Become a musical maestro
Playing an instrument is a rewarding skill – that’s what parents always tell their offspring, but once you’ve grown up it’s difficult to find time for regular lessons. Computer-based resources are no substitute for a professional teacher, but they can get you started.
If you dream of rocking out on the electric guitar, for example, you’ll find all the chord diagrams you’ll ever need online, along with a vast range of popular songs set out in easy chord and tablature form, at archives such as www.ultimate-guitar.com. If you want to take things further, consider a commercial package such as Jamorama, which combines structured video tutorials with backing tracks, so you can play along and progressively build your skills.
Learning something more challenging, such as classical piano, requires a teacher, not to mention plenty of old-fashioned practice. But while you’re learning musical concepts and notation, electronic resources can certainly help. The free Jayde Musica application turns note recognition into a Space Invaders-style game, where you have to type the name of each note as it appears within a time limit.
The Java-based Jalmus package adds MIDI support, so if you have a MIDI keyboard you can practise playing the actual notes as they appear.
At FreePianoTutorials.com you’ll also find links to chord charts, ear-training practice and exercises in solfège – identifying tones in the “do, re, mi” system made famous by Maria and the Von Trapp children.
If you go in for graded exams, you can read the full syllabi and marking schemes, along with downloadable sample clips in MP3 format, at the official website of the ABRSM examining body.
Those with more modern tastes might prefer MusicProducerPro, a subscription site that hosts videos and tutorials on producing modern electronic and urban music. With this approach it’s possible to create songs entirely on your PC without ever leaving your seat. Professional production software can be expensive, but there are various packages specially priced for the home market, including the “Intro” edition of our recommended music production package, Ableton Live, available for €99 (around £84) from Ableton.com.
More life skills
Learn a foreign language
Express your creative side
Be handy around the house
Be the life of the party