In this post, I am going to outline some ways SmartMusic can help you as an arranger and composer. SmartMusic is a subscription-based application for Mac, Windows and iPad that is designed for practice and performance for students and performers at all levels. There is no free version so you have to have a subscription in order to access the music files in SmartMusic. The annual subscription cost as of June, 2014 is $40.00 per year.
Jazz Improvisation Rhythm Section Transcriptions
There are two main areas of interest to composers and arrangers. The first is Jazz Improvisation materials. The reason these exercises are helpful to arrangers and composers is every improv exercise also includes a transcription of the piano, bass and drumset part. This can be an excellent learning tool for studying bass lines, piano comping styles, and how drummers interpret specific styles.
- Launch SmartMusic
- Select FIND MUSIC
- Click on Jazz Improvisation
- Choose one of the collections
- Select a specific tune
- Choose a collection, such as Wynton Marsalis Volume III: Standards
- Choose a selection
- Open the selection and press play to play back the file
From the instrument menu, choose one of the options for transcriptions: Bass, Piano, or Drums.
View the notation of one of the transcription to study the way Wynton’s rhythm section member played the part. It is a great way to study walking bass lines, 2-feel, Bossa-Nova and other styles. Below is a screen shot of the first page of the bass transcription from Monk’s Dream.
You can change at any time between the bass, piano or drum transcription for all of the Jazz Improvisation materials in SmartMusic.
Viewing Parts from Arrangements and Compositions for Jazz Ensemble
SmartMusic also includes a host of published Jazz Ensemble arrangements. Each of these arrangements allow for displaying any one of the individual parts. For example, you can select an arrangement and then view the rhythm section and horn parts one at a time. There is no option for viewing the conductor score. This can be a wonderful way to view and learn from a host of published arrangements.
- Click FIND MUSIC
- Select Concert and Jazz Band, String & Full Orchestra
- Check the difficulty level. Medium Advanced or Advanced will provide a list of professional-level jazz arrangements.
- Choose the part, for example, guitar.
You can listen to a recording of the piece and view the printed part. This is a terrific way to review how arrangers write parts for various instruments.
TIP: SmartMusic is not designed for printing. Basic Mac and Windows screen capture is disabled. In order to make a screen capture for your personal reference (not for printing for commercial or performance use), you will need to use a third party screen capture app. Check out my blogpost on screen capture options for Mac and Windows.