My two-year-old daughter clearly loves music. She dances to everything, and she sings with abandon. Although I’m married to a musician and live nearby to one of the top music schools in the world, I have been blessed with only an average aptitude for making the stuff. I’m a poor guide for my daughter as she explores the wonderful world of song.
However, my lack of expertise does give me greater appreciation for things that lower the barrier to creating music. Luma Creative, an editorial and design agency in London, recently launched a website for pre-tween girls called Magic Belles. One of the most enjoyable features of the site is a composition activity that lets kids (and musically-challenged adults) play with music.
Maxine Stinton and Luciana Mazzocco, the designers behind Magic Belles, created the site to encourage young girls to celebrate their talents and appreciate the wonders of life away from the computer, even as they interact with the characters online. “We set out to create a broad range of characters each with equal importance,” says Stinton. “There is something for every little girl to connect with.” There are six animated Belles in that universe, each having her own style of dress, accessories, and song.
The project took a creative turn when Mazzocco and Stinton happened on the Tenori-On and the Tone Matrix, step sequencers to create electronic music. “It was such an exciting moment,” Stinton recalls. “We think the Tone Matrix is one of the most wonderful musical instruments ever invented. It makes music accessible to those who know nothing about music.”
The result was Magic Music, a drag-and-drop activity that invites visitors to arrange the Belles in a sequence to generate a new song. Along with the digital coloring books, music is what brings kids and their parents back to Magic Belles. “Those activities are entertaining at a simple level, which is right for the age group,” says Stinton.
Composing music was the main draw for me my daughter, as well. To enjoy it fully, however, she will need an iPad application. Like many kids, my toddler is attracted to touch interaction. The activities on Magic Belles are currently powered by Flash, which renders them useless on Apple’s tablet.
Other features of the site include a scrapbook of offline activities, to guide the girls back into the real world, and several animated e-cards to send to friends and family. Magic Belles also has a moderated blog to publish artwork and experiences shared by kids.
Full disclosure: Maxine Stinton is married to GeekDad Core Contributor Nathan Barry.