JazzChord (review version 1.1) is designed to teach you how to play and recognise jazz chords - although it covers all types of chords and its use is not limited to m7+5-9 and m/M9+5 chords and the like. It is available for the ST and PC (286 or higher spec) computers. You can copy the files to a hard disk but the program floppy acts as a key disk. It can display its range of chords (some 51 types) in notation and on an onscreen keyboard and the chords play over MIDI - when selected. The key signatures in the notation display don't always correspond to the scale of the selected chord; signatures seem to be selected for the number of accidentals which are used in the chord. For example, C minor is shown with two flats and C augmented has three sharps. Selecting the Scale Display option will play the notes in the scale as well as the chord, and the Construction window shows how simple triads and seventh chords and inversions are created.
There's a simple game to test your knowledge of chord construction in which you play against the clock to select the notes which go to make up a range of chords. A Phrase window illustrates how notes written as straight quavers are played with a triplet feel in jazz. Another window shows four common sets of chord progressions used in the blues. The Dictation window will play a series of notes which have to be selected on the stave or entered from a keyboard. You can use the mouse buttons to alter the pitches or click on a note to produce a pop up keyboard (though I think a permanent keyboard at the bottom of the screen would have been of more help here). There's a similar Dictation exercise for chords and you can select the level of difficulty for both exercises. It has to be said, if you don't have perfect pitch this ain't easy, but of course, aural exams always were the least-favourite among students.
The program itself is easy to use although the manual suffers from Franglais (no one wants to spend money to get a native English muso to check the copy, it seems). However, learning scales and chords is pretty dry stuff and JazzChord does make it more interesting than a text book.
Price : JazzChord £55
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Review by Ian Waugh
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