iPhone Music App Review: Chordelia: Seventh Heaven

by chip on July 11, 2011

APP NAME: Chordelia: Seventh Heaven
VERSION: 1.0
APP DEVELOPER: Easy Ear Training
PRICE: $5.99
PLATFORM: Ideal on iPhone & iPod, but translates well to the iPad
TYPE OF MUSIC APP: Music Education

Overview:
Chordelia: Seventh Heaven is an educational app that trains your ears to hear a variety of seventh chords.

What can it do?
The ear training material in Chordelia is broken up into lessons, allowing you to focus upon specific types of seventh chords. There are a total of ten lessons that progressively increase in difficulty, making sure that the beginner doesn’t get lost and the more experienced musician still gets challenged. Chordelia moves through a number of seventh chords including major 7, minor 7, dominant 7, diminished 7, half-diminished 7, minor major 7, and augmented 7. Along the way, you compare and contrast against your basic triads too – major, minor, augmented, and diminished. Once you’ve worked through all ten Chordelia Seventh Heaven levels, you’ll have a firm grip on the sound of seventh chords. If you need a further challenge than the pre-programmed levels provide, you can access the “Custom” level. This option allows you to choose which seventh chords are included in training and testing modes, as well as the use of inversions. Each lesson walks you through the meat and potatoes of seventh chords, with the additional challenge of shaping your own lesson.

Chordelia understands that not everyone understands the sound and function of seventh chords, so the “Training” mode allows you to learn. In the training mode, Chordelia will play the different chords and arpeggios that comprise the lesson, with the name selected on screen and a voice audibly attaching a name to the chord. The examples are high quality recordings of a piano keyboard, making the listening both realistic and pleasurable. There’s also a good deal of variety in the examples, providing seventh chords in different keys and registers of the piano. While the Training Mode continues to give you examples of the chosen lesson, the screen displays a great set of information about the theoretical and practical background of the chords. The information provided here is complete and accessible, filling out the necessary picture of seventh chords. You can set the amount of time that the chordal examples play, so that you can keep your ear training going over tour iPhone while you’re on the move. The settings also provide the option to alter the way that the performance happens, ranging from the speed to the volume of the notes. Customization, repetition, and written information fill Chordelia: Seventh Heaven with a wealth of essential training.

The testing mode allows you to put your ears to task, asking you to recognize the chords in the lesson. Every lesson has a corresponding test that asks you to identify the chords outlined in the section. Just like the training mode, the testing section asks you identify chords in all keys and across the full range of the keyboard. The full chord and arpeggio repeats until you make your selection, instantly giving you a response. Each testing session consists of 20 questions, and you need to answer 15 questions correctly in order to unlock the next level. At this point, you can go onto the next lesson, but you’re not done with the level – you have the option of repeating it in order to improve your score. If you answer all 20 questions correctly, you earn a bronze star and move onto the “medium” level. This contains an “Arp” button, which allows you to re-take the test without hearing the arpeggios. Once you answer all 20 questions correctly without the arpeggio, you earn a silver star and get the option of taking the test with the chords played in all inversions. Earning a perfect “20″ without arpeggios and a selection of inversions completes the level. Chordelia holds you to a high standard in its testing mode, ensuring that you improve your ears at every step of the way.

Experience Level (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)
One of the nice things about Chordelia: Seventh Heaven is the app’s built-in flexibility that caters to all musicians, from beginning to advanced. A musician new to theory and ear training could easily jump into the training mode and gain a wealth of information. Right from the start, they’ll be getting the opportunity to train their ears and distinguish between types of seventh chords. If they take advantage of the written material embedded in the app, they’ll also learn the theory behind the chords and their practical application. This is the essential information that connects lessons and tests to real music, so a beginner will really benefit. Users with some theoretical background will pick through these pieces, but will find a challenge in the ear training. The seventh chord ear training covers so many bases that advanced users can find a challenge at some point, even if they need to construct it themselves through the custom mode. All musicians benefit from ear training and the wide reaching exploration of seventh chords in Chordelia: Seventh Heaven makes it a powerful tool for all levels.

What’s It Missing?
Chordelia: Seventh Heaven is a pretty complete exploration of seventh chords, but there are a couple of items that would make it even more useful. The piano samples are beautiful, but it would be nice to have the option to train and be tested on as variety of different instruments. Chordal instruments all have distinctive ways of playing chords in voicings based upon instrument layout and technical limits, so the option of hearing a guitar or vibraphone would have its ear training benefits. Chordelia: Seventh Heaven also doesn’t support background audio, so you can’t simply let the training sessions float into your ears while you check your e-mail. One the one hand, this is good – training your ears requires concentration and Chordelia forces you to focus all of your attention at the task on hand. It would be nice just to let this run while attempting other tasks though. These two points could make for a stronger app and carry the experience a bit further.

Final Thoughts:
Ear Training is an essential part of any musician’s training and Chordelia: Seventh Heaven will be a major asset in helping build a solid familiarity with seventh chords. The lessons work through all the qualities of seventh chords and frame them in a comparative setting in order to help the user distinguish between different sounds. The training mode builds upon the strength of the lessons and delivers the repetition necessary to lock the sound in a musician’s ear. The smart details that Easy Ear Training built into the app make a huge difference in effectiveness – the variety of keys and range in the examples, the customization options, and the flexibility of the app are strong features. The testing sessions are straightforward and honest; there’s no turning away from the results. The fact that you can create your own lessons with the “Custom” mode makes this more than a beginner app, extending its practicality to more experienced musicians. Chordelia: Seventh Heaven is ideally suited for use on the iPhone or iPod – whenever you’ve got some free time, you can spend a few minutes with a training session. It ports well to the iPad though, providing a nice option for longer study sessions. There’s a lot to learn in Chordelia: Seventh Heaven, and after using this app for a while, any individual will walk away with stronger ears and a more complete musicianship.

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