Using SmartMusic Recordings

Remember the first time you recorded your voice and then heard it played back? Was it a big surprise for you? The ability to hear recordings of our own performances, while sometimes humbling, represents a powerful learning tool.

When I started using SmartMusic, I was very impressed with how convenient SmartMusic made it for students to create quality digital recordings of their performances at home. What’s more, with the Gradebook, teachers can easily request student recordings and utilize them to provide additional feedback as well as document progress.

The SmartMusic website lists many popular uses for these recordings, including submitting them as part of the audition process to college, scholarships, honor groups, and more. I’ve personally heard from many teachers that their students are using .MP3 files created in SmartMusic to create their own CDs, often to be used as gifts for the holidays. I’m sure you can imagine many ways this might be used as a classroom activity.

This week, however, I thought I’d share a few of the more unique ways I’ve come up with using these recordings.

In 2006 I used SmartMusic to record one of my first-year students playing his first clarinet solo. Today this student is in the 9th grade, and I recently sent his 2006 recording to his mother. She was thrilled to receive it — and also thrilled at the obvious progress her son had made in the interim. She plans to save the recording, along with other digital media, for her son’s personal portfolio. Someday, he might play that very recording for his children — or grandchildren! Welcome to the 21st century!

Here’s another idea. Before our school concerts I always played recorded music on the auditorium sound system as the audience found their seats and waited for the performance to begin. This seems to add excitement and contribute to the atmosphere of a special event. Then one day I had a “eureka” moment: why not play student recordings before the concert?

Using SmartMusic, I selected some lines from our method book and some short solo literature. I then arranged personal “recording session” time with the students to help with the process (although this could be done as an independent project). We then needed to set the song order as we prepared to burn the CD; certainly this provides a great opportunity for a class project where the topic is how to program music. Of course the final results were as you’d expect — students were thrilled to hear their recordings played over the sound system — and the audience loved it!

If you use method book lines, the recordings will have count-off clicks. After saving, the recordings can be opened in a sound recording/editing software like Audacity (which is free and available for Mac and Windows) where clicks can be easily deleted and the file saved. Using this same software, you could record an introduction for each selection that included the title of the song and the name of the performer.

The amount of literature available for this purpose in SmartMusic is plentiful. If you plan on doing this activity soon, you might be interested to know there are two new solo folios now available in SmartMusic: Easy Christmas Instrumental Solos and Easy Popular Movie Instrumental Solos.

I hope these tips help you to create more excitement for you and your students — and inspire you to think up additional ways to use SmartMusic recordings and SmartMusic in general. Please let us know what you come up with!

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