Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tricks and Sticks with SmartMusic

A couple of percussion things came up with SmartMusic this week.

First, we had tympani player who needed to do a SmartMusic assignment, so he popped into the room to do it after school.  It was a nice time and he got some extra coaching.  After a couple of tries he got the 100% score.

Then he said something interesting, "I wonder if I can do it two times in a row like that."  He spent another five minutes trying to get to two in a row.  (And yes, he did get there.)

Interesting.  He was having so much fun that he really did start to "play" with SmartMusic.  Do you think he will become a better player with that attitude?  I think so.  There is doing something and then there is being able to repeat what you have done.  It is an interesting lesson that should take him far.

He may be really self-motivated, but I think the "game" factor of SmartMusic was really helping him meet his personal need for a challenge.  This group of youngsters is a generation that has spent time with video games and some of these students have picked up on the concept of developing skills and doing things over until you REALLY have it.

My education profs would call this mastery.  My students might call it a number of things, "skills," "game," "ownage."

The machine also had the patience for him to reach for that mastery level.  Had I been busier that evening or I hadn't been computer-equipped, it would have been easy for me to say, "I have heard you do it right once, you should go now... "  I really don't have to be there while he is doing his two in a row experiment if he has access to a SmartMusic equipped computer.

Some percussion specific things we have noticed here:

Percussion on SmartMusic has always been a challenge for the software.  It is getting better, but for some reason this group of instruments must be hard to get dialed-in for this program.  Check their knowledge base for some tips.

Some bell sets register an octave lower in SmartMusic than what is written.  Our work around is to talk about note names and show kids how to figure out what is going on.  There is some info in the SmartMusic Knowledge Base that is helpful too.  If in doubt, send the assignment in and we will send it back if there is a problem.  The teacher is always allowed to change the score.

Also, when making band music assignments, check to be sure that the percussion parts assigned have something to play!  If you assign the second movement to the maraca player and that movement is tacet for the maraca player... you probably get where this is going.  The fix for this is good old fashioned score study.  Don't just read the wind parts when you are thinking about what to assign.

You might think that SmartMusic isn't necessary or worth it for percussionists.  With a few tricks, I think it helps them move forward.

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