Transitioning Back to the Classroom with SmartMusic

transitioning back to the classroom

On the heels of an unprecedented school year that forced educators to improvise teaching music through virtual means, many are left wondering what the new normal for music education will look like going forward. One thing that has become clear is the need for long-term digital solutions—no matter the educational setting—and with more federal funding available than ever before, many are turning to SmartMusic to address their online practice needs. With a roadmap in place for reopening schools and the integration of more in-person instruction, educators will find value in learning how SmartMusic’s features and tools can be applied beyond digital spaces, and in the physical classroom as well.

Here are 9 ways that music teachers can use SmartMusic as a classroom tool:

1. Project music on-screen to demonstrate musical concepts.

One way of using SmartMusic in the physical classroom is by displaying music on a Smartboard or projector so that all students can view the same piece of music at the same time. Teachers have been known to play exercises on screen while students follow along and count, or hum specific intervals or harmonies. Some teachers also may choose to display an example or line from one of the hundreds of method books available to talk through musical concepts, fingerings, time signatures, dynamics, note values, and much more. 

2. Use SmartMusic as an accompanist during choir and other rehearsals.

Teachers can also take advantage of SmartMusic’s professional accompaniment recordings for students to play or sing along with during rehearsals. Whether working with a soloist, a section, or the entire ensemble, teachers can play the accompaniment track, metronome, or individual parts live in class and walk around the room to listen to individual students or sections and provide immediate, in-person feedback. Choir directors may choose to play just the piano accompaniment, or turn on a specific part, while having students of another section sing against it.

3. Display warm-ups, sight reading exercises, or the rhythm of the day.

In a similar manner to displaying lines from methods on a screen, teachers have also utilized SmartMusic in the classroom by projecting warm-ups, sight reading exercises, or daily rhythms that support the concepts being worked on in a particular rehearsal or class. Students can read or clap together at the beginning of every class or rehearsal prior to the lesson or working on repertoire. 

With plenty of materials to choose from, teachers can generate custom sight reading exercises using Sight Reading Builder, explore SmartMusic’s rhythm exercises category, select a section from a piece of repertoire, or choose specific exercises from a method book. Additionally, teachers may choose to display their own exercises by importing files or notating directly within Compose.

4. Students can print their individual parts from SmartMusic for classroom-only use. 

One problem that music teachers often face is when students forget their music at home. Students with a Print add-on can print additional copies of their own individual parts to keep at home and in the classroom, minimizing opportunities for them to forget their sheet music. Students can also use these printed copies to take notes on during rehearsal, then apply their learnings in their at-home practice whether playing from the physical page, or in the Practice app. 

5. Play recordings to model exemplary performances.

So much of music education is about listening! Whether it’s for choir, band, orchestra, or a general music class, students need to listen to exemplary performances of the music they’re learning to help them understand proper phrasing, articulations, dynamics, and tone, so that they can work toward emulating these sounds. Teachers can display different parts on screen, toggling Accompaniment and/or My Part on and off to hear individual parts isolated and/or within the greater context of the arrangement. Music can also be displayed on screen to discuss the form of a piece.

6. Demonstrate practice techniques and how to use the practice tools available in SmartMusic.

Students are often instructed on how to optimize practice by applying techniques such as slowing the tempo, focusing on specific measures, and repeating sections of music, but with SmartMusic, teachers can show them. Using the Practice app as a visual aid, teachers can demonstrate how to properly apply the various built-in tools within SmartMusic to students’ practice, utilizing the metronome to slow the tempo, and the looping feature to focus on the repetition of specific sections of music. Plus, the Increase by __ BPM feature in Loops takes the guesswork out of building speed: students can set a number of beats per minute which will automatically increase their practice speed in each take.

7. Display the tuner on screen and demonstrate tuning tendencies.

Regardless of subscription status, all music students and teachers have access to our public, digital instrument tuner, with a spectrum of green, yellow, and red areas that provide instant visual feedback on pitch accuracy. Transposed instruments can see both the concert pitch and transposed pitch. This tool can be used in a classroom with a microphone to help students visualize tuning tendencies for their instrument. 

8. Use Compose with a Smartboard to teach, explain, and collaborate on compositions.

For lesson topics on composition, teachers can project SmartMusic’s Compose notation tool on screen and demonstrate composition concepts to the entire classroom, helping to satisfy the Creating National Standard criteria. As a class activity, students can collaborate in creating an original composition, taking turns filling in a blank staff with notes, harmonies, rhythms, dynamics, etc., and then listen to their completed creation, or play along with the music during playback. Our Compose YOURSELF! series can also be utilized as a fun, educational in-class or hybrid learning activity, where each fully-prepared composition lesson includes a listening assignment, a video with a composer, and a composition assignment.

9. Upload your own Finale-created files for exercises, auditions, drills, chamber music, etc.

For teachers who prefer to create their own custom arrangements, assignments, and exercises for students, original music notation files can be uploaded into a Content Library and projected on screen for students to collectively see in class to play or follow along with. Content can also be created directly within SmartMusic, using the built-in Compose music notation tool. The sky’s the limit! 

Conclusion

As schools reopen and teachers make a return to in-person instruction, it is becoming more and more important to have flexible tools readily available that can adapt to both digital and in-person settings. Take advantage of SmartMusic’s digital and print solutions within the context of the classroom to provide accompaniment, play musical examples, display visuals, assist in student comprehension, improve practice techniques, and much more. 

Need more ideas on how to use SmartMusic in the classroom? Join our online community and engage with other music educators who are using SmartMusic and sharing creative teaching solutions with one another.

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