Friday, November 5, 2010

SmartMusic needs some competition

To start though, let me just say that Smart Music is awesome.  It has become an invaluable tool in my studio, from providing accompaniments I can’t play, to reading exercises with clear feedback, to Harry Potter with full orchestral accompaniment.  My students love it. 

The problem is that it’s buggy, and bloated.  However, with no competition, there is little incentive to make it better.  Since it runs as subscription software, they don’t even have to worry about selling us the upgrade, they just make us renew the subscription, or we lose access to all the accompaniments.  There is nothing else out there that even comes close to providing what SmartMusic does, and I haven’t even come close to using half the features it provides.  I actually only use the Student edition, as I don’t need a gradebook, and Suzuki pieces don’t provide assessment anyway.  One of the main reasons behind upgrading my tablet was so SmartMusic would run more smoothly.  2011 already performed much better on my older tc1100, but I wanted really perfect playback and recording.  Which I got, except for….

SM fail 1

Of course it can’t be.  You know, no good reason or anything, just not going to open.  I deleted and redownloaded the book multiple times, no dice.  Good thing that’s from the revised book 1 and the old book 1 still plays fine, but it was rather disruptive to have that show up in the lesson. 

SM fail 2

But I AM online.  In fact, I’ve tried from 3 different wifi networks now and still get the same error.  But of course, because of that, I get this too….

SM fail 3

Well, yes, I guess if you couldn’t download it, you’re not going to be able to load it.  The curious thing is that only 2 pieces of the 7 in book 3 need that plugin.  Due to a strong case of Murphy’s law, those are the 2 that are on the play-in, so all of my students need to review them, with accompaniment, which I now can’t provide.  Once again, the problem pieces are in the revised books and the original books still work. 
And this is all on top of my original installation frustrations.  I had 2010, and my catalogue didn’t update correctly.  They said it was a bug some beta testers had run into, but I never had the beta.  They had me try the first run again, and when my catalogue still didn’t update, the only solution was uninstall, delete all my old music, reinstall, then redownload everything. 

Then there was the whole gradebook server not ready for the start of school thingy.  I only use the student edition, so I only read about this on the forums, but it looks like they didn’t get the server end of the gradebook stuff up until months after the release and well after school had started.  Kinda makes me glad I’m not trying to mess with the teacher edition.  There are still new threads cropping up on the forum about how slow the gradebook and assignment submission servers still are. 

There’s also that thing about how it only runs in Administrator mode.  It’s the only application I have that asks for permission to run every single time I launch it.  Which is mostly just annoying for me, but the real problems are happening with families who have computers set up for kids with accounts that don’t have administrator access.  Kids can’t run the software on a regular account, at least not without the administrator password.  But really SmartMusic?  How long has Vista (then Windows 7) been out?  How have you not yet figured out how to write software that can run like every other program?  What on earth does SmartMusic need administrator level access for?

Oh, and as a bonus, when I closed it after grabbing screenies of the errors, I got this:

SM bonus fail

Good job SmartMusic.  Good job.
Could someone please write a competing program?


  1. I share your frustrations, and hope you forwarded these comments to SmartMusic. This is my first year using it in class, and although it's awesome when it works, we've had the same issues.

    My latest one: the submit button doesn't always appear when a student takes an assessment. So, here's a kid who is nervous already, takes their exam, plays well, then can't submit it for me to grade! Very frustrating.

  2. You have to love Windows......

    I use SmartMusic mainly for the wealth of Band pieces it has in its library. It's a great sightreading tool. I've never had any issues with the program running on my Mac. However, a number of students have had LOTS of issues running it, especially on Windows