Exploring Scales and Music Theory | Scale Tapper for iPad

What is a scale? A musical scale is a series of notes usually presented in ascending or descending order. Most songs utilize notes from one scale or another to create harmony or disharmony depending on the mood of the piece. Using the iPad is a great way to learn scales. With Scale Tapper learning musical scales becomes interactive.

Scale Tapper for iPad (also for iPhone and iPod Touch) allows you to peak inside the scales themselves to explore how they function. You can even use it to invent your own sequences and harmonies.

Scale Tapper Main Screen

Scale Tapper for iPad

On the main iPad interface the sidebar displays the included scales and chords as well as your favorites and personal creations. There are many included examples such as Major, Minor, and Pentatonic. To create your own scale tap on the “+” button. This will clone the current scale (or create a new one) and allow you to edit and name your new scale. Tap on the heart and the current scale will be added to your favorites. One cool feature is the double-tap to transpose.

Scale Tapper Transposition

Transposing with Scale Tapper

Included are some famous modes such as Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian. With the double-tap to transpose feature of Scale Tapper we can arrive at these modes and others by simple transposition. For example if we double-tap on the D note of the C Ionian we arrive at the D Dorian mode. Many scales are interrelated and we can arrive at them through transposition. As an exercise which mode do you get if you double-tap the D note of the C Dorian?

A great way to explore the scales is with a musical instrument. What’s great about Scale Tapper is that it becomes any stringed instrument you can imagine. Whether you study bass, mandolin, ukelele, guitar, or any exotic/obscure instrument, Scale Tapper will accommodate you. You can even invent your own instrument with whatever tuning you can imagine.

Scale Tapper Fretboard

Customize your own string instrument.

Once you have the scale ready that you want to explore tap on the guitar icon on the toolbar. This will bring up the fretboard. By default it is tuned as a classic 6-string guitar. With the settings wheel you can tune this to whichever instrument you like. The iPad supports between 3 and 12 strings, while the iPhone supports up the 6 strings. You can even customize how many notes per screen and which octave the scale will play at. By pressing the play button you can play back your scale. Pressing the × button during playback allows you to stop the scale. The “Asc/Desc” button allows you to change the direction of the scale. You can also play on the fretboard directly. The fretboard will light up to show you which notes are contained in the current scale and key.

Learning music? Studying scales and chords? Playing a string instrument? Or do you simply want to jam out and have some fun? Whatever your musical background or experience level Scale Tapper can benefit you. It is a complete music theory workshop for your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. Available on the App Store.

Intense Mandarin Chinese with Hanzi Warrior | iPhone Game

Intense Mandarin Chinese with Hanzi Warrior for iPhone and iPod Touch

The latest update to Hanzi Warrior brings a gamut of new features and interfaces. It is only fair then to do an in-depth explanation of the new features and how to use them. I will list the new features and then go one-by-one in greater detail of what exactly this means for the future of Hanzi Warrior. Learning Chinese is no longer a boring flashcard app. The three major advances in Hanzi Warrior are:

1. Hanzi Sets – Create customized sets to focus and direct your Mandarin learning experience. Build upon base sets ranging from beginner to proficient.

2. Basic English meanings courtesy CC-CEDICT.

3. New Arcade mode with Game Center support.

The first thing you may have noticed is the new Settings interface. The following graphic gives a brief explanation of what all the new settings do. They are pretty self-explanatory. Select whether or not you want music and sound, what style of character you prefer (Simplified or Traditional), the set you will be using and selecting from (Bopomofo/HSK/TOCFL), in-game transcription (more on this later), and finally whether or not to show English on the Arcade and Train modes.

Hanzi Warrior Settings Breakdown

Breakdown of Settings features

Let’s first take a look at the new Hanzi Sets feature. If you tap the blue Set button (in the screen above it reads “Bopomofo (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ)”) it will bring up the Configure Set screen. From Configure Set screen tapping the same blue Set button again will allow you to choose your base set. This will be the set you will be using for training and also to play the game with. The “words” sets contain most of the words from each level of HSK* and TOCFL* exams. The “chars” sets break these words down into their respective characters so you can learn which characters make up each word.

Hanzi Warrior Base Set Selection

Choosing the Base Set

There are three other functions on the Configure Set screen. Select/Deselect All, Select/Deselect Page, and pressing the individual buttons. The Deselect All button clears all selections within the set giving you a fresh slate in which to select from. (Once you have deselected all the button will change to allow you to select all and vice versa.) Likewise the Deselect Page button clears the current Page. Paging between all the symbols in a set is as simple as swiping left or swiping right.

Hanzi Warrior Traditional Select Page

Select Page function

Tapping on an individual button will bring up the character biography popup. This shows the character as well as the pinyin and bopomofo pronunciation. It also shows a simple English meaning for the word or symbol which is taken from the CC-CEDICT (Thanks for providing a great resource). This is the English that will be shown on the Arcade or Train modes if “Show English” is enabled on the Settings and a correct match is made.

Hanzi Warrior Symbol Biography

Adding or Removing from Set

The new Arcade mode is a new alternative to the original Story Mode (which is still playable with over twenty-eight worlds across the four realms). If you are logged into Game Center you can compete in the three current leaderboards: Bopomofo, HSK, and TOCFL. As shown your score is determined from four parts; coverage, accuracy, a difficulty bonus (if any), and the number of correct matches. Hopefully you can make more than “1 matches.” The coverage is the percent of the current base set you are studying. For example, if you have selected 8 symbols from a set of 100 you will have 8 percent coverage. The accuracy is your percentage of correct answers versus your number of guesses. The difficulty bonus is for the HSK and TOCFL levels and corresponds to the level of difficulty you have selected. For instance Level 6 is more difficult than Level 1 and words are more difficult than chars.

Hanzi Warrior Arcade mode

Scoring in Arcade Mode

A note about in-game transcription. If Bopomofo or Pinyin is selected on the Settings screen it will use these to display level names in Story Mode and also the text you see at the top in the Arcade and Train modes. For example if you selected Traditional and Bopomofo in the Settings you would see “謝謝 :ㄒㄧㄝˋ ㄒㄧㄝ˙”. Alternatively if you selected Simplified and Pinyin you would see “谢谢 :xiè xie” which is also how you would say “Thank you.”

In addition to these three major updates there have been some minor cosmetic changes, an overhaul of the internal wordlist, and better memory usage. With Hanzi Warrior we are committed to bringing you an immersive language learning experience like no other and with your continued support and ideas we will break new ground in the Mandarin Chinese learning ecosystem. You can visit the Hanzi Warrior home page or check it out Hanzi Warrior on the App Store. As mentioned Hanzi Warrior has Bopomofo support but if you are interested in delving into pure Bopomo action with a unique learning experience, you may also enjoy Bopomo Blitz on the App Store.

* Here’s an explanation of the HSK and TOCFL support. From the Hanzi Warrior Touch Arcade post:

Q: How many words are there? Or how advanced do the characters get?

A: It basically has most all of the words from all six levels of the HSK exam (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) which is the basic mainland proficiency test (~5000 words), and all three levels of the TOCFL (Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language) exam (~8500 words) which is the Taiwan proficiency exam.

These range from basic words to proficient, and you can create your own sets. You can also break the words down into the characters and play the game with those (Select from the ‘chars’ modes in Settings). With all sets you can play with either traditional or simplified characters as well as get basic English meanings. There is even a Bopomofo gameplay mode.

Computerized Pinyin: Caron or Breve?

I will admit before today I had no idea what a caron or breve was. Doing some work on the next version of Hanzi Warrior I had the luxury of finding out. In doing an audit of the internal wordlists it appears that sometimes I found a caron and sometimes a breve for representing the third tone. In Unicode there is no u with both diaeresis and breve, therefore I converted all breves to carons with a little one-line sed script:

sed 's/ă/ǎ/g;s/ŏ/ǒ/g;s/ĕ/ě/g;s/ĭ/ǐ/g;s/ŭ/ǔ/g'

Here’s a handy little chart for future reference:

Caron Unicode Breve Unicode
ǎ 01ce ă 0103
ǒ 01d2 ŏ 014f
ě 011b ĕ 0115
ǐ 01d0 ĭ 012d
ǔ 01d4 ŭ 016d
ǚ 01da N/A N/A

Although I still do not really know what the difference is, it does seem that one is more pointy than the other. Until someone gets the Unicode consortium to add a diaeresis/breve combo I suppose carons will rule the day. Does anyone have any preferences? Do you secretly use breves for Pinyin?

Role-playing games based on Learning Japanese

With the release of KanaBattle 2 I thought it would be interesting to do a post on the current state of the art of this genre. While it seems to be a unique genre (learning Japanese characters with an RPG) it is surprising to see that there are quite a few titles already out there. From a quick glance at the forums there also seems to be new designers and developers eager to join in with their talents and ideas. From vintage retro games to Linux/PC/Mac and Web games to full-blown iOS and Android games let’s take a quick look inside this microgenre.

In the beginning there were huge mainframes and these ran text-based dungeon crawlers. The oldest Japanese RPG I could track down was Koei’s Dragon and Princess (ドラゴン&プリンセス). According to that site it was 1983 although Wikipedia has 1982. From these early days in the 70s and 80s the RPG has evolved to its present day form. It can definitely be useful to learn Japanese through complete immersion in the language (such as playing a full-fledged Japanese RPG). However it appears that many have independently arrived at the idea of learning the Japanese characters themselves (Katakana, Hiragana, Kanji) through a role-playing game. I do not have chronological order for these so they do not appear in any particular order. If anyone has additional information and history it would be great to incorporate it all together.

Here is a list I found by scouring through Google.

Tower of Kana – This seems to have disappeared from the web, although Android Arts is still around. If it’s the one I remember correctly it had a pretty well-thought-out design and great artwork.

Knuckles in China Land – Interesting concept featuring Knuckles from Sonic fame. It seems to be for PC platform but I could not find much out. It does have a video available showing gameplay.

Slime Forest Adventure (aka LRNJ) has a free version for Linux/Windows/Mac with option to upgrade to full version.

JRPG – free Python-based game for Linux/Windows/Mac.

Kana Attack (web game) – find the romaji match to destroy the monster.

Slimongo – This appears to be under development, but there’s already a video out and the developer seems active on forums.

Ninja Words Adventure – iOS RPG for learning Kanji. There are both paid and lite versions.

KanaBattle 2 – My entry into this genre. Use a variety of Katakana, Hiragana, and Romaji to defeat sinister emoji. Visit the Castle to upgrade your attack and defense. Collect gold and health to stay alive. Also features a time trial arcade mode. Available for iPhone/iPod Touch.

All in all I am excited to be a part of this genre and I think there are some good ideas out there that we could all build upon to eventually bring this style of educational gaming (in particular educational role-playing games) to a wider audience. I think technology has advanced to the point were we can evolve past the flashcard as we create more immersive video gaming experiences that educate as well as captivate.

If anyone has any corrections or additions I welcome all comments. I would like to incorporate as much feedback as possible so that people working in this genre have ideas of what has worked and what future directions we envision moving forward.

Pressing the Words Together

This is my first post on WordPress.com so let me make a quick introduction and the do a breakdown of what my strategy is going to be on here. Even though technically I’m an LLC I am going to be posting in first-person and reserve the royal we for what you and I can do together and help accomplish. I am a new breed of company and so I thought it would be fun to anthropomorphize myself. So while I can never truly become human you can follow along with me just like Trolley as we journey to Embelyon.

What am I doing on WordPress? Why does an LLC need to blog? As we skip through the Social Age of post-techno-industrialism a new era of accountability has dawned. Companies should no longer be faceless “theys” and “thems” that are clearly out of touch with capitalism or communism or terrorism as they auto-tweet and auto-facebook post pre-generated content from bored interns. Neither do we need an abrupt departure from the status quo that does nothing but transfer from 1% to dichotomous 1%. I just needed to blog.

So if I am going to blog what is my strategy? Where does it fit in with my mission statement, vision statement, goals, hopes, and dreams? How does it help me with synergy, networking, social engagement, and a graphite pencil full of other ambitions? Enough Socratic method, basically here is my WordPress strategy. Chiptunes are retro-passé, so let’s do it with a bytebeat drum-roll. My strategy is…

Longform traditional blog posts. As you can see from my post on Posterous I am already highly engaged in the other social venues and I have never really wrote in a weblog. (I could be available for guest posts check with my agent.) According to Wikipedia longform is a type of improvisational theatre, and improv itself is “typically comedic, and sometimes poignant or dramatic.” I am envisioning something more along the lines of 500+ words. Nothing overly researched, nothing too Mamihlapinatapaistic. Paddling down the stream of conscious, but not too Joycean. I just needed to blog.

So as if you did not know by now in my legal manifestation I publish apps. I am only two years old, but in the past year I have published six apps. These are all for iOS. Yes I do have a Kindle Fire. Yes I do have a Samsung Galaxy Tab (and Player). I even have some Sifteo cubes. So far I have only gotten around to getting the apps to run on my iPhone 4S, iPod Touch 4G, iPad and iPad 2. Although my HexMaster does have that online demo level.

And if you were unaware of my app catalog, why not a quick bio on each app. While currently they do not blog at great depth (some do tweet and post to google+) they still need warm caring fingers to tap with them. As you already know HexMaster (celebrating its 1st birthday this week!) I will introduce the others. KanaBattle and its newest sibling KanaBattle 2 are games for learning Japanese characters (such as Katakana, Hiragana, and Kanji). Scale Tapper is a pitch constellation music theory exploration app. (Scale Tapper is particular about its genre.) Hanzi Warrior is a language adventure game for demonstrating proficiency in Mandarin Chinese. Bopomo Blitz is a fast-paced match-2 game with a learning twist. WordPress tells me that I just hit word 556 so nice to meet you and see how I worked that whole marketing thing in.