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SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge

SmartMusic_21Day Web

Challenge Yourself, Practice More

Welcome to the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge!

For many musicians, finding the time, energy and/or motivation to practice can be difficult. For that reason, we’ve organized the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge. This challenge is best completed using SmartMusic on a laptop or desktop.

In just three weeks, you can take many small steps to make practicing your instrument a regular part of your routine–and have some fun doing it! Start at the beginning or hop in at any time.

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Get started!

Day 1 - The Zander Letter

Welcome to day #1 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge. For your first challenge, you won’t even need to use SmartMusic! Today you’re going to write a Zander Letter, named after music educator, Benjamin Zander, who is famous for beginning each new class with this first lesson:

  • Take out a sheet of paper or start a new Word document
  • Date it 1 month into the future
  • Title it “I succeeded in this challenge because…”

In the letter, tell yourself why you’re doing the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge. Describe some of the rewards that come with completing the challenge. Most importantly, describe some of the barriers that you’re going to face along the way. Tell yourself how you’re going to find the time each day to complete the daily challenge. What are you going to do when you feel yourself getting frustrated, distracted, un-motivated, pressed for time?

Your letter can be long or short. There is no length limit.

Daydreaming about reaching your goals is important, but so is facing the work that’s required. We at SmartMusic know you love music, and that you love playing your instrument. We also appreciate your hard work and dedication. So today’s challenge is simply to write a Zander letter in preparation for the month ahead.

We look forward to hearing about your next 21 days on Twitter (use #SM21Day).

Day 2 - Practice Tools (Laptop / Desktop Only)

Welcome to day #2 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge. If you’re like us, and we know we are (little joke), SmartMusic is your go-to metronome and tuner. Follow these steps to complete #2 of your twenty-one daily SmartMusic challenges.

  • Click on the “Practice Tools” button in the lower left of the main SmartMusic screen. The practice tools will open.
  • Tune your instrument by expanding the tuner window. This is done by clicking the top right corner of the tuner picture. Simply play the note, and watch the dial on the tuner to see if you’re sharp or flat. Make the necessary adjustments. If you’ve never tuned your instrument before, ask your instructor or band mate for help.
    • Vocalists: you may especially love clicking on the keyboard notes to get a starting pitch. This is a great time to warm up with your favorite warm-up exercise.
    • Percussionists: You’ll know if the microphone is hearing you by striking the drum and watching the tuner flicker.
  • Now that you’re instrument is tuned and/or your vocal pipes are awake, turn the metronome on by clicking “Click.”
  • Click on the arrow next to “click” to find options for subdividing or accent downbeats.
  • Practice a few notes of a song you know. Practice a scale, or even improvise. See if you can stay in time with the metronome click.
  • In this practice tools window, click the “start take” button to record yourself with no accompaniment.
  • To turn off the click, just click the green light off.
Day 3 - Find Music

Welcome to day #3 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge! Arguably one of the biggest benefits of having SmartMusic is your access to so much music! Before too long, you’ll probably stumble upon a new piece to try nearly every time you open the program. Today we’re going to use SmartMusic’s “Find Music” features to browse music.

But before we get started exploring the music, let’s get tuned up! If you’re using SmartMusic on a laptop or desktop computer, you can do this within SmartMusic.

After opening SmartMusic:

  • Navigate to the Practice Tools and tune your instrument (just as you did in your challenge from day #2).
    • If you’re a vocalist, play a starting pitch and take a few seconds to get warmed up.
    • When you’re tuned or warmed up, close the practice tools by clicking “Done.” You’ll automatically be returned to SmartMusic’s home screen.

Now, let’s get on with the music search!

  • Click on “Find Music” from the left hand navigation (“Browse Online” on iPad). This takes you to a new screen where we can browse for music.
  • The Laptop / Desktop version of SmartMusic has a “Quick Search” area on the right. The iPad version of SmartMusic has gray search buttons at the top of the screen for skill level, music category, genre, title, and composer.
  • If you’re on a Laptop or Desktop computer, from the Quick Search area in the right margin, explore the “More Search Options” area.
  • Select “Rock and Pop” from the Genre pull down.
  • Browse through your results and choose a song to try.
    • Try sorting by level to find a tune right for you.
    • Note: On the laptop/desktop version of SmartMusic, you must click on the book titles to see the list of songs.

DID YOU KNOW?

Instrumentalists: On the laptop / desktop version of SmartMusic, if you click on a note, a picture of where to put your fingers on your instrument appears. This takes the mystery out of wrong notes!

Vocalists: When you click on a note, it displays the name of the note and plays it for you.

 

Day 4 - Import MP3

Have you ever wanted to play along to a song in iTunes or on YouTube, but it’s too fast and you wish you could just slow it down? Then day #4 of the SmartMusic  21 Day Challenge is for you! Today we’ll explore the feature that allows you to import MP3s directly into SmartMusic.

First, choose an MP3 that you’d like to import into SmartMusic. This could come from a CD you’ve imported into iTunes, for example. You may want to drag that song onto your desktop so you’re able to easily find it as you go through these next steps:

  • Click the menu item “MP3 Audio Files” from the left menu options.
  • Click the blue “Import” button.
  • Choose the MP3 file you wish to bring into SmartMusic.

It’s that easy.

Your MP3 will appear below the import button in a list of all MP3s you’ve imported. Next, double click on the title of your MP3. Your usual controls appear on the screen that follows.

  • Use the tempo slider to slow down or speed up the MP3 playback.
  • Use the location slider to start in the middle of a song.
  • Click the blue Transpose button to change the key of the song.

Remember, the Start Take button starts playback and SmartMusic is always listening. You can keep your takes to hear yourself playing along.

Day 5 - Make a Playlist

Welcome to day #5 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge!

Today, you are going to organize music using SmartMusic Playlists.

  • In the left margin of the SmartMusic screen (when you don’t have music open), you will notice a playlist section. Click “new playlist.”
  • Title this playlist “21 Day Challenge.”
  • Select music from your library to be added to this playlist. Here’s how:
    • We know that you’ve imported an MP3 into SmartMusic already, so from the “My Library” section, choose “MP3 Audio files.”
    • Drag the title from the middle screen, into your new playlist.
    • You can also click on “recently played,” which is in the playlist section of the left hand column, and choose any recently played music to bring into your 21 day challenge playlist.

Think of all the other types of playlists you could make. Perhaps you could make a playlist of holiday music, music that is too hard that you hope to play one day, your favorite songs, or the music you played in school last year. The possibilities are endless.

Day 6 - Share Your Playlist

Welcome to day #6 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge!

Today’s challenge is simple. You will learn how to share the playlist you made yesterday in your day 5 challenge. Remember, your playlist is shown in the left menu of the home screen.

  • Right click on your playlist (or control click on Mac) and choose “Export Playlist.”
  • Name and save your playlist to the desktop of your computer.

You can now email this playlist to a friend or colleague who also has SmartMusic. They’ll be able to play from your list for fun! Remember, if you have an MP3 in your playlist, you’ll need to also send your friend the MP3 attachment, as well in your email.

That’s it…now get sharing!

Day 7 - Looping Scales Through the Circle of 5ths

Give yourself a huge pat on the back – you are 1/3 of the way through your SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge! Welcome to day #7.

Today you will learn how to use SmartMusic to make practicing scales more fun.  Percussionists, here’s a chance for you to get some practice in on your mallet instruments (marimba, xylophone, vibraphone or glockenspiel).

Here’s how to navigate to SmartMusic’s scale exercises:

Find Music >> Exercises >> Scales

  • Click on the arrow next to “Accompaniment”
  • Select another accompaniment style. You may see “Dance Encounters”.
  • Click on “Loop” so that a green light displays, indicating that the loop feature is on
  • Click on the arrow next to loop and choose “up a perfect 5th

Your scales will now automatically loop through the cycle of fifths. Have fun practicing!

Day 8 - Sharing a Recording

Welcome to day #8 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge!

Today’s challenge is to export a recording of yourself playing and send it to someone.

  • Choose any tune, exercise, mp3, or even practice tools in SmartMusic.
  • Start a take and play.
  • When you stop your take, you will notice your take is saved in the yellow “My takes” area.
  • When you’ve got a good take, click the “keep” button. This saves your take in the “takes” area even after you close the program.
  • Select your favorite take. A yellow bar appears with the options “listen,” “keep,” and “MP3.”
  • First listen to your take to make sure you’re happy with it. You can use the slider to make yourself a little louder or bring up the volume of the accompaniment.
  • Click the “MP3” button to export this take as an MP3. Save the MP3 to your music folder.

This MP3 can be imported into your iTunes library, made into a ring tone on your phone, emailed to Mom, or all of the above. Have fun sharing your skills!

Day 9 - Sight Reading

Sight-reading is an extremely beneficial skill to have but can also be a challenge for many musicians. For day #9 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge you’ll learn how SmartMusic can help improve your sight reading skills.

Let’s get started!

  • From the left menu, click Find Music >> Sight Reading
    • Vocalists: choose Find Music >> Method Books>> Vocal/General (tab) to find the Sing at First Sight methods.
    • Choose a level that you think is best for you.
    • Follow the onscreen instructions and use the SmartMusic sight-reading feature to practice sight-reading for at least 15 minutes today.

Sight-reading tip: click on the arrow next to the “sight reading” button. You can select how long you’d like to study the notes before starting a take.

Day 10 - Jazz Improv for the Novice

These 21 days wouldn’t be a true challenge if we didn’t try to get everyone improvising over the blues. Welcome to day #10 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge-your Jazz Improv challenge! To start out, let’s open up a jazz tune in SmartMusic.

Find Music >> Jazz Improvisation >> Aebersold Volume 2: Nothin’ But Blues >> Slow Blues in F

SmartMusic will be your jazz trio while you improvise over this slow blues tune. You may wish to have a fedora or some facial hair depending on your style but one thing you will need for sure is the F major pentatonic scale. Knowing that the word “penta” usually indicates the number 5 (as in pentagon), you can now relax. We’re going to have you use a major scale that only has 5 notes: F, G, A, C, D. When you play these 5 notes, you’re going to sound great, even if you’ve never improvised before.

Take 1

  • Start slow, choose one note from the above pentatonic scale and play a nice long whole or half note before deciding on another note and switching to it.
  • Repeating notes is okay.
  • Stop your take and listen to how you did by clicking the “listen” button.

Take 2

  • Want an extra improvising trick? This is a great memory game that will improve your improvising.  During this take, try playing 3 or 4 notes… then see if you can remember what you just did, and repeat that phrase a few times. Repetition can be a nice way to round out a solo. When you get sick of repeating that group of notes (usually after repeating 3 or 4 times), try another random batch from the pentatonic scale, and repeat that lick.

Take 3

  • Want an extra note? During this take, try throwing Ab into the mix. Now you’re using both the major 3rd of the scale (A) and the minor 3rd of the scale (Ab). You might agree this extra note brings a uniquely bluesy feel to your improvisation.
Day 11 - Try Reading Another Instrument Part

Welcome to day #11 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge. You’re halfway finished! Ever been curious about what it’s like to play another instrument? Today we’ll explore that!

Are you a cello player? Try playing the trombone part for a big band chart on your cello. Do you play piano? Try reading the oboe line in a concert band piece with your right hand on the keyboard. Who cares about assessment today. Let’s have fun playing along with SmartMusic accompaniments and brushing up on sight-reading skills. Choose an instrument that uses the same clef you’re used to reading in… or if you’d like a real challenge, try reading in a clef you’re not familiar with!

Do you play an instrument with a tricky transposition? Here’s a list of other instruments that have the same transpositions.

  • Bb Intruments: Soprano, tenor and bass saxophone – Bb and bass clarinet
  • Eb Intruments: Sopranino, alto and baritone saxophone – Eb and alto clarinet
  • F instruments: English Horn, French Horn
  • Percussionists: try any old part and just focus on the rhythms!
Day 12 - Wynton's Compositions

Welcome to day #12 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge!

Did you know that Wynton Marsalis, the master of jazz, has provided some of his arrangements of both jazz standards and original compositions for SmartMusic use. How cool is that? Today’s challenge is to have you explore his music!

What makes the Wynton Marsalis material in SmartMusic different from the other Jazz Improvisation material? The melody is provided! Even at the Medium Easy level, these tunes can be challenging.

Here’s how to find Wynton’s compositions:

Find Music >> Jazz Improvisation >> Wynton Marsalis Originals

Remember, when learning one of Wynton’s arrangements, you can always slow the tempo and transpose the key. Use the to SmartMusic tools to help…his pieces are tough!

  • Use the tempo slider to slow the music down while learning.
  • Click the small arrow next to the “Transpose” button and move the music into a key signature with less accidentals.
  • If you don’t know how to play a note, click on the note and a picture of where to put your fingers on your instruments will appear.

Spend a good 10 minutes trying out Wynton’s tunes in SmartMusic and consider today’s challenge complete. And also be proud of yourself…his stuff is not easy!

Day 13 - Loop the Tough Spots

Welcome to day #13 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge!

Sometimes there is a section in a piece of music that for some reason you just can’t get right. And the only way to get it down is to play it over and over again. Today you’ll learn how to use SmartMusic to zero in on tough spots with the looping feature.

  • Choose a piece of music for todays practice.
  • Click the “Loop” button to turn on SmartMusic’s loop feature.
  • Choose a starting measure for the loop, and also an ending measure.

SmartMusic will now loop this section, so you can practice it repeatedly without having to press stop and start so many times.

Day 14 - Keyboard Shortcuts

Welcome to day #14 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge!

Do you use SmartMusic on a desktop computer? Take your SmartMusic skills to the next level with keyboard shortcuts.

Help Menu >> keyboard shortcuts

You’ll find tons of keyboard shortcuts for each of the screens you spend the most time in. Here are a few that our on our list of most frequently used:

Day14

 

Try a few of these keyboard short cuts out today while practicing. Maybe even jot down your favorites so you don’t forget them later. If you use keyboard shortcuts during your practice time today, you’ve completed this challenge.

 

Day 15 - NotePad Download

Welcome to day #15 and the final week of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge!

Have you seen the button for a Free NotePad Download from SmartMusic’s home screen? Finale NotePad is a free music notation program that allows you to click notes into a staff and create your own sheet music that can be printed, and plays back. Today’s challenge is to download the free Finale NotePad and try entering a few notes into it. This can be a handy tool when you need to transcribe a solo to learn, write your own melody, or turn in a homework assignment on staff paper.

Extra Tip: Free NotePad files open in the full version of Finale music notation software and from there can be brought into SmartMusic for practicing.

Day 16 - Twisters

In today’s challenge, you’ll learn how to use SmartMusic to take your technical studies to the next level with Twisters! Percussionists, you may need a pair of mallets and a marimba, xylophone, or vibraphone for this exercise. If none of these are at hand and you’re determined to complete this challenge, follow these steps to explore the twisters anyway, and try it next time you’re near a mallet instrument.

  • Navigate to Find Music >> Exercises >> Twisters
  • Click “start take” and try the twister exercise that has loaded onto your screen.
    • You can use the tempo slider to practice the exercise at a slower or faster speed.
    • You can change the key of the twister exercise by clicking the blue “key” button.
    • You may try out another articulation/bowing by clicking the blue “articulation” button
    • Click the blue “range” button and tell SmartMusic if you’re range is basic, intermediate, advanced, or extended.
    • You may use the loop features to practice tough spots or to loop the exercise through all keys.

Save your best take and listen to it to hear how you’ve done. Congratulations, you’ve completed day 16 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge!

Day 17 - Method Books

Welcome to day #17 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge!

Using method books as a part of your practice is a great way to build your skills. Today you’ll explore a few pages of a method book of your choice.  Here’s how to find the method books:

Find Music >> Method Books

There are many method books in SmartMusic. How do you choose? Here’s a browsing tip:

From the Find Music window, select your instrument from the Quick Search box in the upper right and choose the “Method Books” category.

More tips: Do you play guitar? Or have you always wanted to learn to play jazz? Our method book section has a lot of material waiting for you.

Day 18 - Play by Ear

Welcome to day #18 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge!

There are many benefits to improving your play-by-ear skills including a stronger ability to improvise music, building a bigger musical vocabulary and being better able to remember music and anticipate changes. Whatever your reason for wanting to improve, keeping that in mind when you practice will help develop your skills more quickly. In today’s challenge you will learn how to use SmartMusic to build your play-by-ear skills.

  • Navigate to Find Music >> Exercises >> Play by Ear

Notice that a new blue button has appeared onscreen called the “play by ear” button. Here you may choose to show or hide first note hints or show the notes after your takes while assessment gives you your score.

At the top of your screen, next to your instrument name, you will see the level of play by ear exercise you are working on. Here, you can use the pull-down menu to select a more challenging level if the first few levels are too easy.

Practice playing by ear for at least 10 minutes today and you’ve completed the challenge for day #18.

Day 19 - Rhythms

Welcome to day #19 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge!

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! Only a couple of days remain…hopefully you’re having some fun!

Today you will learn how to use SmartMusic to build your rhythm reading and playing skills.

  • Navigate to Find Music >> Exercises >> Rhythms

Notice that a new blue “clap” button has appeared onscreen. You may choose to play these exercises on your instrument, or simply clap the rhythms. Just let SmartMusic know your preference with this button.

Similar to yesterdays challenge, at the top of your screen, next to your instrument name, you will see the level of play by ear exercise you are working on. Here, you can use the pull-down menu to select a more challenging level if the first few levels are too easy.

Practice these rhythmic exercises for at least 10 minutes today and you’ve completed day #19.

 

Day 20 - Arpeggios

Welcome to day #20 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge!

Today we’ll practice our arpeggios using SmartMusic. Percussionists, you may need your mallet instruments again for this one.

  • Navigate to Find Music >> Exercises >> Arpeggios
  • Click “start take” and try the arpeggio exercise that has loaded onto your screen.
    • You can use the tempo slider to practice the exercise at a slower or faster speed.
    • You can change the key of the twister exercise by clicking the blue “key” button.
    • You may try out another articulation/bowing by clicking the blue “articulation” button.
    • Click the blue “range” button and tell SmartMusic if you’re range is basic, intermediate, advanced, or extended.
    • You may use the loop features to practice tough spots or to loop the exercise through all keys.

Fun Tip: By clicking on the arrow next to the blue “accompaniment” button, you can select a new background track! A favorite of ours is “Feel Good Movie of the Year.”

Save your best take and play it back to hear how you did. Congratulations, you’ve completed day 20 of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge. Only one more challenge to go! We’ll see you at the finish line tomorrow!

 

Day 21 - Onscreen Solos

Congratulations! You’ve come to day 21, the final day, of the SmartMusic 21 Day Challenge. We hope you found this challenge to be useful—and fun! You are a rock star for sticking with it!

Your last challenge is to choose a solo from the SmartMusic library.

  • Navigate to Find Music >> Solos
  • Choose your instrument.
  • A large list of solos will appear. Click on “Level” to sort these solos by level.
  • Choose a solo that you believe fits your level and has a green checkmark next to it.
  • Practice this solo for at least 20 minutes today and you’ve completed the ENTIRE SmartMusic 21 day challenge.

Percussionists:

  • Navigate to Find Music.
  • From the Quick Search are, type in keyword “Cavaliers”

Did you know that music from the famous DCI group Cavaliers is in SmartMusic, composed by their leader, Michael McIntosh? These tunes are very advanced but fun to try!

The Challenge is over now, but that doesn’t mean your practicing needs to end. Keep up the momentum you gained over these last three weeks and practice on!

Good luck!