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Pros: Theory information on songs from different genres and some nifty extras can help kids improve their performance skills.
Cons: Kids have to buy sheet music for many of the modern tunes, and the same kind of info isn't consistently provided for each song.
Bottom Line: 8notes.com isn't as free as they imply, but it does provide some really useful resources to round out students' musical education.
Teachers can encourage students to search for and download songs they'd like to play using the free 8notes.com version. An ad-free school subscription is also available. Some aspects still need a little tweaking -- kids can currently only log in using a teacher's email address and site password, and there doesn't seem to be a way to track individual student progress. However, the subscription gives all students in a school access to mp3 play-along tracks; sheet music for longer, more complex songs; and high-quality, printable .pdf files. Students and teachers can also request transposition services.
The site's lessons can also be doled out as reading assignments to help kids learn about basic music theory -- more than 45 lessons cover intervals, key signatures, and other topics.
8notes.com is a website that provides free sheet music for more than 25 instruments. Kids can also access written lessons on piano chords, drum beats, and other musical components and music theory lessons. Other resources include an online guitar tuner, metronome, and guitar and piano chord charts with audio files that let kids hear chords before playing them. Users can also read biographies on musicians spanning from Beethoven to Beyonce, upload pieces, and look up terms in a musical glossary. A forum gives kids the chance to communicate with fellow musicians.
The free 8notes.com subscription has some limitations; kids won't find endless amounts of music here (particularly if they play a more obscure instrument, like the mandolin). The free selection tends to center on traditional music for mainstream instruments. Some users may be content playing piano selections like "Happy Birthday" or Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," while other kids may be frustrated to find much of the pop song sheet music has to be purchased to be played.
Still, the site offers several tools that can help kids fine-tune their playing skills. It provides an impressive amount of educational materials, including a musical term glossary, instrument image gallery, and dozens of contemporary and classical musician biographies. The same supplementary items aren’t included for each song -- many of the classical pieces, for example, simply list a brief theme and composer background. But other pieces feature useful information on chord patterns, song structure, and other elements.