Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2015
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BandBlast - The Music Education Revolution

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Games, videos infuse music practice with play and personality

Subjects & skills
  • Arts

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Cool visual style will draw kids in; solid, serious music content will help them hone core musical skills.

Cons: The videos seem a little dated and only work with an internet connection; some more reference info would help.

Bottom Line: A cool, comprehensive resource for supporting beginning music students.

Recommend BandBlast as an enrichment tool for kids enrolled in beginning band or orchestra classes or to kids just starting private lessons. If your students are required to complete a certain number of hours of home practice time each week, come up with a way to assign these videos, games, and lessons so kids can structure their practice time with exercises from your class plus more activities from the app. Have kids talk about what other games they might design to build their skills: can they create a real-life game where kids have to play certain pitches on demand? Have kids write short melodies to have their friends play or count.

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BandBlast is an app for supporting beginning music students' developing music skills. First, kids create an avatar, choose an instrument (options are Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Flute, Viola, Violin,  Cello, Double Bass, Trumpet,  and Trombone), and pick a "Blastophone" (a whimsical instrument for their avatar to hold on screen). Missions let users progress step by step through 20 missions, or multi-step lessons that teach the basics of each instrument through videos and two games. Kids can earn stars for completing different tasks like watching the video, answering comprehension questions correctly, and then playing through the games without errors. In Play A Game, kids can jump straight into the two games: Rhythm (where users tap out the correct rhythm as it scrolls by on screen) and Pitch (where users must play the correct note on their instrument to shoot a ball and match it with similarly colored spheres). Watch a Video lets users skip straight to the video selections for that instrument. The videos all live online, so be sure you have a consistent internet connection.

BandBlast has some brilliant touches that make this a great choice for supporting kids' real-world music study. The two games have learned baked right in: play the right notes to clear bricks in the Pitch game; tap the right rhythm to clear each stage in the side-scrolling Rhythm game. Fun visuals and clear progress tracking will reel kids in, and the wide range of included topics -- from games to videos to the nitty-gritty of technique -- is impressive. The low-­resolution videos look dated in terms of film quality, but their messages are earnest and timeless. Especially engaging are those for the band instruments, where performers for each instrument talk about technique, different music genres, and how special it is to be part of an ensemble. There's fun to be had, too; the flautist's affection for the blues and the trombone player's silly demo of how to monkey around with his instrument. The joy in these players is palpable, and kids will be won over by the serious fun they'll have as they embark on their 20 missions. The built-in questions following each video aren't always especially tough, but they're a solid review of the main ideas and the major take-home lessons. Overall, there's great content here, and it's a good complement to serious, consistent playing as a soloist or in an ensemble. 

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Fun animations and a groovy visual style make exploring music fun. Videos seem a little dated, but the content's solid.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Great instruction and insights for each instrument boost beginners' skills and help intermediate players hone their skills. The two stellar games -- where kids match pitch and tap rhythms -- have learning baked right in.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Good progress tracking and encouraging feedback will keep kids on track. Video subtitles and some more reference info on reading music and playing instruments would be great additions.

Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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