SmartMusic, the Cursor, and the Click Track

I’ve heard of parents trying to sooth fussy babies by playing a metronome for them. While not perhaps since the crib, most of us have a long familiarity with metronomes and other click tracks. SmartMusic’s cursor offers students similar assistance in a visual realm: Perhaps because this is a more recent development, not every educator is as comfortable with the cursor as they are with the click. Today I’ll share some tips on how they might both be used effectively.

The Cursor

The cursor follows the notes and/or the main beat of the music:

To turn the cursor on or off click the CURSOR button at the bottom of the SmartMusic play window:

What can it offer students? The cursor:

  • Visually shows the movement of notes in time and can be very helpful to students (at all levels) who need help in this area.
  • Can help students understand that music/sound has direction, even during rests.
  • Reinforces that music is read from left to right.
  • Can be used as a visual cue for the air stream or bow direction. Students see that the cursor moves through a whole note; it just doesn’t sit there! (And neither does air or the bow!)
  • Visually shows how repeats, first and second endings, and other similar directions work. Ask your students questions like: “What did the cursor do when it got to those two dots?” Now you’re having interactive discussions about the concept you want to teach – and students are discovering the answers themselves. That is fun!

After the cursor has served its purpose for you, turn it off. You can always refer to the cursor verbally in your teaching and use it when you feel it is necessary.

The Curse of the Cursor

Students who always practice with the cursor try to follow the cursor rather than reading the notes and feeling the beat. They wonder why there are so many red notes in their performances. This is similar to students always writing the names of the notes in their music and then looking at the note names. I recommend that you instruct your students to use the cursor in a common sense manner.

Click Track

We know the value of practicing with a click track (metronome). Of course the final goal is to replace the audible click with your internal beat source. Here’s a fun exercise that will help you and your students towards this goal.

Pick any music that has assessment. Perform it three different ways:

  1. With the cursor and click track on.
  2. With just the click track on.
  3. With just the count off on – no cursor or click track. Start the music and rely on your internal metronome to keep the beat. SmartMusic will still assess the performance.

By doing this, you can choose to use these different options depending on the circumstance and what you are trying to accomplish!

Consider this performance goal: Students will perform “music example” by keeping the beat internally at x% accuracy. Performance objectives like this can be more easily accomplished by using SmartMusic for the assessment and Gradebook for the documentation.

I hope you agree that both the click track and the cursor can be beneficial. Feel free to use them in any way that best fits into your teaching style!

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