Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2016

Flat

Terrific composition tool empowers budding musicians to create, share

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity

Subjects
  • Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
7-12
Common Sense says (See details)
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Pros: Flexible features and great on-screen guidance make this a match for beginners and pros alike.

Cons: Some features can be a little slow to respond.

Bottom Line: An excellent tool for writing and sharing musical creations.

If your music class requires students to complete composition assignments, this might be just the tool you're looking for. Follow the Flat.io website's step-by-step walkthrough of the site's teacher features to see how the site integrates with Google Classroom. Use this site as your one-stop shop for having students create, submit, and share their work. For other music teachers, encourage your students to upload original compositions or to experiment with new arrangements of pieces you're working on in class or in lessons. Encourage students to work together to create new ensemble pieces and perform them live.

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Flat is a web-based tool for composing and creating sheet music. Users can create an account with Facebook or Google, and they can work from an existing score (by dragging and dropping in a file in MXL, MID, or XML format) or create a new private or public score. To create a score, choose instruments (such a piano or violin), a time signature, and a key signature, and then you can input your score using a MIDI controller or a mouse. There are menus for controlling and editing notes, articulations, dynamics, measures, lyrics, and chords, and you can roll over each menu to reveal built-in keyboard commands and helpful tips. Once it's complete, you can hit "play" to hear your work played back, and you can share your creation via social media (Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest), via a web link, or by embedding your sheet music on the web. You can also export and download your sheet music in formats including PDF, music XML, MP3, MIDI, and WAV. If you share your score, any other Flat user can listen to it, comment on it, and leave hearts. A counter tracks the number of views, comments, and hearts. While this might cause privacy concerns, the educational version of Flat is described as a private environment that enforces COPPA.

Flat's basic features are free, and individual users can get more statistics with "Flat Power" for $4.90 a month or $39 a year. Teachers, however, will want to look into the educational version that offers bundled licenses starting at $15 per year for 10 licenses. Notably, Flat has built-in integration with Google Classroom.

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Flat.io works like a dream. Its design is sleek and friendly enough to appeal to students, and it's layered with tons of features that empower first-time users to sketch out their compositions and experienced composers to capture the complexity they need. There's always more than one way to do something, whether you're tapping on-screen or using a MIDI controller, and each feature has built-in help text that's easily displayed on-screen. 

Flat was created in Europe, and its developers admirably emphasize student privacy. It's outstanding that you always know exactly what you're sharing and with whom. That being said, we've yet to complete a full privacy evaluation. Overall, this excellent tool is a great fit for anyone who wants a sleek, easy-to-use tool for composing and creating sheet music.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

It's empowering to see your composition come to life before your eyes, and collaboration and export features make it easy and fun to share creations.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Though the site itself won't teach theory or composition, the extensive, flexible features can inspire and empower students' creativity.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
5

Exceptional teacher tips and great on-screen guidance help kids and adults effectively use the site's many tools for creation and collaboration.


Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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