Frequently Asked Questions

Questions from musicians or teachers looking for education software

Why the cubes on the Home page?The cubes beautifully illustrates how dozens of aspects have to be combined when playing music. The goal of our software is both to offer the possibility to zoom in deeply on specific elements in the music, as well as to combine them in an organic way. We want to encourage musicians to work on all skills and become a complete musician. The multimedia approach helps a lot to achieve this.

I work a lot with young kids, will this new type of software appeal to them?Children absorb information faster than adults and retain it for longer. Computer games, the internet and social media all feature in their lives, where they're interacting and learning visually, aurally and and physically. The Fundamentals and VMS programmes both tap into these skills - many parts of the courses become addictive because the student can become part of the band right away. And they're challenging themselves musically in ways they may not normally encounter in a lesson. Children (and their teachers) will notice steady improvement because they will want to try things again and again (and maybe outdo their teacher!)

I played a lot by ear, but never got to reading...
Being able to read opens so many more doors! Think of all the songbooks, all the sheet music with millions of songs. The Fundamentals can definitely make it easier, because the explanatory movies make the system crystal clear, and the hundreds of exercises for mastering rhythm and pitch all are 'bite-sized' and short enough to memorize. It does take time and discipline, but the trainers in the Melody & Rhythm section are both highly effective and enjoyable.

I wish my private lessons were twice as long!
One major advantage of our multimedia is that it saves the teacher a lot of time. Your teacher can now tell the student to study specific movies and fill in (and check!) specific pages for the next lesson. Whatever subject, there is a chapter for it. The teacher does not need to set up a system of their own, he may only need to answer a couple of remaining questions and clarify mistakes. The time saved can be used for playing - after all that's what we make music for!

Our choir conducter sends us mp3s with the voice we have to sing
Consider yourself lucky with such a conductor. Singing by heart has its advantages, but please note that it won't work like that in many other choirs. The investment in learning sightsinging will pay off rapidly. Rehearsing will be more effective, you won't have to remember everything by heart. There will be more time for working on the sound of the choir, the timing, the dynamics and the pronounciation if the singers can read. The Fundamentals has a dedicated sightsinging section, supplemented by an easy-to-understand movie about singing theory.

Our music school should offer theory lessons, but there is little money
Both our DVDs are a curriculum in itself. No need to re-invent the wheel, because with this material any good music teacher has a great starting point for small or large series of lessons for groups of any level. It is very human that people want someone to tell them what to do. Organizing this is easy and does not cost a lot. It could even be organized by e-mail without a physical gathering. There is an example of such a homework system on this website.

I always improvised by ear, but it is beginning to feel limited
Congratulations! Apparently you have music in your head, and you have experience in moving over the chords. That is the best order to learn to improvise. The next step is to do things in a more conscious way. In the VMS program you can do a lot of improv too, but the difference is that you get lots of practical assignments with it. There is a shopping list with 16 different improvisation techniques that help you to expand your vocabulary, improve your musical story, enhance your harmonic skills, etc. Each technique is demonstrated clearly in one of the 11 original songs. Play arpeggios, vary the melody, follow the guidetone lines, etc. You are ready for it now!

When I write songs I always come up with the same chord progressions
The VMS program has songs that demonstrate the use of many effective harmonic pathways. Emphasize the tension with a secondary dominant, enhance sad lyrics with modal interchange, make a sweet chromatic bass line with diminished chords like a true Brazilian, step outside by using tritone substitutions, learn to modulate between all 24 keys, etc. The VMS is a huge toolbox for composers, with analyses of dozens of inspiring famous songs, and challenging puzzles with chord progressions.

Questions about Virtual Music School software in general

What is the difference between the Fundamentals and the VMS program? One could say that the Fundamentals program focuses on mastering the horizontal aspect of the music: the single melodic line with all its parameters like rhythm, key, notation etc. In the VMS the vertical dimension is added to that: it goes much deeper into the how the melody relates to harmony, and how common harmonic progressions are constructed. The VMS also has a large creative component (improvisation), whereas the Fundamentals helps to improve fundamental playing and hearing abilities.

What are the main advantages of the programs? The Virtual Music School company takes music education into the 21st century. It combines all popular multimedia for music education in highly transparant interfaces. It is a teacher you can rewind, with endless patience, available 24/7. Working with our software is FUN, and because it is so addictive you will practice more and learn faster.

What are the main features of this multimedia software? • Movies are used for explanations: What You See Is What You Hear;
• Trainers combine sheet music with audio in step by step approaches;
• PDFs are used for essays, summaries and exercises;
• Audio is created by using real instruments or the best available samples;
• Songs, solos and grooves are played by excellent musicians;
• Melodies contribute largely to each player's musical vocabulary;
• Examples and songs are always playable and transparent;
• Much of the material can easily be transferred to mobile devices;
• Navigation takes you there where you need to go to become a better musician
• ALL aspects of music can be practiced.

Can teachers benefit from this software in their lessons? Our DVDs are great for self-study, but teachers find it a great support for their lessons as well. It saves a lot of explanation time, teachers can refer to specific subjects on the DVD, students have endless sources for playing playing by heart, playing along, sightsinging, ear training, etcetera. Many exercises can also be done with groups.

What are the system requirements of the software? • Dvd drive
• 2 GB free Hard Disk space for VMS, 2.7 GB for Fundamentals
• Flash plug-in version 8 or higher (usually already installed)
• Windows: Intel Pentium II 450MHz or faster (or equivalent)
• Macintosh: PowerPC G3 500MHz or faster, running OS-X
• Linux: >500MHz + Flash 8
If you can navigate our demos, your computer is ready for both DVDs!

Questions about the Fundamentals DVD

What is the main goal of the Fundamentals program?
Some musicians concentrate on developing just one or two aspects of their playing. For example, some guitarists learn to play by ear and intuition, whereas brass players often are strong in reading. The Fundamentals program encourages you work on ALL aspects of making music. All possible connections between Ears, Eyes and Fingers are trained. The interactive multimedia breaks down the more complicated music theory into movies. So even if you don't read music, you can still use the DVD.

Can I use it to prepare for the entrance exam of a conservatory?
Of course you have to ask the school for their admission requirements, but in most cases the Fundamentals will contain precisely the package that you need: understanding of the system of notation, basic hearing abilities, dictations, sightsinging, instrumental skills, etc.

Some movies start with a few opening notes. Are they important?
Yes, you should take a minute to read them, because they often tell you about the concept of the movie, the meaning of certain colors, or the things you should pay attention to. You'll simply get more out of it.

Questions about the VMS program

Is the VMS a jazz course?
The VMS is meant for anyone who is interested in the construction of music, and in improvisation/composition. Of course, jazz is a great style for improvisation, and the VMS will suit many jazz musicians. On the other hand, the content of the VMS applies to many other musical styles like country & western, salsa, Brazilian, and pop. The VMS focuses on music that is based on the western classical principles of tension and release. You can use it in practically any style you want. Besides, putting music into boxes is a waste of time...

Is the VMS also for singers?
Vocalists do not have keys, valves, or buttons to help them to find the right pitch. They will have to invest relatively more time in hearing the functions of the tones in a chord. On the other hand, they do not have to deal with difficult fingerings. Every instrument has its own peculiarities. If you are a vocalist, it is a good idea to spend some extra time at the piano, or take a few piano lessons, to have the opportunity to check your pitch and experiment with harmony in a conscious way.

Is the VMS worth its price?
To quote one of the reviewers: This impressive and balanced training program is in fact priced ridiculously low (Eppo Schaap in Interface magazine, September 2008). The VMS costs €99,-. That’s about the price of three or four 60 minute private lessons. Just the plain explanation time of its movies cover that time, but you can play these whenever and as often as you like. Add to that the many written exercises, the state-of-the-art ear training facilities, the highly educational and enjoyable songs to study and play along, then you must conclude that this reviewer has a point. The VMS offers much more than a good book about music theory or improv.

I still need a teacher when I have the VMS?
There is always so much to talk about in lessons: sound, fingering, posture, timing, etc. For many of those subjects you need a teacher. Teachers can refer to the VMS and save a lot of explanation time, which they can use for playing and giving feedback.

I play a Bb-instrument. Are there transposed scores for me?
Yes, the VMS interface offers all songs and exercises for concert pitch, Bb- and Eb instruments, as well as bass clef instruments. Even better: the score and accompaniment of each song is available in all twelve keys!

Can I use VMS songs for playing something other than the melody or a solo?
Most people will want to work with the No Melody version so that they can play the melody or improvise, but most songs are available in four additional formats. The PA-version is for playing along with the whole tune, the No Bass version (NB) is for bass players, the NH version contains no harmony and is for pianists and guitarists, and the ND version is for drummers. These tracks are also used for additional exercises in the VMS.

How can I work with the VMS audio material without a computer?
The VMS data folder is structured very transparently. You can easily find the mp3s you want to work with and copy them to an iPod or burn them on a CD. You only need a simple stereo set or earphones to play the tracks.

I often get bogged down by lengthy music books. Will the VMS solve this?
The VMS uses practically all possibilities with multimedia to 'go where you need to go to become a better musician'. A glossary tells you where a certain subject is treated; many pages have crosslinks; many FAQs have a couple of questions for you too - as a kind of self test -, the Library offers all songs, exercises and summaries in categories.

How does VMS deal with jargon?
Theoretical jargon is either avoided or clarified by using multimedia in a smart way. Where a musicologist speaks of a 'non-diatonic dissonant', the VMS gives this note a dirty brown color to illustrate an unpleasant clash with a neighboring chord tone. A 'blue note' in a blues line is easily recognizable because it is really blue! Simple color codes, enhanced with graphic symbols like arrows and brackets make any musical concept very clear. The 'What You See Is What You Hear' system lowers any threshold.