Hi, this is Christopher Sutton, the Founder and Director of Musical U, and I’d love to share with you what’s new in Musical U this month.

This month, we had fun with the Halloween module which reveals the musical techniques behind spooky-sounding tracks. Our new quiz system was extended to cover the Chord Recognition: Triad Inversions module. And we introduced two big improvements to the Planning area, making it easy to set your “Big Picture Vision” and get a personal training plan based on a Roadmap.

Let’s dive in! You can watch the video, or read the transcript below.

Halloween Fun

Kicking off the month in style was our Halloween module. This is a fun module which allows you to explore the skills you’ve been developing at Musical U by looking at the kind of music we listen to at Halloween. The module consist of a number of tracks which represent the kind of spooky, haunted house kind of music we tend to hear at the end of October, and each track is dissected into the various musical elements that make it sound spooky, so let’s take a look at one of these.

This track was a new addition to the addition to the module this year. It’s called “Strange Things in My Closet”. It’s based on a track composed by award-winning composer Sabrina Pena Young, inspired by the theme from the popular show this year, Stranger Things. We can give the track a little listen. In this case, we were being asked to listen for the instruments and the orchestration being used, musical techniques and sound effects, other soundtracks this track might remind you of, and the harmonies being used.

After that the module goes into detail on each of those elements and what you could be listening for, and how you can use these kinds of creepy tracks to learn more about how music is put together. Whether you’re a Halloween fan or not, I’m sure you can see how picking a particular genre like this and diving deep on what’s being done in the music to make it sound like those tracks belong to that genre is a really useful exercise, and it’s a fun way to bring together the various skills you might’ve been learning inside Musical U.

New Quizzes for Triad Inversions

The next improvement inside Musical U this month was further rollout of our new quiz system. If you’ve been watching these What’s New in Musical U videos or reading the blog posts, you’ll know we’ve been developing an interactive quiz system to improve the existing one inside Musical U. This is designed to make it easier and more fun to learn the listening skills our practice modules focus on.

This month we rolled out to a new module, Chord Recognition: Triad Inversions. This is a fairly advanced skill for most musicians. If you’re looking to play chords by ear, you don’t necessarily need to learn to recognize the inversions by ear, but it can help with transcription, and it’s a great way just to extend your relative pitch one step further.

Let’s take a little look on how this new quiz system is being used inside the chord recognition inversions module. Here is the first lesson of the module which talks about major triads in their various inversions, and you have the chance to listen to some examples and test yourself. Then for the actual quiz itself, we have the option of doing the old style quiz as it were or using the new quiz system, so let’s take a look at the new quiz system.

You might be able to here that that’s a root position chord which we represent with the letter A here, and then we’ll do another one, and I have to judge which inversion it is. This one is a first inversion, so we’ll choose answer B. We’re excited to have rolled out a quiz system to this new topic, and of course, we’ll be continuing to do so to sol-fa and rhythm and chord progressions in the months ahead.

Your Big Picture Vision

The next couple of improvements to Musical U this month come in the planning area. Planning is a big part of what we teach at Musical U because it makes such a difference to how successful your musicality training will be we have a process we recommend members go through to figure out their goals and create training plans to use the modules inside Musical U to reach exactly the goal they want to reach as a musician.

This month we made a couple of changes. One was in our Planning for Success module. We walk you through creating what we call your “Big Picture Vision”. This really represents your dream destination as a musician, where you want to be in maybe five or 10 years time. What we added this month was a couple of examples to help explain what we’re talking about here, and also the opportunity to set your big picture vision. This then becomes a part of your member profile inside the site. It can be used to guide the training plans you’ll go on to create and the skills you’ll be practicing.

Training Plan Templates

The other improvement to our planning area is probably the biggest change to Musical U this month. For a long time inside Musical U, we’ve had what we call Roadmaps, which are your big picture guides to learning a skill like singing in tune or playing chords by ear, but until this month, it was up to you to transform the road map into a personal training plan. What we’ve done now is made it very easy to go to a Roadmap, for example, here is the one for playing chords by ear, and turn that into a training plan. You can, of course, read through the whole road map. You’ll see it’s fairly substantial and brings you right from the very beginning through to some quite proficient chords by ear skills.

What we added this month was a one click way to take a phase, for example, the “fundamentals” phase which explains the core concepts you’re going to need to learn this skill, and just with one click create a personal training plan based on that phase. We’ll see here the training plan. It’s already filled in with a name and a description and the step by step you’re going to work through to follow through on this phase and the recommended target date, how long it typically takes a musician to learn these skills.

There’s just a few bits left for you to fill in. For example, your assessment of your current skills and your progress journal you’ll be creating for this training plan, but it means you’re well in your way to having a detailed personal training plan for learning this skill.

We’re really excited about that because it’s going to make the road maps much easier for all our members to use, and it’s an area we’ll be continuing to work on and improve, because the more clarity you can have about your goals and the steps you’re going to follow to get there, the more success you’ll have with your musical training.

Thank you for joining me for this quick look inside what’s new in Musical U this month. If you’re an existing member, I hope you have enjoyed these new features – and if you’re not yet a member, I hope to see you inside soon!