Have your band students create their own SmartMusic Assignments

I had Finale NotePad installed in the school’s computer labs with the intention of having students use this powerful and low-cost notation software to learn about writing music notation. The idea was that students would learn about the technology and receive reinforcement of basic theory concepts (time signatures, note values, etc.). In time I found more and more uses of NotePad, some of which even included SmartMusic.

For one activity I had my seventh graders create some examples of the basic sixteenth note rhythms we were learning in class. Here are some details:

In my classroom, I gave some quick lessons regarding the basic use of Finale NotePad. I connected an LCD projector to my computer so everyone could see, and I took some selected screenshots and printed some follow-along handouts.

Wanting the activity to go smoothly in the computer lab, I made a fairly detailed set of instructions. Prior to going to the computer lab, I reviewed the activity with the students and the school policies pertaining to the use of the computer lab.

In the computer lab, I again used a computer connected to an LCD projector – should anyone have questions about the use of NotePad I could demonstrate for all to see.

The Activity
The goal was for the students to use NotePad to create a four-measure example using identified sixteenth note rhythms. For this example, I predetermined the time signature and rhythm sequence but the note choice was up to them. I discussed with them some ideas that would help their examples to be playable and sound “good.”

Each student opened NotePad and set up their document for their instrument, and used their name as the title. Listening to the playback through headphones, they busily set about creating their examples.

After the students were done, they saved their work in a folder I created on the school network. I did this activity with more than one class and created separate folders for each. Students who did not complete the assignment during class could access their work at another time.

Post Activity
Next I used the full version of Finale to assemble all the student NotePad files. In a few cases I edited awkward jumps that were not suitable for specific instruments. The students performed their examples for the class before the entire class tried it.

Then using Finale, I created assessable SmartMusic files using the student examples. Students had unknowingly created material that would be used for thier own assessment!

Imagine how exciting it was for students to have their “masterpieces” used for the class to study and then be used for assessment! Talk about students taking ownership! There could be many variations on this activity. You might, for example, have a section on adding dynamics or articulations.

I hope this gives you some ideas of your own!

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