Latest update: March 29th, 2013
If you frequent Jewish websites, I am sure that you have come across the name ‘Trope Trainer’ before. After seeing it so many times all over the place I decided I wanted to see for myself what all the hype was about. The version of the program I was able to review was the Deluxe Edition. This program is very unique and has a lot to offer; it definitely is something that deserves the hype it has been getting.
The Trope Trainer installation was relatively easy and fast. This program is packed with so many great features, I don’t know where to begin. The program is not just for students who are practicing for their bar mitzvah – but in fact all ages can benefit from this program.
As we are all aware, there are many different customs amongst our people. Trope Trainer has taken that into consideration and has included close to 20 different melodies on how to lain (chant) the torah. Melody samples include customs from all over the world, such as according to German custom, Chabad, Galician, etc. The list is too long to itemize but you get the picture.
This program is really flexible and diverse; it allows the user to learn to lain with approximately seven different accents, i.e. Ashkenazi, Sefardi, Chabad, etc. What I found to be quite interesting is the way you can manipulate the program, feature by feature, so that while the program is teaching you how to lain with a Sefardi tune, (unless you specify otherwise) the words are pronounced in an Ashkenazi accent; the same goes vice versa.
True, there is nothing like a real teacher/cantor to teach you how to learn. In fact, Trope Trainer encourages you to have your training reviewed by a ba’al koreh to make sure that you are laining the way your community does, because even with all of the different customs this program has, some communities might have their notes slightly different, so therefore it would be a good idea just to double-check.
Learning how to lain requires you to first familiarize yourself with the notes. Trope trainer starts off by teaching you the basics while giving you tips along the way. The tutorial is very extensive and does not only teach the basics. It is packed with challenging exercises that will be sure to keep you on your toes and at the same time help you walk away knowing the material.
Guessing when your son’s bar mitzva parsha or trying to figure out what is supposed to be lained the following week/weekday is eliminated with the calendar option. The calendar lets you peek into the near and distant future or even go back in time to see what was lained in the past. The calendar shows you both the secular and Hebrew dates.
If you already know what parsha you want to lain, then proceed to the reading section in the program. The reading section lists off all the parshios in the Torah. Upon selecting a parsha, assuming that you have input the right year and correct region (Diaspora/Israel – when the last day of Yom Tov falls on Shabbos, the weekly readings in the Diaspora and Israel are different until a double parsha is separated and the Diaspora catches up), the haftarah feature will automatically generate all the possible haftarahs that can be lained for that week. Sometimes there may be one haftarah because all communities will read the same one, yet other weeks there may be a few because some communities have different customs for that week and will be reading different haftarahs.
You can also choose to view special lainings such as the Yomim Noraim, Yom Tovim, Chanukah, Purim, fast days etc. In fact, you can make your own custom readings.
The display controls are quite extensive. You have the choice of viewing the text in regular format or Stam (the way the words are written in the torah (without vowels or trope) or view both, side by side.
Practicing certain trope groups (such as munach esnachta), the program allows you to highlight all of the texts that contain these cantillations. The highlighting feature allows you to assign different colors for different groups. You can also assign colors to the actual cantillation symbols – it’s like highlighting the notes in your notebook with different color highlighters. This comes in very handy when you want to practice certain groups.
There are times when within a parsha that there is a special tune for that particular piece, such as in Parshas Beshalach when we lain Oz Yashir. For instances like these, the program has an option that allows you to underline these texts in order to remind you of the different tune.
To listen to the laining, all you have to do is hit the play button. The program will start laining from the word the gray cursor is at. Want to stop? Just simply press the stop button. Not too hard if you ask me. I think even those who are scared of their computer will be able to handle this task.
As Trope Trainer starts laining, the cursor moves along and highlights each word that is being said. At the same time, on the bottom of the screen, it shows the translation of the verse, the transliteration, the particular musical note it is reading and the name of that musical note.
The more advanced playback features can make a real difference when learning and practicing how to lain. Many times a verse needs to be repeated over and over until it is perfected. This can become quite cumbersome if you need to constantly be hitting the play and stop button. With the repeat play option, you can get the program to constantly repeat a certain segment. Other options you have instead of listening to a continuous flow of text is to listen to a word, trope group, or until the end of the verse.
Aside from melody and pronunciation options, there is a feature that allows you to change the pitch from -12 all the way to 12. You also can change the voices (i.e. bass, baritone, tenor, alto, soprano and child).
One thing that students will love about the program is that it enables you to change the speed of the program’s laining. When students first learn how to lain, they need to hear the text slowly, but as they become more experienced, the pace can be picked up. Trope Trainer allows the student to change the speed from 1 (slow) to 15 (fast). By allowing the program to ‘grow’ with the student, Trop Trainer helps ensure that the student stay motivated and not become bored because they are not challenged.
Trope Trainer is a steal for the price you will pay for it. This program is the next best thing than a human teacher. If you want, you can buy different versions of the program such as the Standard, Single Parsha, and Deluxe. But to have the largest variety of resources, you will want the Deluxe Edition. With this version, you will be able to learn it all. In addition to the weekly parshiyos, you can also learn how to lain Megillas Esther, Shir Hashirim, Rus, Eichah and Koheles.
Trope Trainer requires a PC with at least a 120 MHz processor. Windows 98/ME/NT4/2000/XP. An SVGA display, 32 MB RAM, a sound card and, of course – last but not least – speakers.
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