Monday, August 1, 2016

Chromatik and SmartMusic Review

Chromatik and SmartMusic are both excellent examples of how technology can enhance traditional music education. I have previously worked with SmartMusic in a graduate level class, but Chromatik was new to me. Both services are incredibly easy to navigate and I imagine that students of any age would need little guidance given their natural proclivity towards technology.

Chromatik’s website is easy to navigate and well-designed. At first glance, a variety of popular music selections, as well as introductory material are available to the consumer.
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The student has the ability to select the instrument for which the music will be displayed. Once an instrument is selected, sheet music appears on the screen with playback functions. Although Chromatik’s collection of repertoire seems to be heavily focused on more “popular” genres of music, it does include some tutorials and introductory material. Below is an example of the “scales” function.
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Other instrument-specific tutorials are available, such as the one below, which provides introductory information about the guitar. It also explains how to tune a guitar with a video.
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Although these tutorials are helpful and provide important information for someone first learning an instrument, Chromatik does not provide any feedback to the student regarding their playing. Therefore, I believe it’s primary benefit is that it would encourage more time spent practicing for students because of the fun variety of music available. However, it could not replace time spent with an instructor.
I think that Chromatik would be most beneficial in a private studio setting. (I wish that it had existed when I was taking guitar lessons growing up!) The cost of the full service, although not entirely prohibitive, would make it difficult to incorporate into a classroom setting. In order to have more than three “plays” per day available, an upgrade to ChromatikPro is necessary, which costs $3.99 per week or $9.99 per month (per student). I think this cost would be appropriate to enhance private instrument lessons, but not in a classroom setting. I would consider using the free version for an assignment or two during the school year in a chorus, orchestra, or band class. This would give students a chance to practice a song in a more popular genre, which may not be covered as frequently in an ensemble setting. However, I would not use Chromatik as a primary component of my curriculum.

As an instructional and assessment tool, SmartMusic is well worth the cost for an ensemble classroom setting. Not only does it feature a broad variety of repertoire, but it also acts as a reliable assessment tool. In my mind, this is the greatest difference between Chromatik and SmartMusic.
When students play a piece of music using SmartMusic, they are given immediate feedback. It shows them if they’ve played a wrong note or rhythm and teaches them how to fix it (by showing fingerings, etc.) This feedback is crucial for students in order to improve their playing.
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This information is not only valuable for students, but for teachers as well. With an Educator’s subscription to SmartMusic, the service allows teachers to assign specific tasks and determine individual standards-based rubrics. It also compiles data on each student, which is a valuable assessment tool. Essentially, a practice room subscription to SmartMusic could replace the traditional “playing test,” which traditionally has used up valuable instructional time.
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The student subscription of SmartMusic is also a wonderful tool for use at home. It not only encourages practice, but also provides feedback so that students can improve. Students can play from a large selection of repertoire, as well as a variety of practice exercises, such as scales and arpeggios. Additionally, the service includes many tools that are valuable during practice, such as an on-screen keyboard, tuner, metronome, and fingering charts for all instruments.

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SmartMusic is more cost-effective for students than Chromatik at $40/year and offers far more guidance that would improve playing. In my mind, it is well worth the cost if financially possible. If purchased, the teacher could provide weekly assignments and goals, which would be valuable to improve individual practice and act as an ongoing assessment tool. However, even the combination of an educator subscription plus practice room subscription to use for classroom assessment is incredibly useful. This would allow for more instructional time while students are individually completing their formative and summative performance assessment tasks.

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Overall, both Chromatik and SmartMusic are excellent tools to enhance music instruction. In my opinion, Chromatik is more valuable in a studio setting, while SmartMusic is a fantastic tool to incorporate into a studio or classroom setting.

Chromatik- Explore Free Sheet Music Collections and Play More Music. (2016). Retrieved July 30, 2016, from

SmartMusic- Music Learning Software. (2016). Retrieved July 30, 2016, from

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