When SmartMusic Assessment Doesn’t Improve

While the numbers vary, the following scenario is one we enjoy hearing frequently:

A student plays along with SmartMusic and receives a 95% assessment score, tries again and gets a 92%, then again and hits the magic 100%.

As an educator, that’s precisely the behavior that you want to see in a student: Stick-to-itiveness.
I didn’t learn trumpet with SmartMusic. As a result, when I practiced at home I likely was unaware of many of the mistakes I made. We all know how much harder it is to perfect a piece once you’ve practiced it incorrectly. Perhaps equally important as immediate feedback, however, is the motivating possibilities of assessment. The popularity of video games certainly bears testament to this.

But what about the rare case when those assessment numbers don’t improve in time? We have heard from a small number of educators who have students whose recordings sound decent, but their assessment is closer to 0% than 100%. What could cause this?

Good performances can produce poor assessment results when there are problems with the microphone setup. If SmartMusic 2011 doesn’t detect your microphone, it will notify you, but it is possible to pass the “Mic Check” and still not have enough microphone signal to get the most accurate assessment results.

Here are some of the problems we’ve seen, along with their solutions:

  1. The “internal microphone” is selected (usually on Macintosh) – fix it in Settings by choosing “SmartMusic Microphone” from the drop-down menu (or, on Windows, select the correct sound card).
  2. The microphone is too far away from the instrument – fix it by running the Mic Check and checking the diagram to learn the optimal microphone placement for the appropriate instrument.
  3. An unsupported microphone is being used – fix it by using the SmartMusic microphone. The SmartMusic microphone is the result of years of testing and development, and SmartMusic was created with this specific mic in mind. Furthermore, if you use any other mic, and can’t get assessment to work properly, our support staff won’t be able to help you troubleshoot, as without your specific mic in hand, there’s no way for them to eliminate the mic as the culprit.
  4. The signal is just too low – fix it by manually dragging the slider all the way to the right, into the red area, if need be. This one is actually pretty rare, because this problem is usually a symptom of the first three possibilities.

In my experience, poor assessment scores are either the result of poor playing or one of the problems described above. Did this help? Do you have any assessment-related questions or observations? Please share them by clicking on “Comments” below.

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