Best Music Software for Chromebooks & BYOD Schools

Help! Which software can I use with mixed devices or Chromebooks?

In the past few years, a large number of schools worldwide have decided to adopt a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach to technology for students meaning that students can choose to use a Mac laptop, a Windows laptop, an iPad or an Android tablet.   At the same time, a number of  schools have selected Chromebooks – which only allow the user to access resources and software that are online and “in the cloud” – as the technology device of choice for their students.  And still other schools find themselves with a variety of  technology devices – perhaps iPads in elementary school, Windows laptops for senior students, Chromebooks for middle school and a Mac lab down the hall!

What’s the best approach in this situation?  What software can you use that will work across all – or at least most – of those devices?

The solution is to use cloud-based software and interactive websites.

What is cloud-based software?

In case you’re new to the concept (or not sure quite what the term means), cloud-based software is software that you access via a web browser (ie. by going to a website). You don’t download anything onto your computer hard drive at all. The software lives “in the cloud” –  it is online.

This type of software is necessary for Chromebooks because they are designed only to access the internet and online resources: you cannot download and install any software on them.

Cloud-based software is also the ideal solution for BYOD schools for the same reason because it accessible online, via a web browser but there are some other benefits too.

Benefits

There are some serious benefits to this:

  • You never need to update the software yourself. Ever. Updates happen on the back end of the website and are handled by the software creator. It makes your school IT person VERY happy.
  • Software does not take up space on the school computers or network because it runs “in the cloud”
  • The software can be accessed (almost) anywhere there is an internet connection. This means a student can log into their Noteflight notation software account at school and start their assignment. They can then go home and log in to the same account on their iPad at home and continue their work. No need to send files via email or to save to Dropbox or on to a flash drive in order to transfer them from one device to another.
  • Provided you have an education account, you – the teacher – can usually access student projects simply by logging into your own central account which allows you to view and assess the work anywhere you have an internet connection.

Important things to note

  1. Cloud-based software that involves saving a project will usually require you and the students to log in to the website. Projects are saved to each user account.
  1. Look for the “education” version where possible. Not all cloud-based software has an education version, but many do. Benefits of education accounts include: a private environment for you and your students; student accounts are connected to the teacher account making it much easier for you to gather and assess student work; sometimes the education versions are more kid-friendly (ie. Soundation loops with adults-only titles are omitted from the education version); there are often extra education-specific features that do not appear in the regular non-education version
  1. Some (but not all) of the cloud-based software works on iPads, as well as laptop and desktop computers and Android devices. Generally speaking, those that do not currently work on all platforms are being updated so that they will work some time in the near future.
  1. A number of the resources below have Chrome Web Store app versions, allowing you or students to access the apps easily when logged into your Google account
  1. In most cases, music/audio online software and interactive websites work best using the Google Chrome browser.  If you’re using a different browser and things are not working as expected, switch to Chrome and try it there.

Related: Why won’t that music website load?

Fully-featured software vs interactive websites

In my experience, there are two main types of software or apps that suit Chromebooks and BYOD schools:

Fully-featured software – this is software that is comparable to the desktop software (such as GarageBand, Mixcraft, Sibelius, Finale) you might have used in the past.  This type of software has a large feature set, allows the user to save projects and offers multiple options for exporting work.

Interactive websites – this is my own descriptive word because I haven’t come across a better term! These are interactive musical websites that allow you to create, record, compose or learn music but that mostly have a single focus and are not as fully-featured as the software in the first category.

Fully-featured software – a starter list

This list includes fully-functioning software programs that can replace “download and install” software such as GarageBand, Sibelius, Finale, Mixcraft and so on.  In a separate list below you will find some of the lighter-weight interactive websites.

Please note that some of these do not work on ALL devices.

1. Sequencing, synths and audio recording

I recommend: Soundtrap (works on all devices) Soundation 4 Education (via Music First. Not available on iPad yet) or. For those of you working with students interested in electronic music, music production and synths take a look at Audio Tool (not iPad yet)

Other options: AudioSauna, Ujam Songcruncher

2. Elementary/Primary music composition

I recommend: Groovy Music (not iPad yet)

3. Notation

I recommend: Noteflight Learn (works on all devices)

Other options: Flat.io

4. Ear-training

I recommend: Auralia cloud edition (not Chromebooks yet, but coming soon. iPad apps also available)

Other options: Good Ear, Ear Beater

5. Music theory

I recommend: Musition cloud edition (not Chromebooks yet, but coming soon. iPad apps also available), Music Theory for Producers and MusicTheory.net

Other options: Teoria

Interactive music creation websites

Here is a list of some creative music resources that work well when introducing or reinforcing concepts, or when used alongside or in conjunction with the resources listed above.

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