Quick Music Games Using GarageBand For iPad

Quick Music Games Using GarageBand For iPad

All you need are the Smart Drums

I was running an iPad workshop last week and it occurred to me that the Dice “randomiser” function in the Smart Drums could make a good listening exercise tool for students. And why not turn it into a game?

The Smart Drums instrument in GarageBand allows you to drag different drum sounds on to a grid to create a rhythmic pattern. However, if you’re feeling lazy or stuck for inspiration, you can use the Dice button in the bottom left corner to have GarageBand randomly pick a rhythmic pattern for you. Tap the Dice again and the pattern will change instantly.

Musical Freeze

Using this function, you could play a variation on the Musical Freeze game I played as a kid:

1. Open GarageBand and select Smart Drums

2. Choose a drum kit by tapping on the Hip Hop drum icon and selecting a drum kit from the menu

3. Tap the Dice

4. Students can start dancing/moving to the rhythmic pattern

5. Making sure your iPad screen is not visible to the students, tap the Dice again so that the pattern changes

6. Students need to listen for the change in the rhythmic pattern and freeze until the pattern changes again

7. Tap the Dice so that the rhythm changes again and the students can resume moving/dancing


If you like, you can add an competitive element to the game:

– the last person to freeze is out

– anyone that moves while they’re supposed to be frozen is out

– the last student left in the game is the winner

Game Variations

In fact, you can use the same game in a number of ways. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Musical Freeze – as above. Students freeze when the pattern changes

2. Musical Bobs – students bob down on the floor when the pattern changes

3. Strike a Pose – students form an unusual or humorous pose when the pattern changes (award points for originality!)

4. Make a Group – when the rhythm changes, students form a group of a specified number (groups of 2, 3, 4 etc)

5. Speedy Clean Up – students pick up an object in the classroom and put it away before the rhythm changes

6. Rhythm Switcher – teach the students two simple rhythms that they can play using body percussion. Use two different types of body percussion such as clapping and tapping the chest and practice playing them as a group in time to the Smart Drums groove. Each time the Smart Drums rhythm changes, they need to switch the rhythm they’re playing.

Two Tips

1. If you need the rhythm to play slower (or faster!), you can alter the tempo: tap the Wrench icon and then tap Tempo to make your adjustments

2. The iPad speaker will not be loud enough on it’s own, so make sure you plug into some speakers (use the headphone port) or use a bluetooth speaker to connect wirelessly

Other suggestions?

Do you have any other game suggestions?

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By |2018-09-07T01:23:40+00:00October 24th, 2014|Elementary Ideas, Free and Low-Cost Tech, iPads|9 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.


  1. Leila Viss October 24, 2014 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    Hi, Katie. Thanks for another inspiring idea for Garage Band app. The element of chance–like dice –make things so fun. Great idea!

    • Katie October 24, 2014 at 7:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much Leila!

  2. Debra October 24, 2014 at 11:01 pm - Reply

    When are you going to come to Texas and teach us first hand all of your amazing technology tips and ideas!

    Can’t wait to try this out with my students!

    • Katie November 13, 2014 at 11:56 am - Reply

      Thanks Debra! I’d love to come to Texas 🙂 I’m hoping to get to your big music conference one year (maybe 2016??).
      – Katie

  3. shawn December 27, 2014 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    there needs to be a session or two at TMEA about tech in the special ed/autism classroom. i am teaching music for all the self-contained elementary autism classes in my district (jr/sr high planned later) and my kiddos love music and their iPads. i am always looking for ways to combine the two. i’ve already asked permission to attend the 2015 conference and hope to find some inspiration. until then, pinterest and blogs.

    • Katie January 13, 2015 at 2:46 pm - Reply

      Hi Shawn – Pinterest and blogs make a good interim substitute! I often have queries about special needs and iPads. It’s an area I’d like to get more involved in at some point. And I’d love to make it to TMEA sometime too!
      – Katie

  4. […] TinyTap is a good iPad and Android app for creating your own review games based on pictures and diagrams. You can create games in which students have to identify parts of picture or diagram. The game machine. W2L Info Published on December 1st, 2013 | by What2Learn. Quick Music Games Using GarageBand For iPad | Midnight Music. […]

  5. Rachel January 31, 2018 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    What is comparable to garageband app for Android?

    • Katie February 1, 2018 at 9:40 am - Reply

      I haven’t used it myself, but a few people I know use Walk Band. I’d love to hear if you try it

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