Like them or loathe them, video games take up a large portion of student free time outside of school, and smart teachers work hard to find anything that can provide a hook to draw kids in to learning new concepts and ideas. Many teachers in other disciplines already do so.  Physical education classes now use console games such as Dance Dance Revolution to get kids to work out in a fast paced, fun environment.  History and social studies classes have long used games like Civilization and Sim City to teach about a wide variety of concepts.  I have often said that it is only a matter of time until such a game changes the face of music, and when I first heard about Wii Music I was very excited about the potential that the game might have for music education classroom use.  My preliminary review of Wii Music is in many ways a double edged sword.  The mainstays of music education software such as Music Ace, Groovy Music, and Ear Master Pro could learn a lot from a game like Wii Music .  At the same time, Wii Music is not poised to replace any of those titles at any point in the near future.

Wii Music Can Help Light the Spark of Music Education
Face it, Nintendo knows how to make fun video games.  They have been doing it for decades and know what works, especially when it comes to grade school age children.  Wii Music is classic Nintendo fun fare with some very nice nuggets of gold thrown in that can enrich classroom lessons.  One of the many Wii Music activities is when a student conducts a virtual orchestra made up of the characters in his or her Mii collection.  Each instrument of the orchestra is replaced by one of these characters, with empty spots being filled in by classic Nintendo characters such as Mario and others. 

Imagine taking a few minutes ahead of time to load the Wii with Mii characters that look like the students in your class (or members of your school faculty).  The student then steps up in front of his orchestra, raises his baton (controlled by the motion sensitive Wii controller) and conducts the orchestra just as they have been taught to do in class using flicks of the wrist.  If the student speeds up, the music speeds up.  If the student stops, the entire orchestra turns and stares at the student in a comical way until they finally start conducting again.  At the end the student is given a score for their performance.

Mini-Games Provide Additional Music Education Potential
In other games, music students can test their skills at basic ear training exercises.  Pitch matching, major and minor identification, high-low, and a simplified version of melodic dictation all provide opportunities to enrich or reward students for their classroom work.  Another game teaches students to play songs on hand bells using a simple to understand, Guitar Hero style scrolling music notation. 

Wii Music provides sixty different instruments from basic brass and woodwinds to other special instruments such as sitars and conga drums.  No fingerings are required, all that is necessary to be successful is being able to keep a beat and move the forearm.  In this regard it is a great way to help a student that struggles with the concept of a beat to find this basic building block of rhythm.

Wii Music is available at for the Nintendo Wii console gaming system and retails for $49.99.  It requires at least one controller and nunchuk, with optional balance board to allow the user to control kick drum and hi hat when playing the drum set.  Up to four users can play at the same time if four sets of controllers are available.

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