Pinnacle Systems – Groovy Music City review

fun music maker for 9-11 year olds
Photo of Pinnacle Systems – Groovy Music City
£29.95

This kids’ music making program designed for 9-11 year olds is the third in the Groovy Music series invented by Sibelius, one of the leading providers of music creation, notation and teaching software for schools and colleges. But while the ‘grown up’ software has a serious face, the emphasis here is very much on fun. The program is designed to work as part of the series or standalone in its own right.

The ‘city’ in the title is a cartoon backdrop past which your chosen character (there are eight) strolls, ambles or runs, depending on the tempo of the song; the character acts as a position guide, so you can tell where you are in the song.

To create a tune, just click on any of the musical ‘building blocks’ that run along the top of the main screen (rhythms, melodies, bass lines, patterns, chords and ‘machines’) then choose a variation from the line of samples that appears below it; audition these by clicking once, and incorporate them into a song by dragging them down into the main screen.

By default, Groovy City snaps everything to the closest bar so it’s easy to stay in time. From then on, you can build a song quickly and easily, changing the pitch of a sound by moving it up or down, checking out individual sounds by clicking them once, and copying them by holding down the Alt key and dragging to a new position. The instruments and effects themselves come courtesy of the 128-sound General MIDI instrument set, which may sound a tad old-fashioned to modern ears.

Sadly for parents, the program leans more towards the house and hip-hop side of things, but that’s actually more likely to engage the target audience, so the rest of us will just have to put up with it. If you get lost, the Help button brings up animated, spoken help which walks newcomers through all of the program’s basic and advanced features.

When you’ve grown tired of the pre-set samples, Groovy City lets you create your own. Just click the New Part button, pick an instrument group and then paint notes onto a piano roll-style stave (alternatively you can also switch to proper music notation).

Once the notes are in place you can change the instrument that plays them at any time, then save the new sample and drop it into the arrangement. Existing samples can be edited by double-clicking on them and then dragging notes around, and you can even plug in a MIDI keyboard and record directly from that.

This ability to edit and create new, original passages of music makes Groovy City a powerful tool for budding music makers. Finished songs can be saved in Groovy’s native format or exported as MIDI files and used in other, more conventional music programs; songs can also be tagged and sent to www.groovymusic.com to share with others.

Company: Pinnacle Systems

Contact: +44 (0)1753 655999


Verdict
With its frankly bizarre interface, Groovy City looks deceptively simple, but under the bonnet packs a big musical punch. The ability to create music straight away will appeal to impatient kids, while the opportunity to edit and create new songs will keep more thoughtful ones coming back for more.