SmartMusic: The Efficacy of an Electronic Sight-Singing "Tutor"

Cynthia Gonzales, Texas State University

This paper explores data to support that SmartMusic is an effective tool with which students can increase sight-singing ability. SmartMusic is software that assesses sight singing. More importantly, SmartMusic provides on-screen visual feedback by notating in green pitches and rhythms assessed as having been performed correctly. Stemless red noteheads approximate pitches and rhythms as performed incorrectly, while any black pitches remain unassessed. Furthermore, students can listen to their performance while viewing the visual assessment.

Five students enrolled in a graduate-level theory review course were assigned to sight sing 13 melodies in SmartMusic over a 3-week time span. Before beginning the assignments and again after completing them, each student was recorded while sight singing three melodies of increasing difficulty. All five students improved their sight-singing ability after completing the SmartMusic assignments. As to be expected, students who sight read well prior to completing the SmartMusic assignments improved the least: A students still earned an A. More relevant is that students who spent the most time sight singing with SmartMusic exhibited the greatest improvement. One improved from a grade of 61.3%, a low D, to 91.9%, a low A; another from 40.3%, a definite F, to 74.2%, a solid C.

The data support the hypothesis that SmartMusic is an effective electronic "tutor." With its ability to play back a performance while viewing a visual assessment, SmartMusic is a means for guided practice to increase sight-singing ability outside of class. Given limited class time and perhaps even less opportunity for individual sight-singing appointments, SmartMusic is a tool that can increase student musicianship skills.