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Sound Innovations – (Review)

By John Kuzmich, Jr.
April 15, 2011

We’re always on the lookout for the latest and greatest instruction method. Some good methods have come along over the years, but somehow we find ourselves compromising and adjusting. But now, there is a beginning method you can customize to address nearly every preference you may have. It puts you in the instructional driver seat.

Sound Innovations by Alfred Publishing is a dream-come-true method for beginning concert band and string orchestra. Its infusion of technology provides an open-ended architecture of the first order. This unique blend of time-tested strategies and technology offer a great foundation for a successful learning experience.

With the Director’s Choice option you can log onto and use the Internet-based, step-by-step program to build and preview your customized curriculum for students and teachers and parents to order. You can customize the pedagogical approach, the music repertory, and enrichment materials to your teaching style and situation. You can select which tunes you want to use in each book in the order you want them; and then add up to 32 pages of enrichment activities. You can even change the concert pitch you want to start within your band, or select either pizzicato roarco for your orchestra. Accompaniment recordings can also be customized to match selections. Each instrument-specific DVD contains master class lessons demonstrating key concepts by distinguished teachers/ performers. And the lessons are relevant throughout the book, not just at the beginning.

Sound Innovations is organized on six levels. Each exercise includes a specific goal, helping students focus. The format is clear and uncluttered with each page structured to highlight essential concepts. There are numerous enrichments; additional theory, history, ensemble tunes, assessments and technique etudes interspersed throughout the method for you to choose from.

This method also includes an MP3 CD with instrument-specific recordings of every single line of music. Each tune contains a click track with the melody plus accompaniments. Also included is a Tempo Changer program in which a track can be sped up or slowed down to accommodate individual practice, critical in any method book involving home practice. The practice/assessment tool, SmartMusic, is also included and the first 100 lines of music (more than half of the music in Book 1) are available for free to SmartMusic users.

Music educators can customize and pre-order their books in advance. The Standard Edition costs $8.99 while the Director’s Choice edition offers a three-tier customization option: $8.99, $10.99, and $12.99, depending on the number of enrichment pages added and copyrighted tunes selected.

Books are printed, bound and shipped directly to the school. For more info, visit to view sample books, an introductory video and sound/video clips.

Percussion instruction in the band edition offers three books to meet the needs of your percussionists. There is one method book for snare drum, bass drum and accessories, another book for mallet instruction and then a third percussion book that combines both books. The layouts in these books are great and keep students’ attention without the clutter of too many words.

Each book is skillfully edited with a repertoire that is catchy and interesting. Drum rolls for example, are clearly illustrated and aurally presented on the .MP3 recordings for every musical example. Mallet players have their own book which drives them at a good pace with accomplishments embedded in the band method.

While no beginning instrumental music method may strike us as perfect, Sound Innovations band & string methods come close with revolutionary customized options. It even contains briefings on the composition and performance suggestions from the composers themselves.

There’s more to come in May 2011 when the Standard Edition Book 2 is released. And Sound Innovation for Class Guitar Standard Edition comes out in December 2011. Good things to look forward to.

The bottom line is that you can create your own method inside a well-orchestrated pedagogy with this new twist of technology. The price is reasonable for the flexibility and customization you get. Enjoy your explorations of the innovations at: