18 Ways To Use A Single iPad In The Music Classroom

Even if you have only one iPad (your own!) there are still lots of ways you can use it with your students, especially if you can plug it into a data projector and speakers. Here are 18 ideas:

1. Practice note names

Use an app like Staff Wars, Flashnote Derby or Noteworks – which all work in a similar way – to drill students on notes of the staff. To ensure your whole class is involved, you can make note identification into a game:

Connect your iPad to the data projector and fire up the app. You are the one to operate the app and start the note identification game. As notes appear on the screen, students can write down the note names on a piece of paper. You can secretly identify the note correctly, leaving it as late as possible so students have the maximum time to come up with an answer. You’ll also need to make a note of the correct answers as you go! At the end, students can correct their answers. This would work well as a team game.

2. Practice sight-reading rhythms

With your iPad connected to the data projector, start up one of the levels in the Rhythm Cat app (good for younger students) or Read Rhythm. The rhythm that appears on the screen can be played by the class as a group – using body percussion or classroom instruments. A student (or you, the teacher) can tap the rhythm on the screen of the iPad while the rest of the class plays along.

3. The funky metronome

Set up a drum pattern in GarageBand (use the Smartdrums to generate a quick rhythm), Drumjam or DM1 in a style of your choosing. Use the drum pattern to accompany class ensemble arrangements, or scales in band/orchestra/choir rehearsal. Much more interesting than a plain old metronome!

4. Teach parts of the drum kit

Open GarageBand and display the Drums instrument on the data projector (not the Smart Drums – the other drums!). The drum kits allow you to clearly show all the parts of the kit and you can play them to hear what they sound like. It makes a great substitute if the school drum kit is being used elsewhere at the time you want to show it to your class!

5. Use as an on-screen keyboard

Show the Virtuoso Piano app* – which has letter names on each note – or one of the GarageBand keyboards on your screen so you can demonstrate intervals or chords or use the keyboard to play simple melodies for the class.

*Please note that Virtuoso Piano includes adverts which may not be suitable for young children. Check it before using it with your students

6. Build an ostinato backing on the fly with live looping

Use Loopy HD to build an accompaniment live in the front of your students like Billy Joel and Jimmy Fallon did with the Lion Sleeps Tonight on The Tonight Show. Students can help build up the layers and/or sing and play the melody over the top.

7. Improvisation

As an extension of number 6, you could use Loopy HD as an improvisation tool. You or the students can record a few layers as a backing. Students can then take turns to come up and tap a loop and record their own improvised percussive or melodic part over the backing.

8. Pitch matching

Do a quick visual and aural pitch-matching activity with the app Singing Fingers. Sing a single note while you draw on the screen. Ask the students to sing the same note while you draw a second line on the screen. Do the colours match? And when you run your finger over the lines to hear them playback, do they sound the same?

9. Teach drum patterns

Use the DM1 step sequencer drum machine to show students the way in which drum patterns are put together. Display the app on the screen and build parts one at a time – the kick drum, snare, hi-hats and other parts of the kit. Demonstrate different styles of drum patterns and drum kit sounds.

10. Teach form

Create a piece in ternary form: use one of the Smart instruments in GarageBand and a simple chord sequence to create a short song section (section A). Then use the Song Sections menu to duplicate that section twice. Vary the middle section to create a section B and leave the final section as it is. Go back into the Song Sections menu and turn on “All Sections” so that you can play the entire piece through from start to finish. While they’re listening, students can identify the three sections you have created.

11. Demonstrate tone colour and timbre

Open the Keyboard and then select one of the synth instruments in GarageBand to demonstrate sound synthesis. You can use the knobs on the screen to adjust the attack, cutoff, delay, release and so on and then discuss the resulting sound with your students: is the sound harsh, mellow, smooth, bright or soft?

12. Use as a score reader

Use Forscore to display scores on the screen for students and take advantage of the super-fast page turns. Even better, set up links in your score so that you can manoeuvre repeats like a ninja. Forscore will highlight the destination bar when you go back for a repeat so students will easily find their place in the score.

13. Interactive listening

Discover interesting information about sound with the free interactive app Explorium Sound Uncovered. The app includes facts, images, audio demonstrations and activities. My 8-year-old son loves this one!

14. Use as a listening post

Set up your iPad as a “listening post”: individual students or small groups can listen to a piece of music playing on the iPad and answer questions on a provided worksheet. If you have a Belkin Rockstar headphone adaptor you can have up to 5 students listening at once.

15. Create a class backing track and play along with classroom instruments

Use one or two of the Smart instruments in GarageBand to create a quick backing for a song you’re playing in class. Use the chord strips in the Smart Guitar, Strings or Keyboard and one of the Autoplay patterns to put together a 12 bar blues or a 3 or 4 chord pop song in just a few minutes. The students can then play along on classroom instruments.

16. Create a SFX board for a storytelling project

Use the MadPad app to record 12 separate sound effects – one for each square. Students can work in groups to write a story that incorporates as many of the sound effects as possible. One by one, each group can read their story and “perform” the sound effects in MadPad.

17. Discover the orchestra

There are a number of great apps that can teach students about the instruments of the orchestra. By displaying the iPad on the data projector you can show students instrument images, videos, sound, ranges, example pieces and the role of the conductor. Try The Orchestra, MSO Learn or for younger students, the Naxos My First Classical Music App. The free Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra is also well worth a look.

18. Capture student performances

One of the easiest ways you can use your iPad in music education is to open the in-built camera app and video-record students playing or singing. They get instant feedback about their performance and you can use the videos for assessment purposes or to as archival recordings.

BONUS!: 19. Use your iPad as a “TV camera”

With your iPad plugged into the data projector, you can use it as a TV camera by setting it up so that it faces you while you are demonstrating something to the students.  Open the Camera app and go into selfie mode so that you can see what you’re capturing.  This is great for showing students hand position for chords on a keyboard, or how to play a specific chord on the guitar or ukulele.  Hold your iPad in the right position by purchasing an iPad clip/holder for a music stand.


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