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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Become A Rock Star with the Zya App!

I want to introduce you to Zya, a pretty fun app.

But first, I have a story for you.

Sometimes when I meet people offline who only know me from online, one of the first questions I'm asked is if my kids' names truly are Kiedis and Tova.

The answer is yes.

Then they want to know how we got them and I have my short answer -- that Kiedis is a last name and Tova is Hebrew for good. Usually that's enough and most people let it drop at that.

But here's the story: Kiedis is named for a pair of jeans I used to wear all the time by Rock & Republic, back when they were a luxury brand and not a sub-brand of Kohl's. And THOSE jeans are named after the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Anthony Kiedis, as all cuts of their jeans were branded by famous rock stars.

It was a joke that stuck, to be completely honest. We're not even RHCP fans, really. But he was born and he was Kiedis and that's kind of that.

Hopefully now all of the chili pepper references and psuedo-punk rock apparel make better sense.

However, as he's learned speech and started to blossom into a little person, the irony of his name has not been lost upon him.

He loves music. He loves singing and playing his dog guitar and most nights he belts himself to sleep -- lately it's Disney songs but sometimes it's Lorde or Of Monsters And Men and I feel like a proud little hipster mama.

So when I was asked to review a free iPad (and iPhone) app called Zya, where the point of the game is to make music, I agreed.

I wanted to see what Kiedis could do, when left to his own devices.

First, I gave it a whirl because I'm not going to just hand over some random game to my four-year-old and let him go. Now, understand that I grew up without video games and we don't currently have a gaming system, so me playing a game is kind of a big deal. Since the app was for iPad, I was able to download it easily and was up and going in no time. A tutorial pops up and shows you how to play the game -- you pick pre-existing band members, a beat, a verse, and a chorus, with the chance to add all kinds of studio effects at every stage of the game.
Zya App Review
Tapping out real drum beats in time was harder than I anticipated, but when I got it right I was more proud of myself than maybe I should have been. There's also an option to record your own vocals instead of just pick the ones they have but yeah, no, I don't need to bust anyone's eardrums with my caterwauling.
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Then, at the end, a cute little dog named Snarlz Barkley (who is far less annoying than you'd think -- he doesn't even speak) remixes your efforts and you get a little song at the end you can upload to Zya's YouTube channel once you make a Zya account.
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I found it actually kind of enjoyable, because you can sample real songs like Lady Gaga's more-well-known ones as well as some classics. I mean, Blurred Lines is on there and that was disappointing, but I just don't have to chose that option, ever. You earn points for making songs, sharing them, and also unlocking combinations of band members, microphone effects, and lyric choices in nearly countless combinations.

I kept getting the cat-themed ones because I kept making girl bands. Whoops.
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It didn't take long for not only Kiedis, but Kyle and Tova as well, to come check out what I was doing. And, as I suspected, Kiedis very quickly picked it up from peering over my shoulder and had very strong feels about what people and effects I should use.

So I handed it over to him and let him go.

And this is what he came up with.
Not bad, right? I mean, if you ignore the Maroon 5. He's still young, he doesn't really know any better.
Of course, we try to limit screen time with the kids, so while I'd love to let him just play his heart away on this, we're going to save it for special times when he's been super good or worked really hard on something. 

However, I like that this app is about creating music without too much gamification and definitely without violence or heavy competition. It's a great clean interface with intuitive controls. Am I super stoked that most of the female band members are basically Bratz dolls animated and in various states of "rock" dress? No, not really. I'd like to see a more kid-friendly option that way, with more clothes on the ladies. But do I realize that sometimes (usually after the kids are in bed) that I may vaguely resemble a couple of the characters? Well, yes. So.

I think this is a pretty neat app to let your kids ... or even you, if you'd like a fun little brain break away from Pinterest ... play around with the sounds they hear every day on the radio or TV or movies. I learned some about different microphone sounds and effects (technology!) and the drum beat rhythm maker part has some serious potential to help kids with counting in time and you know, making music.

And it's free, so that never hurts.

So, now you have no excuse to be bored over snow days! You're welcome. If you’ve played with Zya leave a link to your song in the comments!

This is a sponsored post. I have been provided the materials to review free of charge and also compensated for my time, however all opinions are my own.