In the midst of a very big week (the acquisition of Weezic), SmartMusic has now added a number of choral titles to the SmartMusic Library. There are fifty selections in various voicings. This is considered a “beta” effort by SmartMusic, and when you try the literature, they ask for your feedback.
I have only worked with a few titles so far, and had already been making my own SmartMusic choral files for some time. What I learned, making my own SmartMusic files, was to give every part its own line (this can be tricky with mid-measure divisi in parts), and to very carefully decide what measures I wanted to assess (you can do this with the educator’s version of SmartMusic with a full score).
The difference between my own files and these new choral files is that each song is linked to an audio recording (think of the audio sampler recordings sent out by the publishers), and although you can add “your part” as a synthesized overlay, all parts of the audio tracks exist at all times when you work with the music.
I have sent my feedback already, but I would prefer to be able to choose what parts I heard as I or my students sang an assignment/assessment. I would prefer the choice to hear either a synthesized accompaniment or the recorded accompaniment.
The use of an accompaniment is a tricky matter for singers and choirs. In the instrumental world, you want every player to aspire to the sound of a professional player. If you hear a professional recording of Holst’s 1st Suite, that is how you want your young players to sound, too. In vocal music, you probably don’t want your young choir sounding like the St. Olaf Choir (as beautifully as they sing) or like a particular opera singer, as their voices generally have not developed enough to emulate those sounds. While I don’t want to insult anyone, you generally don’t want your choirs to sing like sound sampler choirs, either, which tend to be adults singing with a bit of a “pop” sound.
What ends up happening, then, is a quagmire where to fully represent a song, you might need several recordings attached to it (e.g. An excellent children’s choir, an excellent high school women’s choir, and a collegiate women’s choir), with solo parts recorded by exemplar voices at each level for each part, so that “music minus 1” audio samples could be used at all levels for all students.
That level of complexity just can’t happen, but that is what would be ideal. Since it can’t happen, I would instead like the choice to use synthesized accompaniments as well as the provided audio recording. It would also be wonderful to be able to upload your own recording (you can upload JUST an MP3 as an assignment/assessment, but I am talking about doing so attached to a score)–perhaps using some of the technology developed by Weezic.
Also, I would like the ability to see ALL parts (full score) or single parts. For assessment, single parts are wonderful, but most of the time, choral singers are used to following the full score, which is much easier to follow than a band score.
With full score examples, SmartMusic has the potential to be the place where choir directors would go to find music, much like many band directors (I know many band directors who only choose music that is available on SmartMusic).
If you are a choral director and have a subscription to SmartMusic (if not, the $40 annual student subscription will give you full access to the literature), check out the choral music on SmartMusic and give them some feedback!
P.S. I would love to see the “legacy” SmartMusic vocal literature updated to include the scores (right now, the legacy vocal literature only provides an accompaniment and interface box, as it dates to the days when SmartMusic was called “Vivace” and ran on an external unit and required “carts”)