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Getting Started With Sound Innovations for Guitar

SI for Guitar

[Bill Purse, co-author of “Sound Innovations for Guitar,” is our guest blogger this week, sharing tips to help guitarists get started with both SmartMusic and this excellent guitar method.]


SmartMusic provides a solid guide for the beginning guitarist to personalize computer-assisted guitar instruction with practical materials they will use for a lifetime. All of the exercises, examples, and approaches in Alfred Music’s Sound Innovations for Guitar provide real world music skills for guitarists no matter their level. Let me share some thoughts on getting started as a guitarist with SmartMusic and tips for maximizing the educational impact it can provide. After this brief tutorial, you should be well on your way to enjoying and playing all of the music in Sound Innovations for Guitar.


Download the program from the SmartMusic site.

Once you download the program, you will be guided through the installation process for your computer or for the recently released iPad version.

One of the great features of SmartMusic is its interactivity and assessment of your Sound Innovations for Guitar lesson performances. You will attach a clip-on microphone to your collar to input a take, in which the computer records and accesses your performance. Keep in mind that you can practice and review multiple lesson takes and keep your best take.


My guitar input recommendation is to use either an acoustic guitar with a built-in pickup or an electric guitar and USB to instrument cable. Note: these will require a USB port on your PC or Mac. Know that they are not expensive and work quite well. Examples: Ion IUB3 USB guitar cable for $29.92 | ClearClick guitar to USB cable $9.95. Or one of the new electric guitars that have USB output. Examples: USB Fender Squire Strat | Behringer iAXE393 USB guitar | Epiphone Ultra-339 guitar with USB output.

If you only have an acoustic guitar, a mic is required. SmartMusic offers an instrumental mic with a 10-foot cable for $29.95.

Once you select the proper input for SmartMusic as prompted by the application, select the appropriate input, such as the mic or USB Audio Device. Then close this window with the Close button at the bottom of the screen.


Launching SmartMusic   

When you launch SmartMusic, after registering as a student, you can go to My Library > Method Books > Sound Innovations for Guitar. When you select this option, you will see all of the available lessons and tutorials available to guide you through your guitar journey.

Each part for the Sound Innovations for Guitar studies/songs has an individual selection. You will need to play the selected Guitar part (Gtr. 1, Gtr. 2 or Gtr. 3). SmartMusic will perform any the other parts. Be careful that you play the appropriate selected Guitar Part or you will not get an accurate assessment.



Once you are getting a good signal on the Adjust Input Level meter, you will be ready to tune your instrument. Select the Tuner button  in the upper right hand corner of the screen, make sure it is set to Guitar in the upper left hand corner, and tune away with SmartMusic’s sophisticated tuner. Click the Done button when finished to launch into the SI Guitar Method.


Use the View menu at the top of the screen to go into full screen, or press command f. If the music is smaller than you wish, you can simply use the power keys command + or command – to modify the size of the music to one you can easily read.

SmartMusic Controls


  • The Start Take button gives you a count off and then allows you to play the example or song. The green bar will travel across the music to show you where you should play the notes or chords.
  • The Tempo numerical field and blue tempo slider directly below it allow you to set the speed of the playback. Highlight the tempo field; then simply type in the desired tempo or use the slider to change the playback’s tempo. Tempo alterations will change the speed of the playback but not the pitch. You can select a tempo at which you can play the music accurately and then slowly increase the tempo as your guitar playing improves.
  • The Pause button stops SmartMusic’s playback when you press it, freezing the music until you hit the space bar. This resumes playback from where the music was paused.
  • All of the square boxes in SmartMusic’s main menu have a yellow light to the left of the button illustrating that its option is on. These boxes are black when the option is turned off.
  • The location fields allow you to select where the music will start after a count off. The house icon can be set to move the cursor to the beginning or end of the example. The following numericals select the start and stop points in bars and beats within the score. The loop button keeps the score playing over and over until the stop take button is selected.


SmartMusic lets you listen to your performance and even save it as an MP3 file to share with your teacher or friends. You can select the takes button to see all of the takes you have created for each exercise or song. In addition, the keep button inside and to the right of this pull-down menu gives you the option of keeping the takes you want to preserve.


I am an enthBill Imageusiastic witness to SmartMusic’s brilliant realization of Alfred Music’s Sound Innovations for Guitar method. It is a wonderful educational tool where you will experience an interactive guitar course that uses our music, recordings, and concepts. Aaron Stang and I want to encourage you to enjoy working with this innovative software, whether at home or in the classroom.

SmartMusic is a wonderful way to grow at your own pace as a guitarist, and it provides many options for you to develop solid musicianship skills. Good luck with SmartMusic, and have fun exploring many of the other works and improvisational opportunities SmartMusic provides.

Bill Purse is the co-author of Sound Innovations for Guitar (with Aaron Stang) and the Chair of Guitar and Music Technology at Duquesne University.

Talking to Administrators about SmartMusic

Talking to Administrators about SmartMusic

If you’re excited to implement SmartMusic in your program, but first need to gain administrative support, you may be called upon to articulate what SmartMusic offers.

The information below highlights some of what SmartMusic can provide to students, parents, and teachers; answers some frequently asked questions; and shares tips that have helped other educators when talking to administrators about SmartMusic.

SmartMusic for Students and Parents

How does SmartMusic benefit students? With SmartMusic, all students can:

  • Receive immediate feedback, in terms of pitches and rhythms, even when practicing at home
  • Practice with accompaniment, understanding how their part fits with the whole group
  • Hear recordings of their performances for self-analysis
  • Receive and submit assignments, and receive educator feedback on them

As a result, students practice more and progress faster.

Jonathan 2One way to substantiate this is to share success stories from other teachers in your area. You may know teachers with stories like Jonathan Grimsby:

“During parent teacher conferences, when parents come in, we can pull up Susie’s profile. Boom – it’s all there. We can listen to how she was playing at the beginning of the year and all the way through the rest of the year.”

 – Jonathan Grimsby, Band Director, Fridley High School, MN

Administrators may also be more willing to consider SmartMusic if they know that other area districts are having success with it.

Parents, too, benefit from SmartMusic. Even those with no musical background can have a better understanding of how their students are preparing and progressing by listing to student recordings, viewing the assessment feedback students receive, and seeing student scores and teacher comments.

SmartMusic for Educators

SmartMusic assists teachers by allowing them to:

  • Create and send differentiated assignments that students can complete at home or in a practice room
  • Track, collect audio recordings, grade and learn more about each student’s progress
  • Create a portfolio of each student’s work, tracking student achievement and growth
  • Assign practice reports: SmartMusic tracks the time students spend practicing
  • Encourage parents to log in to view their child’s grades

How can educators measure if SmartMusic is successful? SmartMusic helps make it possible to objectively document student progress. Kevin Crawford analyzed the student scores and shared SmartMusic objective data with his administration:

Kevin“Students that were using SmartMusic at home generally knew at least three to four scales more than the students that were either not using SmartMusic at all, or were only using it at school and were generally 10 to 20 beats a minute faster on those scales. All of my beginners that have used it through the years and are using it at home are always far ahead of the students that are only playing lines in class.”

– Kevin Crawford, Band Director, Hopewell Middle School, Round Rock, TX

SmartMusic for Administrators

Many administrators are now asking their teachers to provide data on student growth in their schools. This is a challenge for music teachers because they teach large numbers of music students with limited instruction time.

This means that some school administrators are:

  • Leaving music students out of the school reporting plan
  • Using test scores from other departments to represent music students
  • Requiring music teachers to give written “standardized” tests that don’t reflect their local music department curriculum
  • Rating teacher performance reviews on flawed process and data

Many teachers have been able to work with their administration to use SmartMusic to provide meaningful student data, including:

  • Pre-test and post-test scores
  • Formative and summative progress reports
  • SmartMusic scores for notes and rhythms
  • Recordings (and teacher scores) of submitted assignments
  • Comments given by teachers on every assignment
  • State standards documented for each assignment

If your administrator is required by law or policy to give you and your students a “score,” SmartMusic can be an incredible tool, allowing you to help your students learn as you document student progress.

Answering IT Questions

Having answers to technical questions – ahead of time – can also help ease any concerns administrators may have. When asked what kind of support your IT staff will need to provide, you can confirm that SmartMusic:

  • Was designed to function safely in a school network environment: it is a direct and secure pipeline to computers
  • Is currently being used in hundreds of schools with thousands of students in school settings
  • Provides the following settings to IT staff, so they can set up their networks to be safe and secure.
  • Lists all computer system requirements on their website.

SmartMusic Costs

Here are some of the expenses associated with a SmartMusic implementation. Typically the school or district provides:

  • Internet access for music department computers
  • A SmartMusic Educator Subscription ($140/year)
  • A few practice room computers (Mac, PC or iPad) with subscriptions ($44/year each)

Either the school or parents provide students with home subscriptions ($40/year/each). SmartMusic account managers can help put together district-pricing options. Contact SmartMusic Sales for more information.


The ultimate benefit SmartMusic offers is better student achievement. Again, sharing stories of other educators’ successes may be most compelling.

Peter“I certainly would recommend SmartMusic as a school principal and as a parent. [SmartMusic] provides teachers with an opportunity to differentiate music instruction. It provides parents with real time feedback and assessment of how well their children are doing. There are no surprises with grades.The students are performing better than they have before, and ultimately I’d say they are enjoying using the software and they are enjoying performing better.”

Peter Osroff, Ed. D., Principal at Garden City Middle School, NY

Administrators, teachers, students and parents – across the country – are seeing the value of using SmartMusic. Sharing these successes with your administration may help you enjoy these benefits as well.

Keeping Music Students Engaged Through Spring

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When I taught high school, one of my formulas for success was to schedule our spring concert as late in the year as I could, often the Monday after Memorial Day. I would also program student favorites (pop and lighter music versus the classical music we studied the rest of the year). As a result, my choir students stayed focused to the very end of the year.

My strategy had to change when our high school adopted final exams on the last days of school. This required students to study for exams during the last week of school, leaving little time for concert preparation. Of course, the exam change was adopted over the summer, long after concert dates had been set in a performance space that was rented out a year in advance.

I still remember a phone call from a parent that year, asking why we didn’t hold our concert in early to mid-May like other schools in our area. This parent didn’t want to hear about how it was too late to change the schedule; they simply wanted a different date that didn’t impact their child’s studying time. When I defended the pedagogical value of late concerts, the parent replied: “Surely those other schools do something of value over the last month of school that you could do, too!”

After a little research, I discovered that most schools had one choir that performed a song at graduation, so at least that choir would keep singing through the end of the year. Some schools held auditions for next year’s choir, something our scheduling timeline did not allow (our schedules were always set by March). But it was very common to hear that many programs either offered study halls or a plethora of videos at the end of the year.

So, if you place your final concert in the beginning of May, how can you keep kids engaged and involved with no more performances to look forward to?

I would not suggest a series of lessons in music theory or sight singing. Your final concert is a check-out semaphore for your students. They know that there is nothing on the calendar until next year, and they are unlikely to desire to re-engage to a new level with paperwork after their final concert.

With that in mind, here are a few ideas to keep music students engaged through spring:


Spring is a great time to do summative individual assessment with students; make them prove – individually – that they can sing or play what they performed in the last concert.  It is best if you can remove yourself from the testing room, using software like SmartMusic or simply having students record themselves as part of the larger group with individual devices.

One app that works well for this is Showbie. Showbie records audio on any iOS device, so even if you don’t have iPads, students might have iPhones or iPod Touches they could use. In an assessment, target a specific area of a specific length, and then let students have several “takes” to submit their best work.

Fall Concert Prep

If you have a major concert in the fall, you could always try to start music for that concert over the last weeks of school. My district holds an annual masterworks concert featuring the combined choirs from all three high schools. A predecessor of mine would start learning notes for that concert in May. Of course, this requires extreme planning, knowing what you will perform months in advance of the next school year.

Composition and Notation

If your school has a computer lab, you could teach a short unit on composition and music notation software, using free resources such as Finale Notepad or MuseScore.

As a side project, you might want to contact the PDF Band Music Library, and ask them for an out-of-copyright work that needs to be re-scored. You could distribute parts to students and have them recreate those parts, eventually combining them into a full score. In this way, they could have a project-based-learning experience in music, doing something of service to the music world while learning the basics of music notation programs.

If you have iPads, you might want to examine composition projects using free apps such as NotateMe Now or Touch Notation Free which allow you to literally draw music notation.

If you have just about any device, Noteflight could always be used for composition projects. If you have a Mac lab or iPads, you could do a unit on GarageBand, teaching students the basics of digital audio workstations.

Solos and Ensembles

You could use the time to have students prepare solos or ensembles with pop music, using resources from SmartMusic or Chromatik. SmartMusic, of course, will help students learn the piece, and Chromatik will give students a wide variety of free music (including pop music) to study for many types of instruments and voices, with some rehearsal resources as well.

If you choose to have students prepare pop music, you could hold a “talent show” performance during class near the end of school to showcase those songs.

Video and Other Art Forms

You might want to have students use iMovie or another movie making app to create a promo video for your program, or to make an “intro to band/choir/orchestra”‘ video where they demonstrate the behavior expectations for your program. You might find that seniors are interested in leaving a legacy, either via a video or other means.

We had a place in my last school where seniors could literally leave their mark on the school. In my case, they painted blocks in a back storage room. This could be done any number of ways, including them to make a photo collage from their graduating class (featuring music events). This could also be done digitally.

Try to avoid a month of movies or study halls at the end of the year. Playing one movie (even over a few days) can be a reward, as can a party. With some very basic technology at your school (or in the pockets of your students), you can pursue some interesting projects at the end of the year that can make a difference long-term for your program and for music education.

What are some of your ideas for using technology to fill instructional time at the end of the year?

IMG_3982 PortraitChristopher J. Russell, Ph.D, is a middle school choir teacher at Oltman Middle School in St. Paul Park, Minnesota, which is part of the South Washington County School District. He speaks across the country on the topic of technology in music education, is the author of a blog called, and has two books on the subject available on the iBookstore.

Photos by December Orphen

Most Popular SmartMusic Repertoire: Infographic

Explore what SmartMusic repertoire gets played the most, on a state-by-state basis, with this interactive Piktochart:

Want to have a say in what gets added next? Request a new title here.

Have different SmartMusic repertoire usage questions you’d like answered? Let us know what you’d like to see by clicking on “Comments” below.

Recognize an Educator Who Shaped Your Life


In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Day, we’re inviting you to share stories of music educators who helped shape your life. In appreciation, we’ll send a Starbucks gift card to the first 50 people who post such a story before 3 p.m. eastern time on Friday, May 8, either as a comment here, on Twitter, or on our Facebook page. In addition, one participant will win a SmartMusic educator package including a SmartMusic educator subscription, 5 student subscriptions, and a copy of Finale 2014.

What kind of stories do we have in mind? Below is an example from my coworker Kait Creamer:

My life changed forever in the five years I spent with Dr. Scott Stewart’s Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony. I looked forward to every Monday night rehearsal largely because of Dr. Stewart’s boundless enthusiasm and exuberant passion for the music. He took the time not only to teach us to play beautifully together as an ensemble, but also to tell the stories behind the music. I’ll never forget him excitedly sharing Percy Grainger’s “throw the ball over a house and catch it on the other side” trick as we prepared to rehearse “The Gum-Suckers March.” Many of Dr. Stewart’s stories will stick with me forever.

But the most valuable thing Dr. Stewart ever gave me was a piece of advice, doubtlessly offered as end-of-the-year wisdom for the graduating class. He said, “It doesn’t matter so much what your degree is in or how much you are paid. If you work hard and you do what you love, you will find happiness.” Though many people have said it before, those words will stick with me forever because of the man who said them. Dr. Stewart lives those words every single day, pushing himself to the limit so his students can experience the joy of a truly magical performance. I’ll be forever grateful to have had an educator and a friend like him.

Kait can be seen above with Dr. Stewart and her husband Andrew, whom she met through the AYWS. (She wasn’t exaggerating when she said those years were life-changing.) Your recognition needn’t be that long, but I hope it communicates the idea: to recognize a music educator who made a difference in your life, like band director Paul Melby and guitar instructor Dan Kuhn did in mine.

Feel free to forward our gift card to your mentor, or enjoy using it as you think of them.

SmartMusic and Mac OS X 10.10.3

Are you using SmartMusic and Mac OS X 10.10.3 (or are you considering doing so)?

If so, you may encounter something like this:

SSL Error Message

If you do, you can safely click YES to ignore these errors: SmartMusic will subsequently run swimmingly.

What’s going on?

Apple is looking for tighter security (which is good). We are currently in the process of updating our security and anticipate eliminating these messages shortly, but in the meantime you can rest assured that SmartMusic works well and securely with 10.10.3.

Have any questions? Please let us know by clicking on “Comments” below. Want to comment or ask a question privately? Simply ask that we not publish the comment and we’ll respect your wishes!

Fun and Games with Young Instrumentalists

Dr Scott Watsons Classroom Image

You’ve no doubt heard the old saying, “You can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Likewise, sometimes you can get more out of your young instrumentalists when you embed the learning in a game! Robert and Richard Sherman had it right in the lyrics to their song, “A Spoonful of Sugar” from the film Mary Poppins:

In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap, the job’s a game!

The following are a few games and challenges I’ve used with beginning-intermediate students to push them further while having fun:

1. Long Tone Contest
I strongly believe in beginning each lesson group or rehearsal with a brief warm-up. Establishing this routine will pay dividends for student and teacher along the way. As soon as I teach first year band students their very first note, a long tone on that note becomes their first warm-up. I challenge students to beat their own time from week to week, but what they like most is when we make it a contest to see who in the lesson group or band can hold a note the longest. That student is dubbed the long tone champion for the day.

To make it more of an event, I ask students to stand in place, breathe, and start the note together. As they run out of air, they take their seat and the last boy or girls standing wins! When I need to teach a new fingering for a concert selection, you can bet that will be the note we use for our next long tone contest.

2. Accuracy Race
In this game, each student in a lesson group or sectional plays a selected passage to see who can make it the farthest in the music before making a rhythmic or pitch error. I use this game to encourage students to keep chipping away at an especially difficult exercise or concert music excerpt.

In my band room I normally project our method book (Alfred’s Sound Innovations) or concert music using SmartMusic from my laptop onto a large IWB (interactive whiteboard).The first student plays. As soon as he/she makes a rhythmic or pitch (fingering) error I write his/her name or initials with a dry erase marker at that place in the music. The next student goes and I do the same.

This continues until everyone has had a chance. You’ll sense the excitement. Each successive student really, REALLY tries hard to make it past the previous student…and they’ll beg you to let them try another round!

3. Pencil Check
We all want students to come to rehearsals with a pencil for marking in counts, accidentals, and other helpful items. If I notice this habit waning, I turn to a pencil check challenge to help turn things around.

At the start of a rehearsal I’ll call out, “Show me your pencils,” and I write down the number that hold one up. (When a colleague of mine does this, she asks her students to place the eraser on their heads with the pencil point facing up – it’s quite a sight!) Challenge the students to do better the next rehearsal: “34 of you remembered your pencil today…thank you! But 11 of you forgot and I know we can do better. When we do our pencil check next time do you think 100% of you can come prepared?”

4. The Longest Phrase
A hallmark of a beginning or less mature band is choppy phrasing, where students breathe after every note or two. As bands mature, they play longer phrases. While the long tone contest should demonstrate to students that they are capable of playing several measures in one breath, most first and second year students – as a matter of habit – will still breath far more often they they should.

To help, I challenge students to play a scale or phrase of music breathing only when they need to. For instance, in a small group lesson or sectional I ask each student to play an ascending/descending B-flat major scale on half notes while I watch to see when they inhale. Under this scrutiny, many who normally breath every 4 or 8 beats will play the entire ascending scale, or even more, in one breathe! Each student tries to beat the others. In a band rehearsal I’ll have students count off – “1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2,” etc. – and have the 1’s watch the 2’s and visa versa to determine who can play the “longest phrase.”

5. Candy Incentive
This may be the most controversial tip here (note how I avoided using the word “bribe”!), but I don’t have a problem springing for some candy treats which I offer here and there throughout the year to students who are willing to spend a lot of effort in a short time to learn a passage of music I know to be pretty tough.

For instance, if I know my clarinet section will really have to apply themselves to attain a passage, but want to “jump start” the process, I’ll say, “If any of you can play measures 30 through 68 with no more than one rhythmic or pitch error by next lesson, you’ll earn a pack of M&Ms.” The next week there may be only one student who has met the challenge, earning the treat, but now I have a nucleus around which the rest of the section can aspire.

6. Staff Wars 2
This is a really cool, space-themed, note recognition video game for instrumentalists. What’s more…it’s free! After launching the program, choose which instrument will be playing and adjust the settings for note range, key, and level (speed). In this way, beginners and more advanced players can be appropriately challenged.

As the game starts, notes fly across the staff in outer space. As the player recognizes the pitch, he/she plays it. The internal mic on your computer will listen for notes played. If played correctly, the note explodes off the staff advancing the player. If the note reaches the other side of the screen without the player sounding the correct pitch, one space ship is removed from the players fleet (of three). This is a great incentive game: “If we can get through these three items in our lesson today, we’ll have time to play Staff Wars!” The program, designed for use on IWB’s, can be downloaded at Click here see a video of Staff Wars 2 in action.

I regard my time with students as both limited and precious. The longer I’ve been at it, the more I am interested in my teaching being efficient and enjoyable. I’ve found using games and challenges like the ones described above to be one way to do both. If you have a game or challenge to which your students really respond, please share it in the comment section below!

scott_watsonDr. Scott Watson is a veteran music teacher (Parkland School District, Allentown, PA), an award-winning, frequently commissioned/published composer (Alfred Publishing, and others), and a highly regarded music technology specialist. To learn more about his music for band and orchestra at all levels, and other activities, visit, or Watson’s widely-praised book, Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity (©2011, Oxford Univ. Press), reflects his interest in creative, tech-infused music learning. Contact Dr. Watson at

SmartMusic Repertoire Released: 20 Ensemble Titles

Batch 195

Last week we added 20 new ensemble titles to the growing collection of SmartMusic repertoire, including pieces for Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble, String Orchestra and Full Orchestra.

Title Comp/Arr Publisher Music Type Pepper Level
Just Swingin’ By Sherburne, Erik C.L. Barnhouse Jazz Ensemble ME
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing Standridge, Randall Grand Mesa Concert Band ME
Loyalty (March) Clark, Larry Carl Fischer Concert Band VE
Memories of Spring Hill Lee, Robert Carl Fischer Concert Band E
Triumph of the Argonauts Sheldon, Robert Alfred Concert Band M
Sticks Adderly, Julian; Kamuf, Mike Belwin Jazz Ensemble ME
Embraceable You Gershwin, George; Gershwin, Ira; Meader, Darmon Belwin Jazz Ensemble MA
Song from M*A*S*H Altman, Mike; Mandel, Johnny; Denton, John Belwin Jazz Ensemble M
Recorda me Henderson, Joe; Berg, Kris Belwin Jazz Ensemble MA
Cheep Tricks Berg, Kris Belwin Jazz Ensemble M
Burn Barrett, Roland Belwin Concert Band M
Silversword (‘Ahinahina o Maui) Strommen, Carl Belwin Concert Band ME
Quest for the Grail Mogensen, Michael TRN Full Orchestra M
Vivaldi’s Autumn Seasonings Vivaldi, Antonio; Monday, Deborah Baker Kjos String Orchestra VE
Olaf and the Elf Maiden (Olafur Liljuros) Folk Song; Newbold, Soon Hee FJH String Orchestra VE
Andante Cantabile Gounod, Charles; Moreno, Matthew Grand Mesa String Orchestra MA
Symphony No. 5 (1st Movement) Beethoven, Ludwig van; Rigg, Richard Highland/Etling Full Orchestra ME
Kilimanjaro Silva, Alan Lee Carl Fischer String Orchestra E
Coronation 1727 (Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened) Handel, George Frideric; Giardiniere, David Belvin String Orchestra M
Daydreams Sheldon, Robert Highland/Etling String Orchestra VE​​

You can request a piece for a future SmartMusic release here.

SmartMusic Funding Options


Educators who are most successful in using SmartMusic with all their students typically share one thing in common: They buy SmartMusic for their kids. This approach ensures 100% implementation, and with all students using it regularly, SmartMusic becomes part of “how they do” band, orchestra or choir.

Perhaps you’re already convinced that SmartMusic would truly benefit your students, but don’t know where the money will come from. Do any of the following scenarios sound familiar?

  • Your school/music program has a large percentage of students on free or reduced lunch, therefore they can’t afford the cost of the yearly subscription
  • You think it will be hard to sell the idea of a yearly subscription to parents/administrators
  • You are reluctant to ask parents to pay
  • The school/music program does not have the funding to pay for an annual subscription fee

If you see your situation reflected on any of the statements above, I hope you see some potential solutions in one or more of the following SmartMusic funding options.

Option 1: Built-in Fees

The easiest solution is when parents can pay for the $40 yearly student home subscription. Some programs already have “fees” they charge at the beginning of the school year to cover program expenses that are otherwise not covered by the district/school budget. In these cases, the $40 subscription could be built into that fee.

Option 2: District and School Funds

Many schools and/or districts have technology departments for which funds may be available. Check with your local technology department and consider becoming a member of the technology committee to have a voice on what is purchased by your school/district.

Option 3: Fundraising

If fundraising is allowed at your school, this is another way to raise money to fund your purchase of SmartMusic subscriptions. There are multiple ways to fundraise which include traditional door-to-door sales of anything from candy to magazine subscriptions, to online fundraising including crowd-funding and donations.

MakeMusic, Inc. has partnered with CafeGive to provide teachers with an online fundraising platform that can be personalized. The platform comes with a website that allows the music program to raise funds towards the purchase of SmartMusic. Teachers and students can then leverage their social media contacts and the community to donate money online towards their cause. At the end of the fundraising period, CafeGive cuts a check to the school. Any money exceeding the original goal is kept by the music program. Learn more from this CafeGive page.

In the same spirit of crowdfunding, websites such as  and  can help you raise the necessary funds to bring SmartMusic to all your students.

Option 4: Title I Grants

If you teach in a school where a large number of students are on free or reduced lunch, your school may qualify for Title I grants. You may want to check with your school administration to see if any of those funds could be available for purchasing technology for those students, or for school-wide programs that would benefit your music students. The Department of Education offers additional information on this page.

Option 5: Other Grants

Another option is to write a grant. There are multiple local, state and federal agencies as well as private foundations that have money available for educational grants. One initiative at the federal level that comes to mind is the President’s ConnectED initiative, unveiled in 2013, which “will provide high-speed Internet to every school in America, and will help to make affordable computers, tablets, software, and other digital resources widely available.” The 2016 fiscal year proposal includes a request of $200 million dollars for Educational Technology State Grants program that would “fund State subgrants to model districts to support teachers and leaders in using technology to improve instruction and personalize learning.” Learn more at and/or download this letter to help you understand how to use federal grant funds that are part of the ConnectED initiative.

If you need some guidance in writing a grant proposal, these pages from the Minnesota Council of Foundations and Learner Associates are just two of the many sites that walk you through the process.

Other sources of grants available can be found in many places on-line including these pages from, Calcasieu Parish Public Schools,, and

Option 6: Awards

Here’s an example of another type of possibility you might find through a web search: “GRAMMY Signature School awards are given to high school music programs that are keeping music programs alive and well despite budgets and school politics.” In this case, these cash prizes can be as much as $10,000 per school, and to date approximately $800,000 in grants has been distributed to approximately 421 schools in almost all 50 states. Find additional information at GRAMMY Signature Schools.

I hope this list inspires you to explore some of the many options available.

Ready to get started with SmartMusic? Contact us for a free trial.

Attend a SmartMusic Workshop near You


No matter where you are in your SmartMusic journey, we’re ready to help.

This summer we’re conducting SmartMusic workshops all across the map. We’ll travel from Tacoma to Tampa, visiting dozens of stops along the way, to make sure there’s a workshop near you.

Are you just starting to introduce SmartMusic to your students, or ready to fully integrate it into your program? We offer two different sessions to ensure you get the information you need to inspire your students.

Interested? Find details, locations, and dates to fit your schedule here.

Have any questions? Please let us know by clicking on “Comments” below.