Musicians' Corner

What can Songsmith do for teachers and students?

Songsmith Note Character

Songsmith is a great way to encourage students to be creative: many music teachers know that sometimes just helping kids “find their spark” is the hardest part of stimulating musical creativity.

Furthermore, Songsmith can help you teach musical concepts that are sometimes difficult, particularly how chords are used in pop music and how melodies and chords fit together. Using tools like Songsmith to explore these concepts can help connect what students are learning in music class to the music they listen to at home, whether they’re in third grade or in high school.

Even outside of music classes, Songsmith is a great way to encourage creative approaches to learning. We’ve heard from teachers who had students write songs about science concepts, and we’ve heard from parents whose children used Songsmith to memorize their multiplication tables.

Is Songsmith free for teachers to use in the classroom?

Songsmith Note Character

Thanks to Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Network, yes indeed, Songsmith is free to teachers to use in their classrooms. All you’ll need to download Songsmith is your Live ID. If you don’t have a Live ID, you can create one here; it just takes a second.

Then just log in to pil-network.com, click on “resources” (in the menu at the top of the page), then “free tools”, then “Songsmith”.

What do teachers have to say about Songsmith?

Songsmith Note Character

Songsmith has been deployed in several classroom environments, including public schools (at both individual-classroom and school-system-wide levels), specialized music programs (such as the Seattle Symphony’s “Soundbridge” program), and some classrooms not devoted specifically to music (for example science classes or English-as-a-second-language classes). This page contains some of the feedback we've received from teachers (all used with permission).

In the context of an out-of-school musical enrichment program in which children were engaged for only a brief period, instructors hoped to use Songsmith to stimulate interest in music education that would persist after the program. Preliminary feedback indicated that the teachers were more than happy with the results: “It always elicits squeals of delight when the song is played back, and kids get to listen to their very own song.” […] “Eventually, we hope to also use it as a composition tool for older kids with serious musical aspirations. (I’m still amazed that you can sing any song, in any key, and Songsmith will give you the complete chord progression!)” […] “For the most part, kids love it; though some are initially microphone-shy, they quickly get over this when they see other kids using it and having so much fun.”

Another teacher contacted us regarding Songsmith’s use in teaching English to non-native speakers, reporting satisfaction for this application as well. Here the goal was not to stimulate musical creativity per se, but to improve the overall engagement with the material. “I teach English, and chants and songs are a wonderful way of teaching the language. I am good at making up tunes in my head, but I cannot play an instrument. […] I have been using Songsmith to great effect in my classes, and the children love singing along to the songs I have created.” […] “I will continue to put this great tool to work, and use it to help my young students in Taiwan learn to s(ing)peak English more fluently.”

Songsmith was also requested by several teachers in a large school district in Australia, and was subsequently incorporated in a district-wide software deployment program. Preliminary feedback from non-music teachers was positive from this program as well, also for the purpose of generating classroom enthusiasm for other subject material: “It is a fantastic program and I have begun using it with my Year 2 class. It is a fantastic tool for presenting work in a new way. Children are able to write songs that reflect what they have learnt or to teach others about their learning. It truly takes my teaching to another level.”

Finally, Songsmith was deployed in a high school music classroom in an urban U.S. area, with the intent of scaffolding songwriting and music creation pedagogy for students of various musical experience levels. Positive results were reported here as well: “One of the great things about using Songsmith is it caters to multiple students’ interests. On the most basic form, the students are able to sing the songs and hear what they’re singing would sound like as a song. For the students that are a little bit more music-savvy, they understand a little bit more the demonstration of the chords and how the progressions work together and they’re able to take it to another level on their instruments.” […] “Using Songsmith I can allow groups of learners to go off into another room and work with the musical accompaniment and I can almost use it as my assistant teacher because I don’t have to sit in front of the room and play the keyboards for them and there’s more of a comfort zone when they can go into a practice room in a small ensemble or a small team and work together and have fun and they can record it and they get real goofy and when they come back I get more of a natural accomplishment out of them rather than when they’re here and they’re shy and they’re reserved.”

I’m still not convinced...

Songsmith Note Character

Don’t take our word for it, hear it from a fellow teacher!

Download video: wmv | mov