MMW-58 -- Spotlight on the Melo-Dam Music School

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
Commentary on the week's music technology news

Issue No. 58
Friday, March 26, 2004



++ FEATURE: Spotlight on the Melo-Dam Music School

** Panasonic Licenses Beatnik Audio Engine
** Sony Europe to Launch Music Download Service
** New Anime Chaku-uta Service for DoCoMo

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++ FEATURE: Spotlight on the Melo-Dam Music School

It's been a while since we last featured one of the many interesting
Japanese mobile music services, so for this issue we decided to
spotlight a unique site dedicated to teaching and practicing music
fundamentals. Music education is an important but often overlooked
application of ringtone technology; it represents a largely untapped
segment of the growing market for mobile music software. Daiichi
Kosho's Melo-Dam School is one of the most ambitious projects we've
seen so far in this area.

Launched in 2002 on DoCoMo's i-mode platform, The Melo-Dam School was
the first mobile "music school" service offered in Japan and still
boasts the most extensive collection of music-learning applications
available for mobile phones. The school is part of Daiichi Kosho's
massive Melo-Dam ringtone portal, and users must pay extra to
subscribe to the service. Although there is not much in the way of
lessons or written instruction, students can use the training software
to hone basic musical skills.

Melo-Dam School contains three basic "courses": Voice Training, Ear
Training and Beat Training. Each course costs 150 yen per month and
requires the student to register with her own ID or nickname. The
voice training course offers a collection of popular songs and a list
of "one-point" tips for singing each song. The ear training and beat
training courses each contain three applications for strengthening
fundamental aural and rhythmic ability. Each application has a
game-like structure, and all scores are recorded. Users can check
their results at any time and also see a list of the top 30 students
in each course.

One interesting feature of the Melo-Dam school is that all of the
applications use ringtone versions of well-known songs, and these
songs are updated monthly. For example, one of the beat training games
requires you to tap out the rhythm of a popular song as it plays
(altered to include irregular breaks and tempo changes). The ear
training programs also use fragments from popular songs in a similar
way to help the student better identify intervals and chords. The
games have different difficulty levels, and the songs change according
to the level selected.

While the Melo-Dam school has plenty of impressive features, there are
a few points where it could stand improvement. First, a little more in
the way of simple lessons or general information about the ear
training concepts used in the games would be helpful to beginning
students. Also, the user interface for some of the games is extremely
rough, and the overall appearance is somewhat lacking. Finally, like
most providers who offer Java i-appli software with their services,
Daiichi Kosho appears to have had a difficult time keeping up with the
support of new models, and the screen layout can be a bit of a mess on
some handsets.

All in all, though, Daiichi Kosho has created a useful and enjoyable
service that continues to attract new users. Perhaps even more
importantly, the karaoke company has shown that this type of online
music school can work on a mobile platform and that there is a market
for it. The recent success of online lessons for the PC offered by
Berklee School of Music has excited many in the music education field,
and it won't be long before similar services are also available for
mobile devices. Look for more karaoke/ringtone providers -- especially
those like Yamaha that are already active in music education -- to
expand into this space in the near future.

-- Steve Myers

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** Panasonic Licenses Beatnik Audio Engine

In brief: Beatnik, Inc. announced last week that it's Beatnik Audio
Engine (BAE) has been licensed by Panasonic for inclusion in the X700
Smartphone. the BAE includes a synthesizer and mixer, and supports the
MIDI, SP-MIDI, XMF, RMF and WAV file formats. It is also widely used
in Nokia's mobile phones.


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** Sony Europe to Launch Music Download Service

In brief: At last week's CeBIT 2004 Festival in Hanover, Sony Europe
announced that it would be starting a new European music download
service in June. Called "Connect", the service will launch initially
in the UK, Germany and France with a catalog of over 300,000 songs.
Tracks will be offered in the ATRAC-3 format, with prices starting at
99 euros per song. The service will work with Sony's SonicStage 2.0
player and music management software.


** New Anime Chaku-uta Service for DoCoMo

In brief: On March 15, Toei launched a chaku-uta (song tone) service
for DoCoMo's new FOMA 900i series of mobile phones. The new service,
called "Toei Uta Paradise," will offer a catalog of about 300 songs
from Toei movies and animated TV programs. The songs are priced at 105
yen each, and users can choose from subscription plans of two, three
or five songs per month.


Subscribers: 2,475 as of March 26, 2004

Written by: Steve Myers (
Steve Myers is president and chief enthusiast of Theta Music
Technologies, which specializes in the development of music-related
software applications.

Edited by J@pan Inc editors: (


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