell them their status on each test.
The Professor feature, a kind of virtual teaching associate, is also a nice touch. It can suggest that students are ready to move on to more- or less-advanced work when their percentage of correct answers attains or fails to meet a level set by the administrator.
Record keeping, examining test results, and creating and deleting users are simple to do with Auralia's administrator tools. Networking Auralia in a lab environment is similarly straightforward and doesn't require a systems guru. The manufacturer's Web site provides pricing for lab packs and unlimited desktop use of Auralia.
An effective drill-based ear-training program, Auralia is suitable for instruction at a number of levels. Although you can customize the program's content, some users might wish for the ability to add lesson topics. The inclusion of jazz-theory topics gives the program a broad appeal, and Auralia's Pitch-detection feature adds a fun and musical dimension to working with the program.
Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 4.5