As college campuses across the nation integrate technology into classroom lectures, Joel Clifft, DMA, helps to bring the classroom to technology. Clifft, who serves as APU’s director of keyboard studies, made music theory education accessible to the masses through the creation of his iPhone app, Music Theory Pro (MTP), in 2010. This past April, he released a new and expanded version of the application for download on any Apple product, including laptops.
Clifft created Music Theory Pro to make music education both attainable and enjoyable. Formatted as a game, players answer music-related questions, such as locating particular notes on a digital keyboard, as quickly as they can. Similar to how music students learn in the classroom, users can practice naming notes on the piano and on the staff. Questions are both visual and auditory so players fully integrate musical concepts, and as they progress, they master key signatures, intervals, and chords. Music Theory Pro allows users to view and share their scores on social media platforms, creating a type of friendly competition.
“Musical literacy is essential for any musician, whether they play jazz, classical, or pop,” said Clifft. “The trouble is, it’s not very fun to practice music theory and ear training. Everyone, from a four-year-old to my college students, enjoys a good game. MTP turns musical drills like note names, intervals, scales, and chords into a fun challenge. Can you identify key signatures faster than somebody on the other side of the world?”
Clifft’s application challenges novices and musical experts. Individuals seeking an introduction to music theory can grasp concepts through beginner modes and tutorials available on the app’s website. In addition, advanced music students will find lessons difficult enough to stretch their current proficiency.
The newest version of Clifft’s app takes the entertaining and educational components of the first app and improves appearance and content. Completely redesigned with new features, Music Theory Pro now includes ear training and jazz harmonies. In addition, users track and monitor their own progress.
With this update, Clifft hopes to help musicians on a global scale. Currently, after the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia most often download MTP. This past April, the application debuted in China.
“Since China is a huge consumer of Apple products, and culturally values music, I made Chinese my first translation. It is rewarding to share Music Theory Pro with others around the world.”
Clifft’s expertise lies in keyboard collaborative arts, along with solo piano, music theory, and composition. He graduated Pi Kappa Lambda and earned the title of “Most Outstanding Graduate” at both the master’s and doctoral levels. As an active collaborative pianist, Clifft performs in concert with world-class musicians, including violinist Midori, and erhu player, Ma Xiao Hui. He also performs with the Foothill Philharmonic Society, the Debut Orchestra, the Brand Library Concert Series, the Lake Avenue Chamber Orchestra, and the Idyllwild Faculty Concert.