Monday, February 3, 2014

Too Many Cold Days Off. Improving a Concert's Chances With SmartMusic.

The mp3 feature may not seem like a big deal in SmartMusic, but after losing 5 days to cold weather last month, it could turn into this month's concert saver.  The problem is not every piece we are doing on the concert is available in the SmartMusic catalog.  The ability to import an mp3 can help work around that.

I have mp3s of most of the concert selections that aren't in SmartMusic for the February concert.

There are many ways to get mp3s for this.  Publisher's demo recordings and your band's previous years' recordings (if they are good enough to be great examples.) come to mind.  If you have CD recordings you will need to convert them from aiff to mp3.  iTunes and many other programs can do that conversion for you.  Import the mp3s into SmartMusic by going to "MP3 Audio Files." (In the left hand column.)  Then click the "Import" button and follow the directions there.

The next step is to send them as assignments.  You will notice that the music on screen feature isn't available.  The kids will need to know that this how this type of assignment works and there is nothing wrong with their computer or the assignment.  Write that info in your assignment directions and tell them when you see them in person... It seems odd to have to tell them to use the paper copy, but we have had this come up!

It is possible to take the time to work out all the parts in Finale and save them as SmartMusic files, but that would be a big project time-wise and sending it out would not be as slick as with a SmartMusic published material.  I am just looking for a way to verify that the students are working on their music outside of class.

I did make this an assignment worth some points for the recording.  I am also going to listen to them for concepts to work on for rehearsals.  In a way, this is like a rehearsal where the feedback from the director is really slow.  Am I grading these as close as a music on screen assignment?  No.  The red/green note feature is unavailable and for my beginners it would be hard to self evaluate and fix problems.  But I think students will benefit by listening to themselves and comparing themselves with the recording.

A few more observations:

Once the assignment has been sent in, my students think it is gone from their computers when it really isn't.  It appears that the accompaniment's mp3 file stays on your computer, just follow the "MP3 Audio Files" button.  That will be pretty handy for avoiding the "assignment's due avalanche" on the due date from the very responsible about practicing bunch.  They can send it in.  They still have the mp3.

Teachers could also listen, score in your school's grade book and send the assignment back if you want this assignment to keep showing up in the student's inbox.

Don't forget to coach kids on the "Find Music" feature for the songs that are published in SmartMusic.  That way they can keep practicing those as well.

The other thing to coach students on is the tempo control feature.  There is no substitute for spending time working something technical at a slow tempo.

Don't forget that SmartMusic does take requests!  If you have a piece that isn't in SmartMusic yet, they are looking for ideas about what to add.  This can take some time, so importing mp3s is what I am doing this month.

Hopefully, this will help us beat the "too much time off blues."  It is good to have work-arounds. I'll keep you posted.

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