SmartMusic Finale Garritan MusicXML

Piece of the Week: Funkytown


Many of us on the SmartMusic team have a special fondness for “Funkytown” because the piece is a hometown success story. Steve Greenberg was a local Minneapolis songwriter, and when he got a recording contract with disco powerhouse Casablanca Records he recruited a band of Minneapolis all-stars to record under the name Lipps Inc. This included lead vocalist Cynthia Johnson, who was an up-and-coming singer in the funk band Flyte Tyme with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis; on guitar was David Rivkin, who would later rise to fame as an engineer for Prince. As these names suggest, Greenberg and Lipps Inc. helped to break the Minneapolis sound onto the national charts, paving the way for the flood of Minneapolis artists like Prince and The Time that followed.

This Alfred arrangement brings Greenberg’s Minneapolis funk classic into the easy concert band repertoire. Though you may remember this piece for its stripped-down synthesizer sound, you’ll love how it sounds with full wind & brass participation. With plenty of percussion, this piece captures the new-wave-funk energy of the original.

Click Here to read an interview with Steve Greenberg on the enduring legacy of “Funkytown.”

 Audio Sample

Audio provided by Alfred Music Publishing Co., Inc.

Composition Notes

Composed by Steven Greenberg in 1980, “Funkytown” was recorded and performed by the studio band Lipps, Inc., featuring lead singer, Cynthia Johnson. It became a number one hit in the United States on the Billboard Hot 100 and Dance charts. Since its debut, the song has re-appeared in countless movies, television programs, and commercials. “Keep me movin’, keeps me grovin’ with some energy…” “Funkytown!”

Got an idea for a blog post? Contact us!

If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

Feature Friday: SmartMusic Gradebook and Inbox App


The SmartMusic Gradebook and Inbox App can help you easily guide, evaluate and track student progress. Imagine being able to have immediate access to recordings and assessments completed in SmartMusic, for all students. Here are some of the ways you can use the SmartMusic Gradebook:

  • Give students individualized feedback of their progress.
  • Evaluate progress using a grading scale or rubrics.
  • Have documentation (data) that you can easily share with students, parents and administration.

To learn more about the SmartMusic Gradebook, including creating classes and assignments, enrolling students, and more, click here.

Let’s take a tour after a class has been set up.

First, select a SmartMusic class.

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The Class Page appears.
Click on GRADEBOOK in the top left of the window.

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To grade or review an assignment, click on a score or green speaker icon.

  • The class Gradebook window opens.
  • You can see at a glance if assignments have been submitted or even if they are late!

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Reviewing an assignment

After clicking on a submitted assignment, the Submission Details window displays the amount of time the student spent, a graphic with red and green note assessment, and the student’s recording!

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You can:

  • Listen to the recording.

  • Change the “red and green” note score.

  • Make individualized comments to the student.

  • Email parents directly with the assessment and recording. (Optional)

  • Reassign the assignment to the student.

Print or export any of the information in your Gradebook

  • Select Print and Export from a Class page.
  • Printing options include the entire Gradebook or individualized Progress Reports.
  • Data exports can be a tab delimited text file (.txt), Microsoft Excel (.xls) or a Comma delimited text file (.csv).

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Use the SmartMusic Inbox app to review student assignments!

The SmartMusic Inbox app allows you to review student assessments and recordings anywhere, anytime using an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.  All you need to do is log in with your educator subscription information.The app is a free download from the App Store.

iPad Inbox

The SmartMusic Gradebook is so much more than a regular gradebook.

Other Gradebook features not covered in this post allow you to:

  • Organize and share curriculum with colleagues instantly.
  • Create units of study that remain available to be used again.
  • Create assignments that require students to respond with text and/or by attaching a digital file, including text documents.
  • Link state standards to assignments.

Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on how you can easily share your Gradebook data by using the export feature and creating reports with charts in Excel.

For step-by-step information to get started with SmartMusic, check out our fantastic Implement SmartMusic resource.

Have a question or comment? Click the “Comments” link below.

Piece of the Week: Sleep by Eric Whitacre


Eric Whitacre is best known for his groundbreaking “virtual choir” projects, which have brought together thousands of singers from countries across the globe using social media and online video sharing to perform pieces that explore themes of connectivity and transcendence. Whitacre chose “Sleep” as the piece that  his Virtual Choir 2.0 would sing; the video of this performance was released in April 2011 and has (as of this writing) earned over 1.6 million hits on YouTube alone.

Eric Whitacre’s music uses a gorgeous blend of extended harmonies and approachable, pop-music inspired structures. We at SmartMusic love Whitacre’s work and share his mission of bringing people together with innovative online musical experiences.

Composition Notes by Eric Whitacre:

“Sleep” began its life in 2000 as an a cappella choral piece, with a magnificent original poem by Charles Anthony Silvestri. The chorale-like nature and warm harmonies seemed to call out for the simple and plaintive sound of winds, and I thought that it might make a gorgeous addition to the wind symphony repertoire. “Sleep” can be performed as a work for band, or band and mixed chorus.

Click Here to view Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 2.0 perform “Sleep”

Audio Sample:

Audio provided by Mark Custom Recording Service, Inc.

Composer Biography:

An accomplished composer, conductor and lecturer, Eric Whitacre is one of the brightest stars in contemporary concert music. Regularly commissioned and published, Whitacre has received composition awards from ASCAP, the Barlow International Composition Competition, the American Choral Directors Association, and the American Composers Forum. In 2001 he became the youngest recipient ever awarded the coveted Raymond C. Brock commission by the American Choral Directors Association, and his album Light & Gold won a Grammy in 2012. Commercially, Whitacre has worked with such luminaries as Barbara Streisand and Marvin Hamlisch.

Born in 1970, Whitacre has already achieved substantial critical and popular acclaim. The American Record Guide named his first recording, “The Music of Eric Whitacre”, one of the top ten classical albums in 1997, and the Los Angeles Times praised his music as “electric, chilling harmonies; works of unearthly beauty and imagination.” His Water Night has become one of the most popular choral works of the last decade, and is one of the top selling choral publications in the last five years. Ghost Train, his first instrumental work, written at the age of 23, is a genuine phenomenon; it has received thousands of performances in over 50 countries and has been featured on 40 different recordings. His music has been the subject of several recent scholarly works and doctoral dissertations, and his published works have sold well over 350,000 copies worldwide.

As a conductor, Mr. Whitacre has appeared with hundreds of professional and educational ensembles throughout the world. In the last five years he has conducted concerts of his choral and symphonic music in Japan, Australia, Singapore, much of Europe, and dozens of American universities and colleges. Eric received his M.M. in composition from the Juilliard School of Music, where he studied composition with Pulitzer Prize winner John Corigliano.

Click Here for more information on Eric Whitacre’s career, compositions, and current projects.

Got an idea for a blog post? Contact us!

If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

SmartMusic Feature Friday: Classroom Activities


We have a new resource that contains many classroom activities that use SmartMusic’s audio and visual components. In addition to having students use SmartMusic as a practice tool at home, using it in the classroom can help engage students so that you can use the time you have to teach more efficiently.

All the activities are set up like a lesson plan and a procedure is given for you to follow. They are in Microsoft .DOC format so that you can edit the plans and personalize them. A blank lesson plan template can also be downloaded so you can create your own.

Here is an example of one activity called Teach Repeats, First and Second Endings without Saying a Word (Almost!)

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This example shows how you can use SmartMusic to teach a concept like the first and second endings. Although first and second endings aren’t very complex, there is still quite a bit of explaining to do. Imagine if you had your students watch an example on the screen as they follow the cursor, hear the accompaniment and then see an arrow showing playback to the repeated target measure and how the cursor “jumps” to the second ending. By asking the students questions, they will tell you how first and second endings work. Personally, the day I tried this in my classroom was a game changer. I could use SmartMusic to help teach concepts by having the students experience it first, them telling me what they experienced and then we could talk about what the concept was called!

To learn more about the classroom activities that are currently available and to download them, click here. To get information about setting up SmartMusic for classroom use, click here.

Do you have some SmartMusic classroom activities to share? Click the “Comments” link below.


New String Method Released in SmartMusic

A new string method, Measures of Success for String Orchestra, has been released in SmartMusic.

New string method released

Title Comp/Arr/Lyr Publisher Music Type Pepper Level
Measures of Success for String Orchestra – Violin Gruselle, Carrie Lane & Balmages, Brian & Barnes, Gail V. & Trowbridge, Michael FJH Music Company String Method B
Measures of Success for String Orchestra – Viola Gruselle, Carrie Lane & Balmages, Brian & Barnes, Gail V. & Trowbridge, Michael FJH Music Company String Method B
Measures of Success for String Orchestra – Cello Barnes, Gail V. & Balmages, Brian & Gruselle, Carrie Lane & Trowbridge, Michael FJH Music Company String Method B
Measures of Success for String Orchestra – Double Bass Gruselle, Carrie Lane & Balmages, Brian & Barnes, Gail V. & Trowbridge, Michael FJH Music Company String Method B


As always, you can request a piece for a future SmartMusic release here.

New Assessable Solo Repertoire Released

New assessable solo repertoire

Today, new assessable solo repertoire was added to the SmartMusic library. Classic Festival Solos, Vol. 2  is available for the five instruments listed in the table below. Like Classic Festival Solos, Vol. 1, this collection already exists in the SmartMusic library without music on screen. Now, you and your students have the option to use either version! For more information on the features available in this collection as well as practice suggestions, please see the article written by Robert Grifa here.

Title Publisher Music Type Pepper Level
Classic Festival Solos, Vol. 2 – Bb Clarinet CPP/Belwin Solos VE-M
Classic Festival Solos, Vol. 2 – Trumpet CPP/Belwin Solos E-A
Classic Festival Solos, Vol. 2 – Alto Saxophone CPP/Belwin Solos VE-M
Classic Festival Solos, Vol. 2 – Trombone CPP/Belwin Solos VE-M
Classic Festival Solos, Vol. 2 – Horn (F) CPP/Belwin Solos VE-A


As always, you can request a piece for a future SmartMusic release here.

MakeMusic Joins Peaksware

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Earlier today we announced that MakeMusic has joined Peaksware, the umbrella company owned by LaunchEquity Partners, the investment company that took MakeMusic private last year. The common thread at Peaksware is the focus on products that, like SmartMusic, help people develop skills and self-expression through deliberate practice.

You are probably wondering “What does this mean for me as a SmartMusic educator?” We recognize that this announcement comes with the new school year just around the corner and we want to reassure you of a few things. While we are excited to be joining the Peaksware family and the opportunity it presents for future innovation and growth, it is business as usual at MakeMusic.

First and foremost, there are no planned changes to SmartMusic. All of the features and functionality that you have come to rely upon for your yearly curriculum and to help your students practice and improve their skills will still be available. We are committed to the continued improvement of the product and are dedicated to bringing the powerful practice platform to as many students as possible.

We also have no current plans to change the pricing or subscription model for SmartMusic. Educator subscriptions will still be priced at $140 and student home subscriptions at $40 annually. Our Customer Support resources continue to be available to assist you and your students with any questions that may arise throughout the school year.

Another question you may ask is “How does MakeMusic fit with a company like Peaksware?” We know music educators are passionate about music. They are also driven by the desire to help each of their students develop that same passion for music. And we also know that the most successful educators have a vision for their program. We have a vision too. And today we take yet another step forward in realizing that vision by joining Peaksware.

Through a unique approach to deliberate practice, each brand within Peaksware develops software solutions and provides services to help guide people along their own journey of improvement and skill development. Whether completing a triathlon, learning a musical instrument or composing a symphony, the same strategy applies: set a specific goal, get expert instruction, perform focused practice and receive immediate feedback. This shared approach is the common thread connecting the brands.

Peaksware is a company run by people who are passionate users of their products, just as MakeMusic employees are passionate users of Finale, SmartMusic, Garritan and MusicXML. What’s more, like MakeMusic, Peaksware is committed to providing software solutions that empower people to do the things they love – really well – at the very highest level.

Have a question or observation about today’s news? Please let us know by clicking on “Comments” below.

Piece of the Week: A Very Respectable Hobbit

A Very Respectable Hobbit

From Academy Award winner Howard Shore’s score for the 2012 movie “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” this piece will delight students and audiences alike. The first of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” introduces audiences to the characters and themes of the fantastical world of Middle Earth, a setting already familiar from the beloved “Lord of the Rings” franchise. This arrangement features the Hobbit’s main theme, a folk-like tune that depicts the pastoral life of Bilbo Baggins and his fellow hobbits of the Shire, and hints at the adventures and conflicts to come. This easy and fun piece is available in both a concert band and string orchestra arrangement.

Audio Sample:

Audio provided by Alfred Music Publishing Co., Inc

Composer Biography:

Howard Shore is among today’s most respected, honored, and active composers and music conductors. His work with Peter Jackson on The Lord of the Rings trilogy stands as his most towering achievement to date, earning him three Academy Awards. He has also been honored with four Grammy and three Golden Globe awards. Shore was one of the original creators of Saturday Night Live. He served as the music director on the show from 1975 to 1980. At the same time, he began collaborating with David Cronenberg and has scored 14 of the director’s films, including 2012’s Cosmopolis, The Fly, Crash, and Naked Lunch. His original scores to A Dangerous Method, Eastern Promises and Dead Ringers were each honoured with a Genie Award and Cosmopolis was awarded for score and song “Long to Live” with Canadian Screen Awards. Shore continues to distinguish himself with a wide range of projects, from Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, The Departed, The Aviator and Gangs of New York to Ed Wood, The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, and Mrs. Doubtfire.

Shore’s music has been performed in concerts throughout the world. In 2003, Shore conducted the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in the world premiere of The Lord of the Rings Symphony in Wellington. Since then, the Symphony and The Lord of the Rings – Live to Projection concerts have had over 285 performances by the world’s most prestigious orchestras.

In 2008, Howard Shore’s opera The Fly premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and at Los Angeles Opera. Other recent works include the piano concerto Ruin and Memory for Lang Lang premiered with the China Philharmonic Orchestra on October 11, 2010, the cello concerto Mythic Gardens for Sophie Shao premiered with the American Symphony Orchestra on April 27, 2012 and Fanfare for the Wanamaker Organ in Philadelphia. He is currently working on his second opera.

Shore received the Career Achievement for Music Composition Award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, New York Chapter’s Recording Academy Honors, ASCAP’s Henry Mancini Award, the Frederick Loewe Award and the Max Steiner Award from the city of Vienna. He holds honorary doctorates from Berklee College of Music and York University, he is an Officier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la France and the recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in Canada.

Howard Shore’s biography courtesy of

Arranger Biography:

Jack Bullock holds undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in the field of Music Education. As a performer, he studied trumpet with Harry Glantz, James Ode and Craig McHenry, and performed with the Miami Philharmonic Orchestra and the Miami Opera Company. He also performed statewide with New York show and territory bands, and nationally with traveling dance bands. A prolific composer and arranger, Dr. Bullock has written more than 600 publications for a diverse group of ensembles, including concert band, orchestra, jazz ensemble and marching band. He is the co-author of the Belwin 21st Century Band Method, and was a contributing arranger for the recordings of Music Expressions, the innovative school music curriculum published by Alfred.

Got an idea for a blog post? Contact us!

If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

SmartMusic Feature Friday: Practice Tools for Jazz


In today’s SmartMusic Feature Friday, you will learn how to find and use the practice tools for jazz in SmartMusic. Whether you are just starting out with the basics or if you are an advanced jazz player, SmartMusic helps you practice jazz patterns, progressions and songs. Jazz exercises can be played at any tempo and transposed to any key as you play with great jazz musicians on piano, bass and drums. When it is time for rehearsal or the “gig”, you will be ready to go!

To get started, go to the FIND MUSIC page and open the Exercises category.

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Jazz Exercises Patterns

If your students are going to improvise, they need to know the “language” of scales and patterns that work for chord progressions. Until patterns under your fingers, it can be a frustrating experience to be called on to take a “ride” (solo) in public.

To practice jazz scales and patterns, click on the Exercises button and then the Jazz Exercises icon. SmartMusic opens up with music on screen and practice patterns for:

  • Blues
  • ii-V-I Scales
  • ii-V-I Arpeggios
  • iii-VI- ii-V-I Scales
  • iii-VI- ii-V-I Arpeggios

You will hear the rhythm section playing the chord progressions as you practice these patterns. Start at a comfortable tempo and gradually bring your skills up to speed.

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Blues Licks

One of the great challenges for students as they learn to improvise is the ability to hear chord changes and be able to play appropriate jazz patterns.

SmartMusic provides Blues Licks to develop help students develop their “jazz ears”. Blues licks are call and response patterns that can be practiced with any melodic instrument or voice. SmartMusic plays a short melodic pattern and then students play or sing it back. SmartMusic scores the performance and displays green and red notes.

Imagine students working on blues licks from home and developing the skills and confidence to get on stage and enjoy taking “rides” with the jazz band. There are 25 different Blues Licks and they can be transposed to any key.

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Jazz Improvisation

Jazz Improvisation lead sheets include the “Head” of the chart (melody) followed by several choruses of chord changes for improvisation and then the return to the Head and out. Jazz Improvisation titles include several Aebersold, Alfred and Wynton Marsalis songs. Students put their part on screen and can practice at any tempo and in any key.

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Jazz Patterns & Learning Chords

In addition to practicing the lead sheet melody, you can click on the Patterns button and choose one of 13 scale practice patterns to display on screen. After you have learned a pattern, click on the Learn Chords menu and choose Omit One Note. SmartMusic will hide the view of the last note of the pattern. As students play patterns through the progression without looking at all the notes, they are developing the skills and confidence to improvise.

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Rhythm Section Transcriptions

SmartMusic Jazz Improvisation songs include piano, bass and drum transcriptions. The jazz songs were recorded by the Wynton Marsalis rhythm section and other top West coast jazz musicians and put into SmartMusic. Students can isolate the piano, bass or drum part and listen to what a professional played, or they mute their part and perform with some of the greatest jazz players in the world. If the chart is a little fast, just slow it down.

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Other SmartMusic Jazz Practice Options

In a future blog, I will introduce SmartMusic Jazz Method Books, Big Band Charts, MP3 import options and the ability to import Finale created files.

For more information about SmartMusic, go to

One more thing: Have Fun!

Have a question or comment? Click on the “Comments” link below.



Get ready for the new school year!


It’s time to get ready for the new school year—new classes, new faces—another opportunity to inspire students to make great music! Let’s make sure you’re ready.

Update SmartMusic

Get yourself and your students up to speed with the latest version of SmartMusic. Current versions check for updates automatically. If automatic updates are on, the update will be installed the next time you open SmartMusic.

If you or your students are using an earlier version of SmartMusic, download and install the current version.

Information for your IT department

Give this article to your IT staff to make sure that your school’s network is set up for SmartMusic.

Help students start the year

Enrolling in class

Each of your SmartMusic classes now includes a unique class enrollment link that makes it easy for students to enroll directly into a class. With the class enrollment link, the school and class are already chosen for your students, so you don’t have to worry about whether the student has set up their account correctly.

They can even enroll before your class starts. Watch this video to see how the class enrollment link makes enrolling easier.

Redeeming a subscription code

If you purchased subscriptions for your students, they need to redeem a code to transfer a subscription onto their account. This video explains how to redeem a SmartMusic subscription code.

Ensure student success

Use this handout to send your students their class enrollment link, subscription code, and setup instructions. These simple steps will help you and your students smoothly transition into the school year.

We hope that all of this information helps you get the ball rolling!

Have a question or comment? Click the “Comments” link below.