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Focus on Sound Updates, Extensions and Improvements 2017-18
Focus on Sound is updated every week with new tests, dictionary entries, lessons etc. We also work hard to eradicate bugs and generally improve the user experience.
Our new Pro version lets you create your own lessons, content and tests - and assign work to individual classes.
Here are some of the bigger changes and updates we have made:
Additions (April 2018)
Killer Queen, Afro Celt Sound System - Release, Star Wars, Samba em Preludio and Defying Gravity study pieces (Edexcel are now available. For AQA we now have Blues history and a large section on popular styles and extended listening. There are new OCR lessons on film music and the classical concerto. Several Advanced Higher lessons are now on the site (making 67 SQA lessons altogether!). Plenty more study piece coverage is on the way.
New listening tests
We now have a set of three tests with 8 questions each, ideally suited to exam preparation and revision. UK exam boards all require fill in the gaps style notation dictation exercises. Here are two example questions:
Have you seen our new product for younger users? Instruments First
Merging of tests and extra tests
All tests now appear under the same tab.
Additions Spring 2017
Teachers can now create their own custom lessons (see below)
This is part of a major new facility which will eventually include custom test creation.
Please note, there will be a small extra charge for this facility.
Grading written work
Teachers can now mark extended written work (see below)
The percentages show up on the results page like this:
Blocking- some school security systems were preventing access to lessons for students. YouTube blocking was also causing problems elsewhere in the software. We have now fixed these problems.
Sound - we have updated our sound player. This means that most sound drop-out problems have been eliminated.
This was a particular problem with slow internet speeds and for countries some distance from our servers.
Study pieces and composers
We have added numerous study pieces. To start with, these are classical pieces though we will be adding rock and jazz music. There are currently 12 pieces from Purcell to Copland.
UK users can see current exam pieces here.
We now have nearly 270 of our 'Extras' tests. Details of specific UK content can be seen here. We aim to extend this to IB and other international exam authorities.
There is now a search facility for Extras tests. We hope to have this available soon for the standard Tests.
One of the new test types is what we call a 'vertical' test where a single recording is used for multiple questions (see below).
There are now 250 of these, including 14 new lessons on music theory. Lessons cover every conceivable area of music, from World music and Music technology to Bach chorales. Here are the first sixteen topic groups. Lessons group together content and tests from elsewhere in the software. For example, an Indian music lessons will include sections on Indian instruments from the Instruments app, and sections on techniques like raga, meend, etc. from Sound Words. Lessons also include listening tests from the Tests and Extras sections of both apps.
Each lesson contains an assessment. Here's the list of topics in one of the lessons on Indian music. You'll see there's enough for an hour or two's study at the very least.
There is now a search feature for lessons.
We now show how many pages a student has seen, as well as test results and actual written work for each student.
Since this video was made we now have a marking system for written work (see below)
Terms and instruments
We continue to add new terms and instruments to the software. Recent additions include mouth music and Scots ballad as well as numerous basic theory items. We have added numerous extra recordings and pictures.
We've introduced new writing/discussion questions. You can use these for class discussion, or the kids can write down answers. These can then be saved and viewed by the teachers from the results page.
Here's a question type relating to a video:
Then the teacher can see what the student has written by clicking 'View' in the relevant Results page.
Our results system will soon be available on the MusicFirst Online Classroom.
Meanwhile, we now have a simplified way of getting to the results. As well as choosing the class, you can now choose the testing areas you want to concentrate on.
Teachers can also see results directly from the first lesson page. This makes it easier to find those often elusive results, especially when tests span Extras and Tests as well as Instruments and Sound Words.
One of the biggest developments of 2015 was the inclusion of a new music tech section. This was specially written for us by a top professional film music composer. So far we have 46 pages of information, together with numerous recordings, videos and YouTube links - as well as randomised quizzes, fixed listening tests, etc.
All software has bugs, whatever manufacturers tell you. We're particularly proud that our software runs on such a wide variety of platforms, including tablets and mobile phones. This does mean that changes in browsers and hardware can very occasionally cause difficulties. We work very hard to eliminate all such problems. Recently we eradicated a bug which caused search to fail in portrait mode on mobile phones and tablets in Sound Words, whole dictionary. We have also speeded up and improved the search facility in general.
We also noticed that some questions in 'Class demonstration mode' were too difficult because we hadn't provided multiple choice possibilities. This situation has now been corrected.
Possibly the hardest part of our job is ensuring all random questions in tests are actually possible to do. As we can't predict the actual questions, there have in the past been occasional situations in Sound Words where the answer isn't easy, even for experts! We have a complex system of allowable combinations and question types per term, and we like to think we have sorted this out.
Just occasionally a media file goes missing. This happened with the fourth trombone picture and recording. These files have now been replaced.