There has been a huge buzz lately about a new free web and iPad based service for musicians called Chromatik. Big name groups like American Idol’s band and Bruno Mars’ backing band use it as do hundreds of others. So what is the big deal about Chromatik and why might it be REALLY important for music educators to take a look? Read on to find out.
If big name publications like Forbes and the Wall Street Journal all are writing about a sheet music viewing app it must be good, right? At first glance Chromatik’s interface looks a lot like other sheet music and PDF reading applications. You have a shelf with your music titles and you can open and annotate on them using some on screen tools. Chromatik also offers a recording button that allows you to record your rehearsals and performances of the pieces for review at a later time. This might not seem like much, but the integration of these features with the ability to share between other users is what makes it begin to stand out.As a teacher, I might create a playlist of songs to practice for the next week’s lesson in Chromatik and then share that playlist with my students. The students log into their account, see the music, and get hacking. I can tell them to record their practice or parts of the session and then I will be able to see and listen to those recordings as they are shared back to me.I can make annotations in the music or highlight sections that the students need to focus on. Since the students will all tell the system what their main instrument is when they sign up I can even send out complete band arrangements where individual parts will automatically be sent to the correct student based on what they said they played. Just be sure to sign up as a Director and not select your main instrument during the initial setup.The only real negatives I have discovered with Chromatik so far is the processing time that is required after you upload a PDF of your music. The service is so popular right now that it is taking up to a day for music files to be processed and added to your account. Matt Sandler, CEO of Chromatic told me in an interview that normally it takes only a minute or so per page to process and that once this initial rush subsides things should go back to normal on processing time. Another related concern to me is that PDF is the only format accepted so keep that in mind before scanning a bunch of charts. These things also bring up another point in that although fair use arguments could easily be made, the idea of scanning copyrighted music into the system may leave some people a little wary. Still, from an education perspective sending out a playing test or exercise sheet in this way would not concern me at all, especially if it is one I created on my own.That whole copyright grey area aside, Chromatik is a very interesting step forward in an era where one to one iPads or laptops are a growing trend in schools. It’s all free so take a look and try it out for yourself.
Chad Criswell is a career music educator working in the Iowa public schools. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications both online and in print. He currently serves as the national music technology writer for NAfME's Teaching Music Magazine and has presented sessions at numerous music education conferences including the 2012 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic.
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