We all know how important it is for students to have an understanding of tuning and intonation: We search for ways to explain or demonstrate this important aspect of music performance. This week I’ll highlight SmartMusic 2010’s resources for improving intonation.
Not only can SmartMusic’s tuner play an important part of each individual practice session, but as I mentioned previously, it can also be a very powerful tool in the classroom. To access the tuner from the SmartMusic Home Screen, locate Practice Tools in the upper right-hand corner of the page, and then select Tuner.
With Reference Note selected, have students play the desired note(s). SmartMusic knows which note is being played and sounds the pitch in-tune. The students can then try to match the pitch and THEN get visual reinforcement by looking at the tuner. Now, this can all be recorded (see below) and then saved as an mp3 file! You have the ability to create objective tuning assessments and the students will have audio feedback of their progress! This is a very meaningful assignment in conjunction with an Intonation Chart.
Note that the Tuner can be accessed from all opened file windows, and that the shortcut to access the tuner is “Command T”-Macintosh or “Control T”-Windows (“T” is for tuner).
Pressing “P” on the computer keyboard will sound the first note of any SmartMusic file you open (except Jazz Improvisation files and Audio Import files). I used this keystroke quite frequently in class. For example, before the students played a line from a method book, I would sound the note. I could have them sing it and then play it. This easily reinforced that tuning and listening are important.
You can also sound tuning pitches at any time: Press a “B” on the computer keyboard, and a concert Bb is sounded. Press an “A” on the computer keyboard, a concert A is sounded. These shortcuts are available for all open files except audio files.
Using the Audio Recorder
Students can also identify tuning issues through reviewing recordings of their playing. To access the recorder from the Home Screen click on Practice Tools and select Record.
Use the recorder to record a section of music you are rehearsing or an entire piece – even a piece not in SmartMusic. After the recording process is stopped, press Preview to immediately hear what was recorded. What makes this so useful is how easy it is to do! The recording then can be saved as an mp3 for future use: as a benchmark recording, a critique assignment by using Gradebook, etc.
By using these functions of SmartMusic consistently, you are teaching your students methods to help improve intonation and thereby reinforcing the importance of intonation. And because these functions are so readily available, the use of them can become a regular part of your teaching!
I hope you enjoyed these tips. More will follow in future blogs.