For several years I’ve searched for a composition app for my younger elementary students. I’m the type of person who becomes obsessed with an idea. I don’t stop until I’ve found the perfect solution, just ask the spider I killed this week. However, during my mad hunt for a simple composition app, I quickly discovered that there were very few options available that were geared toward elementary students. Some apps had potential, but many were made for sound-mixing, as opposed to composing with standard notation. I wanted my students to feel like modern-day Beethovens, and I wasn’t sure anything available would be the perfect solution.
Normally this would be the part of the story where I tell you that Noteflight was my solution, but it wasn’t…at least not exactly. I think it’s awesome for personal use, but I have serious reservations about whether or not it’s kid-friendly enough for younger elementary students. Though I definitely think it would be an awesome tool for middle school students and beyond. In terms of using Noteflight for education, as well as personal use, here’s what I noticed…
After you’ve created an account, you’ll immediately see the simplicity in design. With the “New Score” button being a bright orange, getting started with a new composition is fairly intuitive. I believe this process is do-able for younger elementary students, assuming that you’re modeling for them on a large screen as they work their way through it. This simplicity continues as you’re directed to your first blank manuscript. Typing in the title, composer, and lyricist is a breeze.
The intuitiveness is somewhat lost when you attempt to fill out your first measure. The cursor has to be in just the right place to enter a note, which I think is a tricky maneuver for young students who don’t know where the beat falls in sheet music.
There is the option of using keyboard shortcuts for entering notes, but this too poses a problem for younger students still working on basic keyboarding skills. Ultimately, the precision required for entering notes would be a hurdle for beginners, though not impossible.
The basic version of Noteflight is free. As a teacher, I used it numerous times last year to arrange folk songs and other simple pieces. You can upgrade to Noteflight’s Crescendo, which offers a variety of excellent features and costs $49.00 a year. However, the cost of using Noteflight with your students is a whole other matter.
If you purchase Noteflight Crescendo for your school or studio, your students can enjoy the benefit of sharing their compositions with you or the rest of the class in a safe online environment. Students can choose who sees their compositions and, you can enjoy the convenience of assessing student work at home on your computer, rather than sorting through stacks of handwritten manuscript paper.
Noteflight offers three paid versions of Crescendo for schools. They range from $95.00 to $295.00 per year, depending on the number of students at each usage site. Since the website shows only plans that feature up to 375 students, I decided to find out how much it would cost for me to purchase a custom plan.
I do think that with practice, and lots of organization, Noteflight could be used with younger elementary music students. As with any popular notation program, I foresee improvements being made in the future, which I hope will serve to further simplify the note-entering process. Perhaps they’ll even create a modified version for very young students. Either way, Noteflight has been a great tool for me this past year, and I hope you’ll consider trying it out.
Do you use Noteflight or another similar program? Leave your answer in the comments. I’d love to learn more about your experiences!