Songsmith is a clever little tool which is designed to generate a backing track automatically to match the sound of your voice. Created by Microsoft Research, the academic version is now available from the MS Innovative Teachers Network (registration required) as a free download and although it may be 102MB in size it is worth the wait. Have a look at this cheesy commercial to get an overview of its potential!
Having played around with Songsmith for the last couple of days, I can see the obvious potential for using it in the modern foreign languages classroom at both primary and secondary level to bring to life speaking practice such as dialogues, verb drills, spelling revision, poems and songs and to improve pronunciation. It could also be used to create podcast jingles for radio shows or advertising an imaginary product using the 'ending' bars feature in the Options menu. The sky's the limit really!
The range of musical styles which come with the package are pretty varied although it is possible to purchase additional Styles Paks too if you prefer. You can also change the volume level of the mike by moving the red slider from left to right and change the level of each instrument by clicking the Mixer icon. Using the free CuePrompter could also help pupils make a good recording.
Once you are happy with your creative masterpiece, you can export it by clicking on the arrow next to Save and select one of the file formats on offer. Surprisingly, this does not include mp3 although there is no need to panic as you can simply choose WAV instead and then use Audacity to convert the file to mp3 afterwards using the Lame encoder.
It is also possible to export your audio to Windows Movie Maker which opens up further possibilities of lip-syncing, subtitling and animating your completed track in a task-based film project, the results of which could be published on a school blog.