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Welcome to the SmartMusic Undergrad Hub! This wiki is geared towards educators who are interested in using SmartMusic as a tool in their undergraduate programs. SmartMusic has seen widespread use in school bands and choirs, as a way of helping students learn their parts. However, many other uses are possible. This site is a place to share ideas about ways of using SmartMusic in undergraduate aural skills, keyboard and theory courses, as well as information about how to implement these ideas. It is not affiliated with MakeMusic, the makers of SmartMusic.

SmartMusic assessment
Assessment in Classic SmartMusic. The performer was correct in measure 1, flat in m. 2, late in m. 3, and did not perform in m. 4.

SmartMusic

SmartMusic is a software practice tool for musicians, published by MakeMusic. It records students performing music, usually with the music displayed on screen. It can provide visual feedback and a numerical assessment score based on the level of accuracy of the performance. Recordings and assessments can be submitted digitally to instructors. Originally designed by band directors for their junior and senior high school student-musicians,[citation needed] collegiate music professors have taken advantage of the ability to software's flexibility by developing custom exercises for theory, aural skills, and keyboard classes.

Versions

SmartMusic is currently available in two different versions: “Classic SmartMusic” and “New SmartMusic.” [1] Classic SmartMusic is downloadable software (for computers and iPads) that provides access to the individual parts of numerous large-ensemble titles (band, orchestra, choir, and jazz ensembles), as well as vast amounts of accompaniments for solo literature. Users can import files created only in Finale. It also allows users to import and transpose mp3s, as well as to adjust the tempo of an mp3 without effecting pitch.

New SmartMusic is a web-based application that works with the Google Chrome browser. Initially released in 2016, New SmartMusic is being continually upgraded, though it still lacks some functionality to host certain exercises described on this site.

There are several new features in the web-based version:

  • music can be imported via any notation software that supports MusicXML;
  • new SmartMusic contains its own full-featured notation-composition tool.

New SmartMusic does not yet support

  • assessing MIDI input;
  • recording without assessment, to create open-ended assignments (part of “solo” files in Classic SmartMusic; see “Input and assessment capabilities” below);
  • displaying and recording music with more than one part (a feature of “solo” files in Classic SmartMusic; see “Input and assessment capabilities” below).

For more information, see MakeMusic’s comparison of versions.[2]

Features

Input and assessment capabilities

SmartMusic can assess a performance against given notation. Matching notes appear in green, while other notes appear in red. The software’s ability to assess performance accuracy also depends on which instrument it is recording. Instructors can set up assignments in several different ways, in order to take advantage of different capabilities as follows:

  • SmartMusic can display a single-line part on screen (e.g., trumpet, voice), capture an audio recordings of this part, and analyze the audio to produce an assessment of performance accuracy.
  • SmartMusic can display music on a grand staff, capture a MIDI recording of the music shown on screen, and analyze the MIDI data to produce an assessment of performance accuracy (available in Classic SmartMusic only; MIDI keyboard and interface required).
  • SmartMusic can display a solution to an open-ended exercise (in red).
  • SmartMusic can record without assessment, providing the flexibility to display and record anything, including any instrumental combination, and exercises with more than one possible answer. This is done via the “solo” file type, available in Classic SmartMusic only.

Class management

  • Instructors can create online courses on SmartMusic’s server, where enrolled students can receive their assignments, submit their work, and view their grades.

Libraries

  • Users can download existing music from free or paid libraries, or can create custom exercises using notation software and exporting to SmartMusic.
  • Instructors can create their own assignment libraries to speed up the process of distributing assignments to students enrolled in their courses.

Options during recording

Several options can be turned on or off by students through the user interface. When giving assignments, instructors can choose which of these features are required, optional, or forbidden.

  • whether students can record and choose from amongst multiple takes, or can only record one take (sight reading)
  • whether students hear a metronome while recording
  • whether students can hear their part while recording
  • whether students hear an accompaniment (if included in the file)

Limitations

  • Accompaniment parts cannot normally be shown on screen, only heard.
  • Assessment is only possible with monophonic instruments and MIDI keyboard.
  • MIDI is only supported in Classic SmartMusic.
  • Open-ended exercises are only supported in Classic SmartMusic.
  • Most exercise setups involve a fixed timeline, recording a specific number of measures in a specific tempo, even if the metronome is not audible and no music is visible.

Types of Exercises

Michael Callahan‘s recent work has shown how porous the borders are becoming between “keyboard proficiency” classes and traditional written theory classes.[3][4] The same is beginning to be the case for aural skills in the theory classroom.[5][6] Therefore the topics of this wiki are not the traditional curricular items listed in our university course catalogues, but specific uses of SmartMusic: singing input, keyboard input, and whether these can use the assessment feature. If assessment is not used, SM is used for recording to be listened to later by the teacher.

Exercises with vocal input

Assignment Type What the student sees What the student hears What the student performs Assessment possible Possible in Classic SM Possible in New SM Setup articles
Rehearsed melody a melody, usually in treble clef, octave treble clef, or bass clef   Students record as many takes as they like, and choose the best take to submit. Yes Yes Yes Melody
Sight melody a melody, with a limited amount of time to study it before beginning to sing   Student sings the melody once, and the first take is automatically submitted. Yes Yes Yes Melody
Accompanied melody a melody (the accompaniment is not shown on screen) an accompaniment played on a software instrument Student sings the melody. Can be set up as rehearsed melody or sight melody. Yes Yes Yes Melody
Singing instrumental parts a melody notated for viola, B-flat clarinet, etc.   Student sings the melody in concert pitch. Yes Yes Yes Melody
Rhythm an excerpt that tests rhythm, with very limited melodic motion (usually 2 pitches)   Student sings the rhythm on the pitches indicated. Yes Yes Yes Rhythm
Aural learning (blank staff) a melody, with or without accompaniment Students listen to the melody until they have memorized it, then sing it from memory in solfège or scale degree numbers. Yes Yes Yes Melody + hidden answers
Ground bass improv a figured bass line; an upper staff may also be used to show available chord tones bass line improvised melody No Yes No Open-ended
Canonical imitation (blank staff) the lead voice (not shown) of a canon in 2 or 3 voices, on piano or other software instrument imitation of the leader a 5th above or below Yes Yes Yes Melody + hidden answers
Harmonic dictation by ear a staff with alternating rests and blank measures In the measures with rests, the student hears harmonies repeated in a motivic rhythm In the blank measures, the student sings an arpeggiated version of the harmony heard in the previous measure Yes Yes Yes Melody + hidden answers
Assignment Type What the student sees What the student hears What the student performs Assessment possible Possible in Classic SM Possible in New SM Setup articles

Exercises with keyboard input

Keyboard exercises in two staves can be done either with MIDI input, or via audio recording of a piano or electronic keyboard. Assessment of keyboard music is possible with MIDI input, but not with audio recording. Audio recording uses the “solo” type of file. Keyboard exercises with more than two staves can only be done with the solo type of file. MIDI input and solo files are available in Classic SmartMusic but not in New SmartMusic, therefore all keyboard exercises are only possible in Classic SmartMusic.

Assignment Type What the student sees What the student hears What the student performs Assessment possible Possible in Classic SM Possible in New SM Setup articles
Rehearsed repertoire or excercise an excerpt in any number of voices, notated in grand staff   Students record as many takes as they like, and chooses the best take to submit. Yes, if using MIDI input Yes No MIDI keyboard or multipart
Sight reading an excerpt in grand staff, with a limited time to study it before beginning to play   Student records the excerpt once, and the first take is automatically submitted. Yes, if using MIDI input Yes No MIDI keyboard or multipart
Aural learning (blank staff) an excerpt, usually in two voices Students listen to the excerpt until they are able to record themselves playing it by ear from memory Yes, if using MIDI input Yes No MIDI keyboard or multipart
Echoing blank grand staff, with cues when to play a series of short excerpts, separated by silences Students alternate between listening and playing by ear, immediately mimicking the short bits they hear Yes, if using MIDI input Yes No MIDI keyboard or multipart
Sequence continuation the beginning of a sequence, with some of its sequential repetitions hidden from the student   Student continues the sequential pattern until the given ending. Yes, if using MIDI input Yes No MIDI keyboard + hidden answers, or multipart + open-ended
Transposition blank staves on screen, with instructions to transpose an excerpt that they receive elsewhere (via PDF or on paper)   Student plays a transposed version of the original excerpt. Yes, if using MIDI input Yes No MIDI keyboard + hidden answers, or multipart + open-ended
Chord resolution a short progression with one or more chords hidden   Student plays the whole progression, filling in the missing chords using appropriate voice leading. Yes, if using MIDI input Yes No MIDI keyboard + hidden answers, or multipart + open-ended
Adding upper parts the figured bass line of a short chord progression   Student plays the progression, adding the upper parts. Not if there is more than one correct solution Yes No Multipart + open-ended
Sequential melody improv the figured bass line of a sequential progression Students may learn several exemplar melodies by ear before making up their own. See “Combining exercises” below. Students play the bass line and add an original sequential melody. Not if there is more than one correct solution Yes No Multipart + open-ended
Fill-in-the-blanks counterpoint a two-voice example, with some portions of one voice left blank   Student plays the whole example, adding appropriate counterpoint for the missing parts. Not if there is more than one correct solution Yes No Multipart + open-ended
Fill-in-the-blanks consequent phrase an antecedent phrase in grand staff, followed by blank measures   Student plays the whole example, adding a consequent phrase. Not if there is more than one correct solution Yes No Multipart + open-ended
Clef reading an excerpt in grand staff, with a C clef in at least one part   Student plays the excerpt, either with multiple takes or as sight reading (first take automatically submitted) Yes, if using MIDI input Yes No MIDI keyboard or multipart
Score reduction an excerpt with any number of parts in any number of staves   Student plays a reduction of the excerpt shown on screen Not if there is more than one correct solution, or if more than two staves are used Yes No Multipart + open-ended
Assignment Type What the student sees What the student hears What the student performs Assessment possible Possible in Classic SM Possible in New SM Setup articles

Exercises with unpitched input

Assignment Type What the student sees What the student hears What the student performs Assessment possible Possible in Classic SM Possible in New SM Setup articles
Rhythm with clapping input a rhythmic excerpt notated as an unpitched part on a one-line staff   Student claps the rhythm. Yes Yes Yes, in Percussion mode Rhythm
Two-part rhythm unpitched duo on one or two staves   Student speaks one part while tapping the other part. No Yes No Multipart + open-ended

Exercises with mixed input

Assignment Type What the student sees What the student hears What the student performs Assessment possible Possible in Classic SM Possible in New SM Setup articles
Sing and play a two-part example in any clefs   Student sings soprano while playing bass on piano or other keyboard, or plays soprano while singing bass. Keyboard is recorded via audio, not MIDI. No Yes No multipart
Sing and play with aural learning a two-part example with the bass line shown but the top part hidden both parts of the example (soprano and bass) Student must first learn the soprano by ear, then sing it from memory while playing the bass line on keyboard. Keyboard is recorded via audio, not MIDI. No Yes No Multipart + open-ended
Sing and tap a two-part example in any clefs   Student sings one part while tapping the rhythm of another part No Yes No Multipart + open-ended
Play and talk a blank grand staff, with key signature and time signature a two-part example Student learns the music by ear, and plays it while making analytical observations No Yes No Multipart + open-ended
Bass improv (blank staff) a melody Student learns the melody by ear, and sings it from memory while making up a bass line on keyboard. No Yes No Multipart + open-ended

Combining exercises

Two exercises can be used in conjunction, forming a larger assignment with two steps. For example, Michael Callahan uses an aural learning exercise to familiarize students with several examplars before they record their own improvised sequential melody.[7]

References

  1. SmartMusic home page
  2. SmartMusic Comparison Chart
  3. Callahan, Michael R. (2015-09-01). “Teaching and Learning Undergraduate Music Theory at the Keyboard.” Music Theory Online 21 (3).
  4. Callahan, Michael R. (2017) “Learning tonal counterpoint through keyboard improvisation in the twenty-first century.” In Guido, Massimiliano. Studies in Historical Improvisation from Cantare super librum to partimenti. Routledge, 185-203.
  5. Graybill, Roger (2014). “Thinking “in” and “about” Music - Implications for the Theory Curriculum.” Engaging Students - Essays in Music Pedagogy, vol. 2
  6. Schubert, Peter (2011). “Global Perspectives on Music Theory Pedagogy - Thinking in Music.” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy 25: 217-233.
  7. Callahan 2015, ¶ 4.4.

External links