Follow Up on 6/8 Time and Self-Created SmartMusic Assessment

The other day I posted about my struggles with a 6/8 time SmartMusic assessment. If you want to read the entire post, you can do so here.

A few people came to my rescue. One was my blogging friend (iPads and Technology in Music Education) Paul Shimmons, who sent an e-mail. I haven’t asked his permission to reprint his e-mail, but since there was nothing personal in the e-mail, I’m sure he won’t mind his advice being shared. He wrote:

For sub-divisions of the beat while clicking – go to the Click dropdown and select Play Subdivisions. I think it might be possible for the kids to still do this even though you have already assigned the assignment. If SmartMusic tells them they have changed the settings then you will have to set that BEFORE you assign the exercise. By the way, I have found it very helpful to have a “student” account as well as my teacher account. This allows me to sign in and take the tests so I can experience what they will.

More help came from some Twitter messages from @Baseball Beth, an employee of MakeMusic, who tried to leave a comment (Like many blogs, I’ve disabled comments) but couldn’t, so via Twitter she encouraged me to contact SmartMusic’s help page. Jon from MakeMusic responded with this advice:

Thanks for contacting Finale customer support. In this case, the problem lies in the time signature for 6/8 in the Setup Wizard. 6/8 there will always be subdivided into 2 beats. For what you’re describing you will want to use the Time Signature Tool to change the time signature to a different version of 6/8: 6 eighth notes where the eighth note gets the beat. To do so, in the Time Signature dialog box, make sure the top slider is on six beats, and that the bottom slider is on the eighth note (notice that the default 6/8 is 2 beats, dotted quarter). Then, when you use the file in SmartMusic and you set the tempo to 70, it should play back at eighth = 70.

Between Paul and Jon’s advice, I think I could create a 6/8 sight reading exercise successfully at this point. I did want to mention (and I mentioned this to Jon, who wrote back to say that he would bring it to a product specialist) that I think it is fundamentally wrong for 6/8 to default to a 2 beat pattern. After all, the very definition of time signatures says that the use of a 6/8 time signature means there are six beats per measure, and an eighth note gets one beat. Therefore, 6/8 does not actually mean 2/1.5. Granted, if 6/8 time is fast enough, conductors negate beats 2, 3, 5, and 6 to create a 2/1.5 pattern. But shouldn’t the default setting of 6/8 time let the eighth note be the beat? I’m not trying to be difficult or argumentative–but I’m talking about creating sight reading assessments where the eighth note is an actual beat. So if you use the Wizard to create a 6/8 exercise, the default 6/8 should be a true 6/8, and if you need a 2/1.5 version of 6/8, you should have to go and manually make that time signature, not the other way around.

Does that make sense? It does to me, and I’m hopeful that Jon was able to translate that as well.

Thanks to Paul and Baseball Beth and Jon for lending aid!

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