Thursday, May 30, 2013

The IWB As A Metronome

I was over at the Tech In Music Ed blog and his review of a metronome app reminded me of a success I had in rehearsal this spring.

I was having trouble with some students rushing in a 5/4 time piece.  For some reason, beats four and five would get rushed.  I am pretty sure the problem was lazy know some student musicians can't count past four.

I know.  Lame joke.

Anyway, I put the Steinway iOS metronome app up on the IWB and had them count (out loud) and clap on the beat to five a few times.  All the beats.   Just to prove it could be done.  Then to be sure they were counting carefully, I had them count and add rests on random beats.  As in clap on 1,3 and 4.  Now just 4 and 5. Now just 2 and 3....

I'm sure the possibilities are endless.  I think the element of randomly placed rests forced kids to keep their head in the game and the clapping made it obvious if a student wasn't.

The App was running through my music room sound system so kids could hear it well.  Why the Steinway app?  I does a good job of accenting the down beat AND it can do that for 5/4 time. A pretty good combination for this situation.  I love the fact that you can find an app for just about any problem you can think of these days.

Monday, May 6, 2013

SmartMusic Hits The iPad!

This is not unexpected news, but it is good news!  The folks at MakeMusic have been working on this for a while.  I have been playing with a beta copy for several weeks.  I suppose that is one of the many reasons I haven't been writing too much lately.  I didn't want to spill any beans.

I think this is the most ground breaking release in some time.  Probably the biggest since they rolled-out the ability to send and receive assignments over the internet.

Right now, you can use it pretty much like the SmartMusic on your computer.  This is the first version, so not all of the features of computer-based SmartMusic are there yet.  To me, the most obvious piece that has been left off of this lighter version is the ability to send assignments, but that will be there this fall.

Why is this iPad product important?  Many schools are using iPads as their tool for 1:1 computing.  If your school is doing this, you are all set this fall.  It is good to be you!

Not doing a 1:1?  If you have some kids that are on the wrong side of the digital divide, an iPad might not be out of the question for family affordability.  Or maybe, your boosters can afford a couple to check out over night.  With fewer moving parts, I think the iPad will probably survive the backpacks better.   I have been watching some let's say... rambunctious... boys who regularly Minecraft outside my room on their iPads after school and their iPads are surviving nicely.

I haven't heard any rumors of a Chrome version.  I wonder if it is even possible.  We still have the full computer version for Windows and Mac.  There is also the SmartMusic Grade Book app (iOS and Android) for the grading and evaluating piece.

An interesting part about this iPad development from a purely technical point of view is that there are only a couple of versions of the machine out there.  Very consistent microphone and processors make for consistent results and user experience.  Yes, they are using the built-in mic which makes for one less thing to troubleshoot.

Back to the app.  I think it is well thought out.  Nice clean appearance.  It does well with the red/green note thing too.  You may want to use some kind of headphone when working with this.  I have had good luck running it through my sound system too.  The built-in speakers are a little hard to hear well, so some external ones are a big help.

If it works well with the assignment feature this fall, SmartMusic will have another winner on its hands.  A tool that works for the music department that runs on an affordable platform.  This is worth checking out.