Speakers or Earphones? Do not use your computers built-in speakers!
I strongly recommend using Earphones for your SmartMusic output - the in-ear type, used with MP3 players - not the heavier ones that totally cover your ears. Be sure to get an earphone extension cord (at least 10 feet).
In-ear Earphones are light and don’t interfere with your playing:
- you can hear yourself quite easily - including subtleties in dynamics and tone
- you can have the playback volume as loud as you like without disturbing others or interfering with the SM input
- and, perhaps most importantly, if you really suck, only you will know - anyone else listening will only hear your instrument not the accompaniment (as you improve playing with the accompaniment, you might then consider using speakers and letting everyone else hear the “complete” performance).
Playback volume is the combination of the two volume meters (Computer Volume & SM Volume). I always set the SM Volume higher (3/4 or full) and adjust the final output volume from my computer keyboard. I am using a Mac and have volume controls on the computer keyboard and find this the easiest and fastest way to change the volume.
The SM Volume appears (and can be adjusted) in the SM Play window when you play any file.
Do not use your computer’s microphone, especially if it is built in! I have to confess that I do use my lap top’s built in microphone when teaching students but this is because I teach in more than one different studio and have to set up my computer each teaching session.
MakeMusic sells a relatively inexpensive microphone which has at least a 10 foot cord. If you’re using a Mac, you will also need an iMic USB Audio Interface (which can also be purchased from MakeMusic - remember, you only have to buy these items once).
The SM microphone works very well with SM - so use it.
Check the diagrams for Microphone placement. The suggestions for both Flute (left shirt collar or lapel) and Saxophone (outside of the bell) work very well.
Microphone placement for CLARINET (shirt above the stomach) doesn’t work that well (often because there is nothing to which you can attach the microphone). I usually attach the microphone directly to the Clarinet mechanism on the lower joint, the long rod just above the last (low E) pad. Have the microphone face up (towards the mouthpiece) and be very careful not to interfere with or damage the spring or any of the mechanism. Make sure that the low E key moves freely.
Please remember that you (or your instrument) are attached to the microphone. Be very sure to disconnect the microphone before you walk away from your computer, otherwise, you may cause damage to your instrument, the microphone, or the computer. I know that this might seem like rather obvious and unnecessary advice but you will find that at the end of a long practice session it is very easy to forget that you are attached to a microphone.
The drop down button at the bottom left will list the sound sources which are available. Do not choose “Built-in Audio”. If no other choices are available, you will have to go to your computer’s controls (on a Mac, this is “System Preferences - Sound - Input”) and choose another source (Line in).
The Input Meter (upper right in the Play window) shows how well the microphone is “hearing” you. Play your instrument and adjust the Mic Level so that it rises to about half way up - into the green but not into the red. Play different notes: - using the full length of the instrument (on Flute: low D, C# & C; on Clarinet: low E, F, F#, G; on Saxophone low Bb, B & C) and the shortest length of the instrument (on Flute: middle B, C & C#; on Clarinet: “throat” G, G#, A & Bb; on Saxophone: open C#, C, B, also high D and above).
The “ideal” is to have the microphone react equally to all notes. This isn’t really possible but make sure that it is recognizing (i.e., reacting to) every note, otherwise you will encounter difficulties (and frustration) with SM “tracking” features (Assessment, Follow me, Wait for Note, etc.).
Experiment with microphone placement and input level. You might find a different placement of the microphone works better for you. I use different input levels for different functions. For example, if I am just practising and know that I won’t be keeping any “take”, I often set the microphone level too high (slightly into the red) to ensure that all notes will be “heard” by SM. Experiment!
The SM Mic Level appears (and can be adjusted) in the SM Play module when you play any file.
MIDI Keyboard & Foot Pedal
A MIDI Keyboard isn’t needed in your setup for playing a solo accompaniment.
A foot pedal is optional but I would recommend buying one. Check that it is set up properly in Settings on the Home page.
A Foot Pedal can be used to stop or start an accompaniment. This is especially useful at the end of cadenzas, or similar situations when your hands are otherwise occupied (i.e., playing your instrument).
I use the foot pedal sold by MakeMusic, which is a USB device. It works perfectly with my home computer but will not function with my lap top even if I use a powered USB hub - I have no idea why.
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