to the web site
PC 233MHz or faster 256 color monitor supporting 800x600
resolution, Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, 16-bit Sound Blaster compatible
sound card, 8x CD-ROM drive, 64MB of RAM
an avid musician has its drawbacks. The most noteworthy
example I can think of right now has, rather unsurprisingly,
much to do with the product under review - Keyboard
Coach. The connection between the music industry
and the digital age has been apparent for many
years, exposed in various forms through recording,
creating and even illegally formatting music (download/burn
any CD's lately, folks?). Only recently, in the
last several years, have any of these specialized
programs become, well, less specialized.
Now, perhaps it's my purist view of music or perhaps it's
just the fact that when it comes to how I was taught, you
could say indeed that I'm from the old school. But the fact
is, it's difficult to teach someone how to play an instrument
using a computer program. That being said, Keyboard Coach
is still a wonderful concept. Using MIDI ports and/or USB
cables, you connect your keyboard to your computer and then
follow along with the lessons provided in the Keyboard Coach
In terms of what the program actually does, Keyboard Coach
is certainly an achievement. With various different options
that allow you to play catchy tunes, play music by ear, play
solo and even use your skill to jam with a digitized 'band',
Keyboard Coach keeps the elements simple and the learning
curve shallow. There are cues for you which help your timing,
a keyboard guide which helps you familiarize yourself with
the keyboard layout and even the option to create accompaniments
and mix tracks.
There is no printed manual supplied. There is an online
help guide and most of the layout is intuitive. However,
a nice tutorial, written in a small Appendix a couple of
pages long would have been nice. Users are left to wander
around on their own, thus making the learning curve unnecessarily
steep. This is, of course, assuming you have the time required
to experiment with and learn the program.
The installation of the software presented some problems.
Keyboard Coach installed DirectX 8.0a over version 9.0, without
asking me! Perhaps it's just me, but when I install a program,
I am usually under the assumption that I am installing the
program stated at the install screen, and NOTHING ELSE, unless
I specifically choose otherwise. At any rate, I finished
the install, restarted then re-installed DirectX 9.0. I opened
the program, and began fooling around, looking through the
help system. I didn't get far. After about ten minutes, I
received a lovely, shimmering blue screen exception error.
Upon returning to windows, Keyboard Coach had mysteriously
disappeared. When I tried to load the program again, it simply
would not finish loading after the the splash screen appeared.
I got an idea and loaded up DirectX 8.0a, thinking that perhaps
the program was optimized for it. No dice. After restarting,
I was once again able to get into the program, but not without
it crashing again within ten minutes.
I scoured the Charanga web site for tech support and things
were surprisingly lax. The only real support they have is
a standard charge-by-the-minute phone line (there's no way
I would ever pay someone, on top of what I paid for their
product, for problems that should have been corrected during
development). It's really unfortunate that the program seems
to be suffering from a lack of QA testing. The apparent lack
of testing is reflected in the lack of support, and the lack
of support is reflected in the product itself. Perhaps the
day will come when a well-designed program of this type will
be able to take the place of a flesh-and-blood teacher with
years of experience, but that day is not today and that program
is not Keyboard Coach. Charanga has a great idea which their
developers need to refine. I'm looking forward to a new and
improved future version.
(Ed. Note: We sent the software to another reviewer - a
local music teacher. She was able to install and use Keyboard
Coach for up to an hour at a time, but always encountered
a crash which forced her to stop. Matt used a Pentium III/450MHz
machine running Windows 98SE. The music teacher used a Pentium
III/1GHz machine running Windows XP Professional).
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