- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2003

Guitar lessons, self-study and a college course on song construction never quite provided me, even remotely, with the skills needed to master creating and understanding music. I wish I had known a Ricci Adams back then.

This ambitious college student combined his knowledge of computer programming with a passion for music. While still in high school, he set up a cyber-stop to help enlighten individuals, like me, about the finer points of creating soothing and dissonant sounds, at the same time reinforcing their newfound knowledge.

Musictheory.net

Site address: www.musictheory.net

Creator: Ricci Adams, of Taylorville, Ill., who is a junior at Milliken University in Decatur, Ill., developed the Web site during his senior year of high school. He has updated and maintained it for three years.

Creator quotable: “I created musictheory.net because I believe animation and visualization is the only way to learn music theory. My generation is one of visual learning and short attention spans. We can’t be expected to memorize archaic formulas. We need to see theory take place on the keyboard, to visualize both the chromatic and diatonic systems,” Mr. Adams says.

Word from the Webwise: With the help of Macromedia’s interactive Web site design program, Mr. Adams has given students confounded by clefs, chords and compound meter a way to astound their teachers with a new level of musical analysis.

Viewers who are teenagers or older will benefit most from the site’s animated simulations, which give a “no-nonsense” approach to the dissection of music at almost all levels. Through 34 detailed lessons, 10 training modules and three utilities, visitors will find a mixture of text, nomenclature, clickable quizzes and sounds to hone ears and brains into thinking about the world of song.

A wide range of lessons is offered using a piano keyboard for reference, beginning with simple note identification and gradually working up a ladder of difficulty to encompass such topics as composition using minor scales, stringing together chords, writing intervals on a staff and using diatonic triads.

Each lesson comes packaged in a rectangular box with a “click here” arrow moving students through the flowing pages. The presentations always get to the point quickly, and a handy drop-down menu allows visitors to replay or move on to the next topic.

Once basic theory has been examined, visitors can move to the training section to challenge themselves and reinforce the new concepts. Also displayed in a rectangular box format, the quizzes keep track of correct and incorrect responses.

Even budding Eddie Van Halens and Louis Armstrongs get help in the training area with a simulation on identifying notes on a guitar fret and brushing up on finger placements with brass instruments.

Ease of use: All computers with an Internet connection should be able to view the site as long as it has the Macromedia Flash 6 Player plug-in installed. Students also can download all of the simulations to the computer’s hard drive, free of charge, to learn off-line.

Don’t miss: Besides the handy utility that allows musicians to print out staff paper that then can be customized, I enjoyed trying to identify intervals by ear. Being an amateur crooner, mostly in the shower, I thought it was a nice way to understand a bit about harmonies and what to listen for when I try to sing over some of my favorite artists blasting from the radio.

Family activity: When the household gets its first piano or electric keyboard, this site will make for a wonderful way for the entire clan to take part in getting a musical education.

Cyber-sitter synopsis: The presentation of difficult concepts in a boring layout will give younger children little reason to enjoy the site, but junior composers and college students cramming for a music theory exam will appreciate the depth of information and clever presentation.

Overall grade: B sharp

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it’s accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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