My Top 7 iPad Apps For Music Teachers

My Top 7 iPad Apps For Music Teachers

I’ve been using my iPad a lot recently, in preparation for my new, hands-on iPads: Perform, Create, Learn professional development course and have been running a number of apps through their paces. The amount of apps available really is overwhelming and the challenge is to separate the ones with substance and educational value from the novelty apps.

Personally, I think the best apps have one or more of the following qualities:

  • they’re more than a “one hit wonder”
  • you can use them in multiple ways
  • you can import content you’ve created elsewhere
  • you can export your creation in order to edit it further on your desktop computer

Once you find a few good apps, the possibilities for classroom integration are almost endless. So, if I had to narrow my choices and choose just 7, these are the ones that would make the grade:

Prices in Australian dollars; correct at time of printing.

1. GarageBand

Cost: $5.49

The GarageBand app is the best all-round creativity and performance app and if I had to choose just one music app, this would probably be the one.

You can use it simply as a performance tool: choose one of the many instruments and start playing. The instruments even come in two flavours: “touch” instruments (keyboard, guitar, drum kit) – which are virtual versions of their real-life counterparts – and “smart” instruments – which are designed for beginners and playable with only one or two fingers.

Secondly, GarageBand is an awesome portable recording studio. Lay down tracks using the touch or smart instruments, record your voice or guitar, or make use of the provided loops. If you invest in some extra hardware – the iPad Camera Connection Kit and an iRig – you can plug in a MIDI keyboard, USB microphone or guitar.

2. Forscore

Cost: $5.49

One of the first things that attracts musicians to the iPad is the thought that they can carry their entire music library with them at all times.

Forscore is a score-reader app with lots of features and options. You can view scores, turn the pages easily, make annotations (which can be saved), create a set list, set up “cuts” and repeats within a song and more. Instrumentalists can also purchase a foot pedal that will allow hands-free page-turns.

3. Symphony Pro

Cost: $15.99

Arguably the best developed notation app (so far!), Symphony Pro allows you to create and edit scores on-the-go. Although I personally wouldn’t use it to enter the notes of an entire orchestral piece, it’s excellent for creating sketches or harnessing the ideas that come to you when you’re sitting on a train.

The best thing about Symphony Pro is that you can export any scores you create (using the Music XML file type) and then open them in Sibelius, Finale, MuseScore or other notation programs for further editing. Symphony Pro also allows import of Music XML files that you may have started on your desktop notation program.

4. MadPad

Cost: free for a limited time.

Included in this list for it’s simplicity, MadPad allows you to create a “sound board” – a collection of 12 sounds that you can then play. Because MadPad takes advantage of video, this app works best on iPad 2, or an iPhone.

Video-record yourself creating 12 separate sounds: they can be percussive sounds (tap the table, clap your hands, jingle your keys) or melodic sounds (sing or play a single note, a chord, or little melody). If you don’t want to record your own sounds, you can use an existing sound set that’s provided with MadPad, or check out some of the shared sound sets from around the world.

Once you have created your sound set, you can “play” it by tapping each square. Make up a composition, hit the record button and perform your piece. You can then save your piece, export it or share it on Facebook or Twitter or by email.

5. Everyday Looper

Cost: $6.49

Everyday Looper allows you to record loop-based songs and was my favourite “creativity” app for a long time.

On the surface it’s quite simple – tap a track to start recording and layer other tracks over the top one by one. It’s the sort of thing that Aussie performer extraordinaire Mal Webb does really well with a looping pedal.

It’s an excellent app for singers to use because you can create your own a cappella vocal ensemble all by yourself but it works beautifully for instrumentalists too. Excellent for ostinato-based pieces, recording a beat-boxing loop, creating a chord sequence that students can improvise over or a making a quick backing for a 4-chord song.

It’s well worth watching Ed’s crazy tutorial videos on Youtube (they move quickly, so get ready with the pause button) and you can see a demo of Everyday Looper’s capabilities in this part of one of the videos.

6. Dropbox

Cost: free

The last two apps on this list are not music-specific, but I think they are must-haves for anyone with an iPad, especially if you are an educator.

Dropbox is a “magic pocket” that lives on your iPad, but you also install it on your desktop computer and any other mobile devices you might own. Why magic? Because any file you drag into Dropbox on your desktop computer will magically appear in Dropbox on your iPad.

I use it to transfer all files between iPad to desktop and back again. There are other ways of transferring files (including using the file-sharing are in iTunes, or using email), but Dropbox really simplifies the process.

7. Evernote

Cost: free

Evernote has changed the way I work. In the past, if I wanted to store the lyrics to a song, or a recipe, or maintain a list of books that I’d like to read I would save all the details in a Word doc which I would file inside a folder on my computer. Somewhere.

I now create a Note in Evernote and can’t describe how much easier it is to find information I need. You can also use it to “clip” websites for off-line reading.

Like Dropbox, I have Evernote installed on my desktop and mobile devices which constantly synch to one another so the information is always at hand.

The best thing about Evernote however, is the ability to search all of your notes (at last count, I had 363) in seconds flat. You can also add “tags” which are words defined by you that help you classify your notes. If you type a tag word into the search field it will show you all of the notes with that classification.

Some examples of use:

  • Keep track of which pieces a music student is learning and what you’ve asked them to practise
  • Store lists of scores or CDs you own
  • Keep lists of songs suitable for different age groups
  • Write down meeting minutes
  • Store lists of “someday” things: books to read, movies and TV shows to watch, restaurants to visit
  • Bring up songs that use 3 chords

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading my favourite apps list.

It was very difficult to limit the list to only 7 and I haven’t managed to fit in any music tools (metronomes, tuners and so on) or ear-training-type apps. They will be the subject of a future list!

What would your top 7 be? Do they match mine? Let me know in the comments below.

iPad Music Project Ideas For Your Students!

iPad Projects for the Music Classroom includes 22 step-by-step projects you can use straight away with your music students. Take the guesswork out of choosing apps and discover how you can use iPads in an engaging and meaningful way.

Click on the image below for more information.

iPad Music Education Ebook

By | 2017-02-23T15:19:39+00:00 November 17th, 2011|Music Tech Tips, Music Technology Resources|21 Comments

About the Author:

I love to simplify technology for music teachers. I help teachers from all around the world through the Midnight Music Community - an online professional development community where teachers can take online courses, ask questions and receive personalised help for the music tech goals.

21 Comments

  1. Samuel November 17, 2011 at 4:38 am - Reply

    Love it Katie! Its amazing how the iPad can do all these things. I sometimes wish I could go back to school just to be learning with an iPad!

    Could I suggest MacJournal – for lesson planning and keeping a record of lessons, emails, meetings etc. It syncs to a desktop version as well.

    Then Capo, it slows down and transposes music from your iTunes library.

    lastly, Pianist Pro for just a really good keyboard app that I use when teaching melody & harmony writing.

    Your site is getting better and better. Thanks for the post.

    • Katie November 17, 2011 at 4:43 am - Reply

      Thanks Samuel! I knew you’d have a few to add 🙂 And I agree – I frequently wish I was back at school too, to use all the technology that’s available now. Student life would be so different!

  2. Peter Richardson November 17, 2011 at 11:55 am - Reply

    Amplitude is at top of my list for I rig and irig mic, great for class recording. Tenuto….great theory Aural trainer based on http://www.musictheory.net website. APS Music, DJ mixer Pro for mixing and recording own mixes.bUltimate Guitar Tab and Polychord are all great. scorch viewer and music notes viewer. Website is improving!

    • Katie November 17, 2011 at 8:46 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your additions Peter! My other half loves the guitar-related apps too.

  3. Melanie W. November 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    Great lists so far!

    I’m going to add specifically for elementary music teachers:

    Schott Music: Tuning Fork
    Teachers Pick (popsicle sticks for choosing students)
    Virtuoso Piano (free)
    iTunes Remote (for controlling recordings on your computer)

    Instruments:
    Tabla
    Taiko
    Bongos
    Congas
    iTriangle
    -all free

    if you have a SmartBoard or other IWB also:

    Mobile Mouse (4.99 I think) – controls your computer like a slate would

    and finally – not an app (yet) but planbook.com for standards-based lesson planning

    • Katie November 17, 2011 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      Thanks Melanie – I think you’ve gone beyond your allocated 7 though! Thanks for these suggestions – I’ll be checking out Mobile Mouse.

  4. Chris Russell November 18, 2011 at 3:26 am - Reply

    I agree with many of these. I would have to add Noteshelf, which is a handwriting app that does a great job (especially with the Jot Stylus) and includes staff paper. I would also include Keynote. It isn’t music specific, but there’s nothing like it. It doesn’t allow annotation at this time (a demo video from its pre-release showed annotation) so it can’t yet (keyword: yet) replace an interactive white board in and of itself as an app. I hope that changes soon.

    Also: Mad Pad in the USA is not free at this time, it’s $2.99. I love most of Smule’s apps. Although it isn’t in my top seven apps, Magic Fiddle for the iPad is fun, teaches some music concepts, and requires the player to have a general sense of intonation to play in tune.

  5. CrossEyedPianist November 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    I love ForScore, especially the visual metronome & annotation feature. Very useful for marking up a score to read when I’m not at the piano. I also like ShowMe, an interactive whiteboard app which allows you to create your own presentations. SoundCloud is a new discovery – upload and share your own music.

    A few other favourites:

    Nota: Note identification, including accidentals, plus useful reference section showing signs and symbols (not just for pianists), dynamic markings etc. Also how chords and scales are written.

    Keyboard Tots: Friendly, easy to use note naming/simple sight-reading app for younger children.

    Doodah: Very simple note identifcation app. Move Doodah (a purple fuzzy note-shaped thing) around the stave (treble and bass clef).

    Note Goal Pro: Good sight-reading app. Play the notes on the keyboard and see them on the stave above. Can be customised, and has various levels of difficulty. Easy to use.

    Key Whizz: Works in the opposite way to Note Goal Pro – play the note displayed on the piano keyboard. Very simple sight-reading practice tool.

    NoteAble: Another very simple note learning app. Tap on the correct note on the grand staff. Various levels of difficulty. Visually simple so good for younger students.

    Synth: Turn you iPad into a poyphonic synthesizer and create your own music. This app was used by Gorillaz to create their latest album. Includes more than 40 instruments and effects. Recording and sharing function.

    Beatlab: App from the website of the same name. Create your own beats using a sample-based, hip hop style production method. Record and share function. Fun and easy to use.

    Pocket Wave Pad: A free app allowing voice and music recording, editing and adding effects. Supports and number of formats including wave and aiff, and is therefore compatible with Apple’s Garage Band programme. It’s quite easy to use. A free-standing microphone would probably be helpful.

    Teacher Pal: Personal organiser for teachers. Enables teacher to organise classes, and to track student progress, attendance, grades etc.

    iDo Notepad: Simple notepad facility, including diary, to do lists etc. Notes can be exported to other applications that support text files. Optional password protection.

  6. Richard Llewellyn December 7, 2011 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    Hi Katie – In the next few days NOTION for iPad will be released!!! This is an AWESOME app that I hope will become your Number One Top App! To give you some idea, we’ve put some YouTube videos together: http://www.youtube.com/user/NOTIONMusicMobile#p/u the price will be crazy silly for the first 3 days of release, and then extremly reasonable… This app beats Symphony Pro hands down.

    • Katie December 8, 2011 at 9:26 am - Reply

      Thanks for the update Richard. I’ll look forward to testing it out and will pass on the info to others.

  7. Brandt Schneider January 23, 2012 at 8:11 am - Reply

    YouTube!
    Soundcloud

  8. Peter Naus January 30, 2012 at 10:34 am - Reply

    Hi Katie,

    I’m not even close to being a musician, (I have too much to learn!), so I appreciate the formal staff notation apps you mention, and I suspect you’ll be hearing from me soon!

    I do have some essential apps that help me put together (and even better, edit and rearrange) musical ideas, sometimes on-the-fly. Apart from GarageBand, I’d like to recommend for budding composers :
    1)MusicStudio (great instruments, great piano-roll notation, great recording and mixing, and not too dissimilar to GarageBand)
    2) NanoStudio (incredibly synthesiser and flexible drums, astonishing piano-roll editor, but an intimidating user interface – at first)
    3) Grain Science (a granular synthesis composer, real-world sounds that can be picked apart and easily made into melodies or surprisingly powerful sound backdrops, and is so much fun to play with).

    And I heartily second AmpliTube and SoundCloud, especially the latter for exposure to an enormous range of talent (and talent spotters, apparently).

    Thanks for your recommendations, I hope these ideas are helpful!

  9. Kelly April 16, 2012 at 9:53 am - Reply

    There is an app/book called Kasey’s Music Jams for Kids on the itunes store. It is a book or young beginners 3 and up designed to help teach them to play along with music. It is made up of 17 songs with vibrant illustrations and quirky song lyrics.

    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kaseys-guitar-jams-for-kids/id511771442?mt=8
    Promo video-http://youtu.be/XFEI44DYr_I

  10. Matthew May 1, 2012 at 4:09 am - Reply

    I’ve been developing an ipod orchestra with 7 -11 yr olds – to get them engaged and into music I’ve been using Gband of course but also
    1 baby scratch
    2 songify
    3 Melodica
    4 bebot
    5.Bloom

    I hoping to make some contacts to see how I can progress this and get more schools on board. Your page is amazing and given me such a boost because I realise their are more out their who get the importance of all of this music tech to keep Kids engaged and enjoying music and to help teachers who don’t feel musically capable. Thanks for all your info and advice….

  11. Amy September 9, 2012 at 11:26 am - Reply

    I like Music Teacher’s Helper. It creates a website, tracks students, keeps your schedule, automatically sends invoice, receives and records payments, emails students lessons reminders, and more. I couldn’t live without it. I can also access my account with my iphone/ipad app.

    I got a free month trial and used promo code 9A3122 for a 10% discount for the first month.

    http://www.musicteachershelper.com/promo/9A3122

  12. Jonas October 11, 2012 at 5:19 am - Reply

    Here’s a few others that I use daily.
    Music Resources: Collection of printable worksheets, exams, flashcards, blank staff paper.
    Karajan Pro: Ear training app.
    My note games: Great for learning the notes on your instruments. The app will pick up what you’re playing and tell you if you are correct.

  13. Ariel Ramos November 21, 2012 at 5:57 am - Reply

    Hi Katie, couldn’t find your conact info so I am writing here

    Here’s a link to Mapping Tonal Harmony Pro app for iPad.
    We’ve received great reviews and is a great tool to study tonal harmony in all keys.
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mapping-tonal-harmony-pro/id566767002?mt=8

    Ps. also let me know if you want a redeem code. I’d be happy to send you one.

    • Katie November 27, 2012 at 9:49 am - Reply

      Hi Ariel,

      Thanks for the info and link. I’m always happy to take a look at iPad music apps. You can email me directly here: katie (at) midnightmusic.com.au

  14. Sarah January 4, 2013 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    Really Nice post Katie :).. i was looking for this list… Im currently learning music production through garage band app on ipad which is really nice. I enrolled in an online course to learn that: iPads in the Music Classroom 101 – http://www.wiziq.com/course/9026-ipads-in-the-music-classroom-101
    This course was really helpful.. Do try this out 🙂

  15. Sandy July 27, 2013 at 4:47 am - Reply

    Your way of describing the whole thing in this paragraph is actually nice,
    every one can effortlessly know it, Thanks a lot.

  16. Brandon July 25, 2014 at 8:12 am - Reply

    Hi.
    I’m sure some of these have been mentioned but here’s a list of apps Ive been using and have found them to really engage the students for various reasons.
    1. Garage Band (ofcourse)
    2. Good Ear Pro (aural training app….excellent interface)
    3. SSSSynth (excellent to demonstarte how to generate synthesized sound from scratch)
    4.Notateme (definitely not as functional as Notion but the kids love seeing their drawing become printable scores)
    5.Decide Now (not a music app but more a chocolate wheel kind of format. You can enter the students name onto the wheel and use it to randomly select students to come up to the front of the class for whatever reason…they love it….and fear it too haha)
    6. I Realbook Pro.
    7. Propellerhead Figure. (Students can engage in electronic loop based production using a really interesting interface).

    Thanks for letting me be a part of your forum. I love your website.

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