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SmartMusic LogoSmartMusic has come a long way since its humble (and occasionally buggy) beginnings so many years ago.  The newest version of SmartMusic Studio (SmartMusic 2010) is an exponential leap forward in convenience, not just from the early versions, but even from the more recent version 10.2.  MakeMusic has finally taken many of the requests of teachers and fixed most of the major annoyances that once made SmartMusic a labor of love to use.  SmartMusic 2010 is far more user friendly and some of the improvements they have made to the user interface are game changers in terms of convenience and ease of use for classroom based music teachers.

The Best New Features of SmartMusic 2010
The first thing a user of previous SmartMusic versions will notice is the improved SmartMusic 2010 user interface.  When starting SmartMusic the user is taken to a search menu where you can select from various types of music or simply type in the title or composer of the song you are looking for.  Instead of the search being done locally, the new version of SmartMusic does its search over the Internet, communicating directly with the SmartMusic servers so that as soon as new music is added it will be available for a subscriber to use.  When a title is selected the user can read notes on the composer or on the composition before they begin the download.  Downloading songs such as concert band arrangements is vastly improved in SmartMusic 2010, as a user can choose to open a single part or have the system download the entire selection (with all of the various instrumental parts) in the background.  One click gets the entire set of instruments rather than having to select each one individually.

Also a great improvement in this area is the downloading of method books themselves.  Most of the time downloads are conducted in the background, but say for example you want to open a new lesson book to try a few lines.  In the past you had to wait for the entire book to download before you could use any of it.  Now you are able to open a lesson book and begin playing almost immediately.  The book downloads the needed files chronologically, so you can play line 1 while line 2-200 is downloading in the background.  Downloading files in general also seems to be vastly improved in terms of speed and reliability. 

The only down sides to these new improvements is the fact that 2010 now essentially requires an always on Internet connection, even on computers that are kept in practice rooms.  While this is more and more common, older buildings still have problems running wires or doing Wi-Fi access to allow these SmartMusic machines to connect to the server.  The improvements however greatly outweigh the inconvenience of having to find a way to get dedicated Internet access to the individual student workstations.

Improved Playlists and Tools
Also greatly improved in SmartMusic 2010 is the playlist feature.  Creating multiple playlists of songs or even individual lines from lesson books is made very easy.  Click the plus sign to add a new list, then right click any song in the library to add it to that list.  Other nice features include a built in recording device inside the metronome window to allow a student to record their practice even when not using an actual SmartMusic song.  The Recently Played tab in the interface brings up a complete listing of everything you have played over the last several sessions, and even includes individual line numbers from lesson books making it easy to hop around from song to song without having to do searches or navigate the menus.

SmartMusic Grade Book Improvements
For those that use SmartMusic to give assignments the entry of new assignments into the grade book is greatly simplified, and they have removed the need for a teacher to confirm a student's enrollment before they can access their assignments.  One thing that still is lacking that I do wish they would add is a way for students without email addresses to use the system, or for teachers to set up a class roster to have the students take their playing tests at school without having to sign up for an account at all.

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