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Isle of Tune

Isle of Tune Island graphic

Isle of Tune, an FREE online app by jim@happylander.co.uk (visit his site here – highly recommended for a unique site experience!) is an introduction to the world of music sequencing in a game-based style.  The iPad version is available from the iTunes Store for a cost of $2.99 US and it comes with many other features not in the free version.

Isle of Tune Mobile

Here is one of the top examples featured on the free online site:

Isle of Tune Beat It Sample

Do a search for Beat It, by Michael Jackson to see it live and in action.

Isle of Tune uses a town construction set where each icon (house, street lamp, trees, plants) play programmable sounds as a car passes by on the user-created street.  This app focuses on pentatonic melody writing and basic quarter and eighth note rhythms, all through graphical means, no traditional notation is needed.

It is icon driven as shown below from the help screens online:

Isle of Tune Firefox, Today at 10.42.48 amIsle of Tune Firefox, Today at 10.43.08 am

To assist the teacher and students with the musical component, I’ve created these help guides that show the pentatonic scale, tones/pitches, drums and other sounds various icons offer.  Each sound must be put into place on the island to be activated when a car passes by it.

Here are my help files:

Isle of Tune Information Sheet 1

Isle of Tune Information Sheet 2

In using this app in class, I’d suggest having students explore a typical pentatonic melody and rhythms, similar to the example below.  If you need a pentatonic resource, I have one here for sale from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

4 bar Pentatonic MelodyBasic Drum Patterns 4 samples

The creators of Isle of Tunes also provides ready loops that are wonderful learning tools, and can be modified.

Isle of Tune Loops

Students can share, save and load previously saved work from the site.

Here is a sample of ‘Beat It’ from the top created maps section with an musical highlighting of areas I would explore with students.

Beat It Isle of Tune Explanation

I would be interested to hear your experiences with this app.  My goal as an educator is for students to have some exploration time to see the work of others, create, and be guided by my curricular goals to build pitch and rhythm awareness.  This blend of game based learning with a curriculum component could help students see and play with music in a different way.  Who knows, this may be the key to what motivates some hesitant learners to push forward in the area of music creation.

The Music of Cinderella


Meet Patrick Doyle, a Scottish film composer born April 6, 1953.  He’s well-known for his other scores, Brave, Thor, Eragon, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  He’s been actively writing over 55 major scores since 1982.


In writing his score and its performance by the 65-piece London Symphony Orchestra, it offers:
•    fanfares and flourishes for the prince
•    magical sounds for the fairy godmother
•    furious chase music for the pumpkin-coach getaway
•    warm, lyrical music for Ella’s special relationship with her birth parents
•    English folksong tradition for a song that becomes another of “Cinderella’s” key themes: “Lavender’s Blue,”
•    choral notes for the transformation of Cinderella’s dress (suggesting “a gift from above,” he says)
•    her isolation in the attic (“an ethereal, melancholy touch”)
•    Cate Blanchett’s wicked stepmother (“a slightly more mysterious, otherworldly sense”)

Each of these themes offer great insight and inspiration (for your students) of how movie music is composed to help convey the deeper and subtle elements of characters, emotions, and backgrounds or environments.  This makes the whole movie experience of story line, video, and sound, an unforgettable experience for many, and part of Disney’s secret to its success.

Here are two of the movie’s many themes (visit YouTube for samples of the full score, or purchase online):

Cinderella’s Theme

Cinderella Theme 1In this strong and moving theme, Mr. Doyle uses the emotion of the octave interval to evoke a sense of strength with the main character, Cinderella.  This is one of the many versions of this theme throughout the score, also heard in the tracks:

  • Pumpkins and Mice
  • Searching the Kingdom
  • Courage and Kindness
  • The Stag

The piccolo trumpet and French Horns add to the regal nature of this theme.  Typically, this type of theme fills the listener with excitement, and sometimes, to tears.  (The suspensions help, too!)

Second theme

English Folk Song –  Lavender’s Blue

Here, Mr. Doyle used this folk song in playful ways, again in different and slight changes throughout… listen to it in the tracks, ‘Who is She’ and ‘Courage and Kindness’ for examples of this.  I’ve represented it here in two keys, in case you want to use this with your students on recorder, for example, and the first key is too difficult.

Lavender's Blue - CinderellaPlease email me your comments.  If you need any other themes notated for use with your students, let me know.

We’ve all used our mobile devices for texting, updating social media sites, and for utilising the Internet for almost instant information ‘on the go’.  One of my interests is looking at ways we can use these same devices for translating what we sing into traditional music notation, and what is spoken into ‘voice dictated’ text, usable and sharable.

Planning on the Go Cover

There are numerous apps that support voice dictation and provide impressive ways to share what is produced.  Apple’s own Mail app allows for voice dictation in real time, allowing you to see what you say.  ScoreCloud’s mobile version (ScoreCloud Express) allows for a jaw-dropping traditional notation translation of what you sing with a little practice.  Soon you will see it’s capabilities and potential for use in many facets of daily life, most particularly in education.  Most importantly, it allows ‘on the go’ use to work from anywhere you have a WiFi or 3G or 4G connection (best scenario).

Creating Music 'on the go'

The following infographics are part of my Mobile Technology and the Music Programme Keynote, which I recently presented in Singapore to a large group of inspired and talented international music educators.  Closer to home, I am testing these apps with a variety of students to further my understanding and potential.  Share your thoughts!  Email me with any questions or comments.

Creating Text 'on the go'

Composing ‘On the Go’

Composing ‘on the go!’

Micro Bursts of Creativity

If you are considering trying to write music on a mobile device, here are some observations and tips that may help you get started.  I tend to think of this mode of writing more informal, quite different from formal composing on a computer and/or keyboard.  Patience, persistence and determination are required to learn the style of each app.  There is so much to the language of music to squeeze into an app to make it authentic and useful.

Trying the demo versions of each to selecting the best fit for you.  Also, keep in mind, the overall price of these apps are all affordable (usually under $20 US) compared with professional level computer versions, for example, Finale, Sibelius, DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) that are hundreds of dollars.

I am currently working with the following apps, in no preference or order:

  • GarageBand for iOS
  • Music Studio
  • Notion
  • Symphony Pro for iPhone

GarageBand iOS final sample

Your App Aesthetic Preference – each app has its own layout including tabs, drop down menus, colour schemes, and mini-menus for the various notation icons, markings, and functions.  Which suits your style?

Music Studio final sample

How important is Instrument Sound Quality?  Audition various instruments and input methods (keyboard, guitar, etc., finger direct to staff) for the sound quality.  How important is touch sensitivity and performance articulations (staccato, legato, accented, slurred)?  Sampled instrument sounds usually come at an increased price tag.  My preference is for the most authentic, sampled instruments sounds, which, in turn, inspire my performance and creations.

Notion final sample

Inspiration is Not always there – One of the benefits to mobile composing with these ‘on the go’ apps is that I use these apps when I’m literally ‘on the go’.  Each app has a different composition that is a work in progress.  I may go back to it every few days or weeks.  I find that this allows for ‘fresh eyes (and ears)’, in contrast to focusing on a piece for hours, typical of the computer and keyboard versions.  During times when you have to wait, e.g., sitting on the bus, subway, waiting in a queue, or for your meal, it takes seconds for these apps to load giving you the opportunity to have a micro burst of creativity.  Sometimes, these short durations bring positive change to the direction of a composition, accompaniment, chord progression, or melody writing.

Symphony iPhone sample

Music Workshops SingaporeFor More Info and to Register, Click Here

I would be grateful if you could forward this to anyone you think may be interested.

Thank you!

Apple Store 零售店 - 西湖 Firefox, Today at 11.34.27 am

West Lake in Hangzhou – New Apple Store

Created with respect to Chinese tradition highlighting the work of a famous calligrapher, Wang Dongling, creating an astonishing mural for the new store.

Aesthetics = Apple


Other glimpses of Apple Stores in China:

China Apple Stores


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