Thursday, July 25, 2013

PractizPal - A Metronome and More

Rarely do I win anything. Imagine my surprise when I received word that I was the winner of a PractizPal giveaway that I had entered on One Bright Corner. When the green unit arrived in the mail, I knew I wanted to check it out thoroughly and give you my feedback here. Before I start telling you about my PractizPal experience, let me begin my assuring you that I am receiving no compensation for this review and am not a vendor of the reviewed product.

What is PractizPal? To put it very simply, it's a high quality metronome and practice log. Encased in a brightly colored plastic shell, the instrument is extremely durable. (I can confirm this since I dropped it within minutes of having it out of the box!) As you can see from the picture above, the PractizPal features five large buttons to control everything -- the perfect size and set-up for little hands.

The large treble clef button in the center is the hub of the PractizPal. Once the teacher or parent has set the daily practice goal at the time of set-up, students simply hit the button at the start of their practice session and get to work. When they need to take a break, the student hits the treble clef again. If you resume later on the same day, PractizPal picks up with the timer right where you left off. Once the student has reached the practice goal for the day, she is rewarded with a round of applause from PractizPal. Even when you're working in the privacy of your home work space, it's nice to hear appreciative applause for a job well done!

Does the student need a reliable metronome? Click the metronome button on the right side and it starts right away. Use the arrows to adjust the speed of the clicks as needed. What I really like about the metronome is that there are no "special" sounds indicating downbeats and the volume can be set as low, medium, or high. (PractizPal has been handy for me too while working on thickly textured passages. The metronome doesn't get lost amid the sounds of the piano.)

When the student returns to her lesson, she brings the PractizPal with her. The teacher can quickly click the bar graph button on the left side of the unit to view the practice report. Reports are available for an entire year. This has been valuable for me as I worked with my students. We've discovered when practice is hard to fit in. Once the student and parent were aware of the problem, they began to look for possible solutions. The student sensed some level of accountability, parents were aware of expectations, and the results spoke for themselves.

While I've had a good experience with PractizPal, there are some things that could be improved by the manufacturers.

  • Currently, only one student's practice record can be maintained in PractizPal. At a retail cost of $49.99, that's a huge expense for families with multiple students enrolled in lessons. If a single unit could manage multiple students, parents have fewer things to keep up with and there is less likelihood of confusing which unit records which student's progress.
  • While I love the applause that occurs when the practice goal is reached, it would be beneficial to have the timer continue. Students currently have to stop their practice to acknowledge reaching the goal and restart the timer if they wish to continue practicing. That results in an unnecessary interruption that will often stop the practicing all together.
  • PractizPal turns itself off -- a great feature for young students! However, if they forget to push the treble clef button at the end of their practice, the timer continues to run. While experimenting with the unit myself, I forgot to end the session. My practice log records a 15 hour session! That would have been wonderful if it had really happened. Any chance that an exterior microphone might notice that the sound has stopped?
  • Along the same lines with the microphone, I see a wonderful opportunity to allow students to make mp3 recordings of their practice. The recordings could strictly be used for self evaluation or files could be uploaded and emailed to the teacher for comment (especially by students that are only in lessons bi-weekly). Additionally, teachers could record practice instructions and memos for parents as they monitor practice at home.
PractizPal is not a perfect device, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. If your budget allows, I think the unit is a wise investment for every music teacher's studio.  For more information about PractizPal or to order, visit their website at www.practizpal.com.