Review by Kim Alessi, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2012
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Toca Band

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Funky interactive music sequencer is one of a kind

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Teachers say (5 Reviews)
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Grades
Pre-K-4 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Catchy groove loops draw in kids with all their senses; highly interactive interface has great responsiveness.

Cons: The app is limited to one song and has no in-app record/save function.

Bottom Line: Toca Band gives kids an engaging, hands-on music creation experience, but lacks the ability to save their masterpieces.

Toca Band is an engaging graphic music sequencer for kids. It shows kids how orchestration works. Toca Band is a helpful classroom tool that demonstrates musical elements such as rhythm, melody, harmony, tempo, timbre, and dynamics, as well as concepts like theme and variation, syncopation, and ornamentation. Kids benefit from the app's appealing and clever design as they actively create an ensemble performance of instruments that interact whimsically with one other. The app can also be used to demonstrate mood as it applies to music and other arts. Have your students try to create a song that's slow, quiet, and mellow -- something that would be good for naptime. Or try creating something that's fast, loud, and very busy -- something that would motivate you to dance. Kids can layer rhythmic instruments on the bottom tier and use the higher tiers to sing a melody to accompany their groove. Similarly, kids can play along with melodic instruments, keeping in mind that the "Toca Boca" song is in a C minor pentatonic scale.

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Toca Band is an interactive music sequencer featuring whimsically animated characters that make unique, fanciful sounds. Kids begin with an empty stage and a band of 16 characters. Some characters are personified musical instruments, others resemble the sounds they make. Kids simply drag and drop up to 8 characters onto the 4-tier stage to layer sounds.

The higher up the stage a character is, the more complex its playing. For example, characters ornament notes, play in double time, and play with more syncopation when on the higher tiers. On the lower tiers, they just play accompaniment. The character placed on the topmost star tier zooms up and is showcased on its own screen. Here, kids can tap the screen to interact with the character's movements and sound while the rest of the band jams along in the background.

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Toca Band is a creative way for kids to see and hear how sounds combine to create music. Visuals and audio are superbly designed, and each character fits with others like pieces of a musical puzzle. Kids experience concepts of orchestration, musical themes, and variation with each character added. Place one on the bottom tier and it plays a simple melody or rhythm. Move it up the tiers and it sounds more complex.

There are two downsides. First, Toca Band has only one song in its repertoire (although it's catchy). It can be arranged numerous ways and will always be in key, but it's a repetitive cycle of the same 4 chords that's only 4 bars long. Kids can tap any instrument to play notes, or move characters around on the stage to hear variations of a singular musical theme, but there’s little more for kids to explore. Second, Toca Band doesn’t let kids save their creations to share or revisit another time. It's an in-the-moment experience that's over once kids tap the home button. Kids can improvise with live instruments, but the notes keep to a C minor pentatonic scale.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Inventive app does a great job of introducing music basics in a fun, kid-appropriate way through creative and engaging characters. 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Discovery approach: kids select characters to hear and control instrument sounds, rhythm, and tempo. Interactive elements are intuitive but need to be discovered. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
2

The Parent Center offers settings to disable external links and provides discussion topics to help parents extend learning.


Common Sense Reviewer
Kim Alessi Technology coordinator

Teacher Reviews

3
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Featured review by
Julie Y. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
South Portland High School
South Portland, ME
4
A simple music mixer for children.

Different songs would be a great addition to this app- as it is the music gets redundant.

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