Welcome to another edition of Flute Friday/Saturday/Weekend.
One of the most difficult, and often most costly, steps to recital preparation is working with an accompanist to fine tune tempos, cues and virtually all other collaborative elements of performance. As a youngster in rural Northern Idaho, I did not have the luxury of having an accompanist just down the street from where I lived (in fact I usually met with my accompanist after school which was a 45 minute bus ride each way, 5 days per week) nor was it easy for my parents to shell out the money for weekly rehearsals. As a poor, starving college students the proximity to my accompanist was no longer an issue but the associated fees often affected whether or not I ate mac n’cheese for a few weeks in order to afford my recital prep. It wasn’t until my undergraduate band director/advisor/boss introduced me to a software program called SmartMusic that I began streamline my rehearsals making my money, and my preparation, go a lot further than ever before. SmartMusic helped me to listen to the accompaniment, understand how my entrances fit into the larger picture, listen for cues and tempo changes, understand the difference between sections of melody vs. accompaniment and really helped me to memorize not just the solo line of each work but the entire composition. Many of you reading this may already use SmartMusic but for those of you who have not yet worked with the program, I highly recommend this database not as a substitution for rehearsals with your accompanist but a tool to strengthen numerous issues often addressed in rehearsals therefore making your time and financial investment significantly more valuable to your recital preparation.
What is SmartMusic? In its most basic form, SmartMusic is a software program that provides a piano accompaniment track for a large library of solo and ensemble literature. The extensive bells and whistles that come with the program are what really give you the most bang for your buck. Using a lapel microphone, SmartMusic accompaniments have the capability of following a performer’s tempo changes and will listen for performer “cue” notes to begin playing after a fermata (whoa!). You may select the extent to which the accompaniment follows the tempo changes (or doesn’t follow…if you have trouble keeping a steady tempo). There is also an excellent count off feature that will establish a tempo before the accompaniment begins and a drop down menu used to manipulate the recording to play at predetermined tempos (which is a great feature for students just learning how to play along with an accompaniment). You may play along with the accompaniment or with both the accompaniment and solo line as a guide (another useful feature for beginners). SmartMusic contains metronome and tuner functions directly on the accompaniment screen (remember to check your pitch as you play!). Finally my favorite part of this program is that it will make a recording of each take for you to review and transfer into an mp3 recording. With the right microphone and speaker levels, this will program will produce a recording comparable to a zoom recorder and can be used for various prerecorded auditions and competitions.
The Flute library contains several standard works in the traditional flute canon including:
Mozart Concerti in D and G Major
All works in the Flute Music by French Composers collection (Chaminade Concertino, Faure Fantasie, Enesco Cantabile et Presto, Gaubert Nocturne et Allegro Scherzando, Taffanel Andante Pastoral et Scherzittino, etc.)
Vivaldi Piccolo Conerto
Jolivet Chant di Linos
Copeland Duo for Flute and Piano
…and so much more!
I’ve used this program for well over a decade and love it just as much today as I did when I found it in a music school practice room those many years ago. I know there are more functions than those that I have described above (including jazz and sight-reading exercises) but I typically limit my use of SmartMusic for recital preparation, memory work and student lessons and masterclasses. The only drawback is that the solo library is a bit limited in their higher level offerings and non-standard literature (for example, the Hue Fantasie is similar to some of their other selections but is not yet offered in SmartMusic). I have also required the use of a foot pedal with the program after extensive cadenzas which does not come standard with the program and can only be purchased by contacting the manufacturer directly. The program overall is very comprehensive and the features can be used in numerous ways for musicians young and old. The student price for a yearly subscription is $40.00 and the lapel microphone will cost an additional $30.00. Not a bad price for the hours of rehearsal time you will save yourself by practicing with the accompaniment in the comfort of your own practice room or home.
For information or to subscribe to SmartMusic please visit http://www.smartmusic.com/?_ga=1.29273916.1246042368.1460233113 . I am not affiliated with SmartMusic or its products. Just a fan of the program and a lifetime subscriber!
How do you use SmartMusic in your practice? What are your favorite features? Have you experimented with the sight reading and jazz functions? Please comment below!