Sunday, November 01, 2009

How SMARTMUSIC is Legitimizing Music Education

In music (band) class, we identify misconceptions, make note of them and make sure to re-teach each individual student in need of such "response to intervention". We have always operated this way and always will. Anyone teaching right now knows that "RTI" is one of the current buzz words in Education. Here are a few more:

  • Standards-based education
  • Differentiated instruction
  • Using data to drive instruction
  • Performance-based assessment
  • 21st century learning

Did you know that educational objectives are being met in music education programs using SMARTMUSIC software in the band and choral music curriculum?


SMARTMUSIC is the name given to software now available for use by music teachers and music students (MakeMusic, Inc.). Smartmusic is described as "learning software with the power to transform music learning. Students of all ages and skill levels can play or sing with professional accompaniments, making practice both rewarding and fun." It is quietly revolutionizing the field of music education. When used, it transcends expectations, fixes misconceptions and ensures steady progress by student musicians. And best of all SMARTMUSIC can be discussed using an educational lens.

Smartmusic allows students to perform music along with accompaniments or to simply play a line of music at a time. Music standards such as reading music, understanding and executing musical instructions (articulation and dynamics, for example) are addressed within the context of each composition, exercise or folk song.

SMARTMUSIC contains music at a variety of levels from basic to advanced. A teacher can assign specific exercises for each student
depending on their specific needs (to address misconceptions and weaknesses). These assignments are delivered digitally (via e-mail and by the student signing into the Smartmusic database).

Proper music instruction has always been performance-based since the only way a student can demonstrate understanding is to execute the skill(s) on his or her instrument. Music Education was doing performance-based assessment long before the term became an Educational Imperative. By it's very nature, Smartmusic uses a performance-based assessment model.

Using data to drive instruction is, again, something that has always been done in music education. However, Smartmusic kicks it up a notch. Data are collected as recordings of student performances. These data are automatically uploaded to a "gradebook" kept on Smartmusic's servers. This gradebook looks like a regular gradebook with columns of assignments. The recorded performances are accessed by clicking an icon next to each student's name. Additionally a snapshot of what notes/rhythms students played correctly or incorrectly is viewable by the click of a mouse. Correct notes/rhythms are green in color and incorrect notes/rhythms are red. Intangibles such as tone quality, intonation, articulation and interpretation can then be rated by the teacher using the recording. Based on the strehgth (or weakness) of the data, music can be reassigned or new music can be assigned to address particular issues.

SMARTMUSIC makes use of technology in engaging, creative and meaningful ways to ensure high quality, data-based music learning. Importantly, it is a tool that helps music students and music teachers do what they have always endeavored to do-to learn to be competent, independent musicians and to teach music effectively.

Photo credits:
Nationaal Archief / Spaarnestad Photo / J. van Eijk, SFA003001896.
Saxaphoon by Oude School at flickr

NOTE: This blog is in no way affiliated with Smartmusic or Make Music, Inc. The views and opinions expressed in the post are those of educatioanal blogger Andrew Garcia.

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