How do I get started with Macs and PCs in the Music Classroom? [Free Guide]

How can I best utilise my Mac or PC?

Where do I start?

So, you’ve had your own Mac or PC desktop or laptop computer for some time and you’d like to utilise it more effectively in your teaching.

Perhaps your students also have their own Macs or PCs, or you have access to a computer lab at school and you’d like to use them for creativity or productivity purposes.

Where do you start?

My laptop (which happens to be a Mac) is something that I use every single day in multiple ways: it’s a creativity tool as well as a productivity tool and my most-used piece of technology.

Over time I realised that as a music educator, there are two main ways you can utilise Macs and PCs in the music classroom:

  • For your own personal use
  • For hands-on activities with students

Teachers can use their own computer for the following:

  • Create teaching resources
  • Increase productivity
  • Present lessons to students
  • Record performances
  • Notate compositions
  • Create backing tracks
  • Communicate with others
  • Record and edit videos

If you have access to multiple Macs or PCs for students to use, your students can use them to:

  • Compose music
  • Demonstrate learning
  • Take quizzes
  • Create videos
  • Read music
  • Drill notes of the staff
  • Learn music theory
  • Create presentations

Apps, software and websites for music class

How can you utilise Macs or PCs in class?

Students can use their laptops to work on documents, compose music notation, record audio and MIDI, demonstrate learning, take quizzes, create videos, perform, read music, drill notes of the staff, learn music theory and more.

Types of “apps” you can use

The term “app” is used quite loosely these days and can be used to refer to any of the following:

  • Software that you install: this is software that you download (or maybe even purchase on a disk although this is not very common anymore!) and then install on to your Mac or PC
  • Web-based software: full-featured, online apps that require you to log in (so you can save your work). You will often pay a subscription for the education version which provides a COPPA compliant environment for students to work in and also provides a range of sharing and exporting options. Examples include Noteflight, Soundtrap, Google Docs
  • Interactive websites: lighter-weight music apps which are useful for introducing a topic or reinforcing
  • learning. There are usually limited saving and sharing options. Examples include Incredibox, the Chrome Music Lab experiments, Beepbox
  • Extensions: “add-ons” for the Chrome browser which expand its functionality. Extensions can allow you do do cool, ninja things such as record your screen, increase productivity, shorten links or create QR codes easily. Examples include Loom, Goo.gl URL shortener

Some basic tips

If you’re going to get started using Macs or PCs with students in your music class, here are a few tips:

  • Start small. Try just ONE thing. Do that one thing a few times over until it is working well and then try another thing
  • Focus on your teaching outcomes first and decide whether incorporating Macs or PCs can enhance what you’re doing
  • Pick one lesson and consider weaving the Macs or PCs into a single activity, or part of an activity
  • Tell your students “We’re going to try something new today and I’d love your help to make it work”. This usually gets students on your side from the get-go when testing out a new tech-related activity!

What NOT to do

Some things to avoid:

  • Don’t go and download a whole list of apps because someone told you they were “must-haves”
  • Don’t attempt to incorporate Macs or PCs into lots of classes at the same time. Start small!
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel – look around for existing music tech lesson plan ideas

Inspiration: some ideas for using Macs or PCs in music education

How are other teachers using Macs & PCs?

Sometimes when trying a new tech tool you simply want to know what the possibilities are.

When I first ventured into the world of music tech, I had a feeling it could be a useful tool for expanding creative opportunities, presenting ideas in different ways and saving time but the best thing was hearing how other teachers were using technology. I had a lot of “aha” moments in the early days.

So how ARE other music teachers using their laptops to create teaching materials? How are they using Macs and PCs with their students? What do their music tech lesson plans look like? How are they using them as a work tool or to increase productivity?

I’m going to share with you a list of apps and websites for music teachers of all types, BUT before you look through the list I want to remind you of this:

>> Remember the Golden Rule: start small and pick just one thing! <<

Software and websites for Macs and PCs in the music classroom

So what are the best apps for music teachers? Following is a list of great options in a range of categories.

Creative interactive music websites

Great options for creating quickly and easily. These music websites are great for sparking creativity, reinforcing concepts and introducing ideas.

  • Incredibox
  • Groove Pizza
  • AQWERTYON
  • Isle of Tune
  • Beepbox
  • Chrome Music Lab

Related: Free lesson plan – Teaching Beatboxing Basics with Incredibox

Related: 50+ Lesson Ideas For The Chrome Music Lab

Related: Website of the week: Isle of Tune

Digital Audio Workstations

A digital audio workstation is a software application that allows you to compose and arrange by recording audio and MIDI (software instruments), or by using existing loops from a loop library. You can record songs, covers, short musical exercises, compose film scores, create radio shows, compose video game themes, remix and perform live.. The options in this category are extensive and there is no one “right” solution. I would suggest testing out the trial/demo or free versions of any you would like to try.

The online software options will work on both Macs and PCs. You simply log into the website and everything is saved “in the cloud”.

The other software options need to be installed on your computer. Most have a trial version you can test before purchasing.

I have named the commonly-used applications below but there are even more available!

  • Soundtrap (online)
  • Soundation (online)
  • Bandlab (online)
  • GarageBand (Mac)
  • Mixcraft (PC)
  • Abelton Live (Mac and PC)
  • Studio One (Mac and PC)
  • FL Studio (Mac and PC)
  • Reaper (Mac and PC)
  • Reason (Mac and PC)
  • Cubase (Mac and PC)
  • Logic X (Mac)
  • Pro Tools (Mac and PC)

Related: 22 Ways To Use GarageBand or Soundtrap in Music Education part 1 and part 2

Songwriting

Compose chord progressions and melodies and analyse songs.

  • Hook Theory website

Notation

Compose and arrange using notation. Again, there are many options in this category. I’ve listed the more commonly-used ones below.

  • Noteflight (online – Learn edition is best for schools)
  • Flat.io (online)
  • MuseScore
  • Sibelius
  • Dorico
  • Finale
  • Notion

Record and/or edit audio

Recording and editing of audio files.

  • Vocaroo (online)
  • TwistedWave (online)
  • Audacity

Practice helpers & tools

Make practice time more effective and check in on student progress.

  • SmartMusic (red note/green note feedback on playing)
  • PracticeFirst (red note/green note feedback on playing)
  • Sight Reading Factory (library of sight reading exercises)

Related: MTT21: Speed up student learning and assessment with Smartmusic

Music Theory & Ear-Training

Teach and reinforce theory and ear-training concepts.

  • Auralia (ear-training)
  • Theta Music Trainer (ear-training)
  • Musition (music theory)
  • MusicTheory.net (music theory and ear-training)

Related: 30+ Fun Ways To Teach The Notes of The Staff Using Technology

Related: Staff Wars Free Printable Score Cards

Video

Create tutorial videos, capture student learning and record performances.

  • iMovie (Mac)
  • Windows Movie Maker (PC) WeVideo (online)
  • Screencastify (Chrome extension – record your screen or webcam)
  • Loom (Chrome extension – record your screen or webcam)
  • Screenflow (Mac – record your screen)
  • Camtasia (PC – record your screen)
  • Youtube (view and share videos)

Documents, spreadsheets & presentations

Create presentations and teaching materials.

  • Google Apps for Education/Google Suite
  • Microsoft Office – Word, Powerpoint, Excel
  • Apple Pages, Numbers, Keynote

Listen to music

Access your audio music library via a streaming service.

  • Google Play
  • Spotify
  • Amazon Music

Digital portfolios and sharing of multimedia content

Share student work, set assignments, collaborate and create multimedia content.

  • SeeSaw (digital portfolios; sharing of work)
  • Showbie (digital portfolios; sharing of work)
  • Class Dojo (behaviour management and digital portfolios)
  • Flipgrid (student responses with video)
  • Book Creator (create interactive multimedia books)
  • Padlet (interactive bulletin board)

Related: MTT33: Interactive music posters, word walls and brainstorming with Padlet

Related: 20 Ways To Use Flipgrid in Music Education

Assessment

Create quizzes, surveys, exit tickets. Gather students responses and have the software do the marking for you!

  • Google Forms
  • Kahoot
  • Socrative
  • Quizizz
  • Quizlet
  • Plickers
  • Playposit (video quiz creation tool)
  • Poll Everywhere

Related: MTT03: 4 Fun formative assessment tools for music educators

More training and ideas

If you’d like more training and ideas, here are some options:

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Want more help? Lesson plans and online courses

Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.

I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.

I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.

If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community.

Learn more and take a sneak peek inside