When I first heard about a new web app called CommunityBand my first thought was that someone had tried to clone SmartMusic in some way and put it on the web. I had seen other products try and fail to do what SM does (remember StarPlay?) What I discovered was not a SM clone at all, but an honestly fun game where you play your instrument or sing with your voice to play along with one of several different popular songs. The thing is, it isnâ€™t like a practice system. CommunityBand is not trying to teach you how to play the instrument or tell you what you did right or wrong (although you do get visual feedback while you play). Instead it uses a very interesting scoring system together with onscreen glitter that explodes when you finish a long streak of correct notes ala Guitar Hero.
The songs in Community Band are actually a lot of fun to play too, no Hot Cross Buns here. Instead there are songs like the Super Mario theme and Zelda from the Nintendo gaming systems, as well as the Tetris theme and several others that kids and young adults will recognize. Make no mistake, these songs are NOT for beginners. They are fairly complicated and the system is very accurate at noticing when you do not play things correctly. Getting a high score on a title is definitely a challenge, and a fun one at that.
Another great feature of the site is that you can not only play along with an accompaniment track you can actually record both tracks, becoming in essence a one man band. Itâ€™s fun, and well worth taking a look at for any novice to medium advanced musician. I went into it expecting something lame and came out being VERY impressed with what I saw. Check it out and see if you agree at www.community-band.com.
For the time being the Community-Band.com site is free to play, and the developer is openly asking music educators and musicians in general to take a look at it and give him some feedback. As for me, when I hear the words community band I think of something totally different, so my first suggestion would be a name change. Other than that though I think the site has a lot of great potential for use in the practice room as an incentive device or even to help develop skills. When you consider that Guitar Hero and Rock Band get people to sit in front of them for hours and practice pointless finger patterns consider the possibilities if this idea continues to be developed into something that students really enjoy playing with.