What is SmartBeat®?

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Take a look at the topics below to find out more about SmartBeat.


SmartBeat is a rhythm game that challenges players to decode a visual sequence into an acoustic pattern (see demo). SmartBeat is fun to play but also has a variety of cognitive benefits. The motivation behind SmartBeat came from the desire to develop a musically-based educational resource which would be fun whilst also building core cognitive skills. The essence of SmartBeat is simple enough to be learnt by anyone, regardless of their age, cultural background or educational level (SmartBeat background).

The SmartBeat activity requires the coordination of visual, auditory and motor skills; these are the three main sensory receivers involved with perception and memory and we are said to learn best when these modalities are used in combination.

At its core SmartBeat is about interpreting a sequence of visual symbols that represent sounds –  as well as being a form of musical notation, this has important parallels with reading, which also involves the interpretation of a visual sequence into an acoustic pattern. SmartBeat stimulates these sequencing skills by presenting grids of colours which are translated into rhythmic patterns.

As well as the general benefits SmartBeat can have on literacy and numeracy development, it can be particularly helpful for dyslexia, and for building skills in memory, concentration and coordination.

A 2008 pilot study showed that SmartBeat could be learnt by disaffected adults with very low levels of literacy (see background). The individuals who took part in the study found the activity easy to learn, and they felt increased motivation and a sense of achievement after successfully decoding a sequence. They also found the activity had a calming and focusing effect, helping them to concentrate on other tasks after the session.

How does SmartBeat actually work?

The SmartBeat activity consists of a grid of colours. Each square in the grid represents a regular pulse and the colour of the square represents the rhythmic unit of that pulse. The sequence of colours is then tapped out as a rhythmic pattern with drum kit sounds providing auditory feedback to the player. It is recommended to view the demo to get a good idea of how SmartBeat works.

At beginner level SmartBeat grids consist of only two colours (red and yellow), presenting simple sequences so that the SmartBeat concept can be learned; a further two colours (blue and grey) are introduced only gradually as proficiency and fluency are developed. The whole package incorporates a multitude of activities which range from introductory sequences for beginners to complex sequences which challenge advanced participants.

What benefits can SmartBeat have?
  • Literacy and dyslexia – The activity stimulates the core skills involved with reading, including: conversion of symbol to sound; interpreting and remembering visual sequences; segmentation and building of small units into larger units; prediction and fluency skills; left-to-right and top-to-bottom visual tracking. Furthermore, the non-text based nature of SmartBeat removes associations with literacy difficulties.
  • Memory and concentration – The pulse-based nature of the activity requires distractions to be eliminated and exercises visual, auditory and motor memory.
  • Coordination – The multi-modal nature of SmartBeat requires visual, auditory and motor responses to work in coordination.
  • Specific Learning Difficulties – The activity requires focused attention and stimulates listening and motor coordination skills so can be helpful for ADD, ADHD and dyspraxia
  • Confidence and motivation – SmartBeat is fun to learn and play and is not associated with traditional classroom activities. Participants can gain a great sense of achievement from successful interpretation of a sequence along with a willingness to continue and improve.
Who can play SmartBeat?

In short, anyone. SmartBeat is non age-specific and is not culturally bound so can be learned and played by children or adults from any cultural or linguistic background. Furthermore, the program is non-text-based so can be learned by people with low literacy skills.

The program introduces the SmartBeat concept in a simple-to-understand manner, guiding players through demos and warm-up exercises. The full set of sequencing activities range in difficulty from beginner to advanced level so participants can learn and build skills gradually.

SmartBeat can also be played interactively by individuals or can be played within a group setting.