Concept and Features
Notation Trainer is an incredible Android app created to help musicians improve their sight-reading skills. Designed by London-based music tutor Stuart Bahn, Notation Trainer generates original sight-reading exercises to musicians’ exact requirements.
“To be able to perform music from written notation takes hundreds of hours of practice”, Stuart says. “The problem for many musicians is finding fresh scores that perfectly match their current level of ability. Once a score becomes familiar, it is performed at least partly from memory. Consequently the performer is not putting their reading skills to the test as effectively as they would with a previously unseen score. I developed this app to provide musicians with a solution to this problem. Instead of buying lots of expensive exercise books, now they can buy a single low-cost app”.
Notation Trainer allows musicians, of any instrument, to choose the clef, set the key signature, the range of notes and the maximum size of intervals between them. A 100 note exercise is then created for the musician to perform as they scroll across the screen of their Android phone or tablet.
I tested Notation Trainer on a Kindle Fire 7″ Tablet and found the app super simple to use, with an easy to navigate interface. After launching the app you simply click the settings button which allows you to choose from Treble, Bass, or C Clef (alto or tenor), set the minimum and maximum range of the notes presented, as well as the maximum interval between notes, and the key signature. Once all your settings are in line you click “Apply and launch new session” and you are ready to go. Finally, before starting your exercise session, you can choose the speed at which the notes scroll by with a simple 1 to 10 slider. Clicking the “Start Session” button gives you a 3 count and away you go with a fresh set of 100 notes. A pause/unpause button is provided in case you need to stop along the way. Another great feature is that the screen stays on as long as the app is running so you don’t have to worry about your screen timing out half-way through your session.
Sight-reading is one of those skills that musicians need to work on constantly to keep up their chops up and Notation Trainer is just the tool to do that. I love that you can start dead simple with a limited range of notes and intervals at a very slow pace and increase your range and speed as you progress. My reading skills are mediocre at best, but I was able to jump right in and start using the app without any issues. After working with Notation Trainer for a week I feel I am already making great progress.
It is a very simple app with few bells and whistles but it does a good job at training you to read notation in a fun dynamic way.