Fun Apps to Teach Music With

October 8, 2011 at 4:40 am | Posted in Music Teaching Tips | 3 Comments
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In the 21st century, mobile communication and cloud computing are the norm for many young people. To increase interaction and student buy-in, music teachers have begun incorporating applications or “apps” for mobile devices into their lesson plans. There is a vast array of resources available, to meet almost any teaching need, even if they are not teaching in online schools. Almost all apps are specific to a particular platform such as Android or Apple. This article will discuss free apps; many of them are “lite” versions of paid apps. There are hundreds of apps available, but this is a sampling of the most useful ones for education.

For Pianists

There are so many great piano apps for instructors to choose from. Most piano smartpone apps are virtual keyboards. For Android, there are such titles as xPiano and PianoPro. xPiano has only a 4-octave keyboard, but can simulate 12 additional instruments. Additionally, the width of the keys can be adjusted. On the other hand there is PianoPro, which has a full-size keyboard which can be displayed in one row or in two rows. For iPhone there is PlayItYourself, a simplified version of the paid app. This game-like app shows both the score and upcoming notes, which are highlighted on the keyboard display. There is also Virtuoso Piano Free, a simplified version of a paid app, which has a 6-octave keyboard with color-coded key labels.

For Guitarists

Guitarists have a wide range of apps to search, and most are very useful for visualization techniques. For guitarists there are chord tab reference apps–dozens! For Android try Guitar TabApp, it searches for tablatures online, by band, and can save, add, or edit tabs. On the iPhone you can get Chords, which shows the tablatures for 28 different chord types.

For Drummers

Since drumming can be really tough to get without both audio and physical repetition, using apps for drummers can be really helpful. Virtual drums include G-Stomper for Android and DigiDrummer Lite or BeatBox Free for iPhone. All of these are demo versions of paid apps; they can perform live beats, but G-Stomper and BeatBox Free can unfortunately only save one pattern. DigiDrummer Lite offers 8 drum kits and can save multiple patterns.

Practice Aids: Virtual Metronomes and Tuners

In this category, Android has more app offerings for free than iPhone does. There is Mobile Metronome, which can beat from 2 to 20 beats per measure and from 10 to 230 beats per minute. Beats can also be subdivided and compounded. There is also DaTuner, a chromatic tuner that plays the desired note for tuning any string instrument. Practice Makes Perfect combines a metronome with a really useful sectionizer that can play parts of pieces. This dimension seems the most helpful for students who are trying to get the bigger picture, or who are practicing harmony.

Finally Android offers a guitar scale reference for help tuning. The user can select any scale and the app will show the fingering. There are also metronome apps and chord progression that allow students and teachers to find various chord progressions through interaction, such as Chord Bot for the Android.

Recording

There are many free “pocket music studio” apps for Android devices, but sadly none for iPhones. Uloops Studio Lite builds tracks as a sequence of loops and mixes synths, drums, recordings and modulators. Similarly, Tape Machine Lite Recorder offered by Android is a high-quality sound recorder and editor with a powerful waveform display and looped playback. Using recording devices from a student’s phone like this can let them take their recorded music home, so they can hear themselves and better understand what they need to work on for their next lesson.

Theory and Ear Training

For theory and ear training there are available apps as well, which can be offer more interactive approaches to theory than workbooks for students. There is KidMusicalToys, which contains five separate games for following rhythms and identifying sounds of various instruments, and is often used for young children. Learn Music Notes shows the notes on a staff and the player touches the key to identify it. It give auditory and visual feedback for correct or incorrect answers. Music Tutor SightReadLite shows random notes on a staff and the player must identify them. This is a timed game which keeps track of previous scores to show progress. Finally, Perfect Ear offers eight different types of exercises for different instruments for ear training, and can be a useful addition to other theory practice.

New technologies are allowing music to be introduced to a new generation in formats that young people can understand and enjoy. Music teachers can have a lot of fun exploring the interactive mobile options available and coming up with new ways to engage their students.

About the Author:

Natalie Hunter grew up wanting to be a teacher, and is addicted to learning and research. As a result she is grateful for the invention of the internet because it allows her to spend some time outside, rather than just poring through books in a library. She is fascinated by the different methodologies for education at large today, and particularly by the advent of online education. She also loves to travel and learn via interaction with other people and cultures.

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3 Comments »

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  1. Hi Natalie. Thanks a lot for mentioning my G-Stomper app. Just want you to know, that it’s the demo limitation, which restricts saving to one single Pattern. In the full (paid) version, you can save as much Patterns and Pattern Sets you want.

  2. Hi Natalie,

    I’ve been browsing through your blog and this particular post caught my attention. As an owner of an iPhone and a private piano teacher, I am always looking for ways to incorporate apps into my lesson but I also don’t want it to be a distracting element.

    While i think apps are a fun way to engage students, I still haven’t allowed myself to use them during a lesson. (What’s the need of a virtual keyboard when we have a real one in front of us?) What I do instead though is use YouTube on my phone.

    I have found this to be such a useful too. Often times, my students want to hear what a song sounds like before they actually play it. For example, I had one student playing “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton. Before he started the song, I pulled up the original version on my iPhone and we listened to it on YouTube. This gave him an idea of the tempo and rhythm of the song without actually dissecting the musical notations (which can be dry and boring to do right from the beginning).

    Thought I’d share my tip on incorporating a smart phone during lessons.

    I have also started a blog on piano teaching. Feel free to take a look at it and make your own comments and suggested on my posts! I’d love to hear from you.

    http://moniquezatcoff.wordpress.com/

    Thank you!
    Monique

  3. Hey Natalie,
    I’ve recently created an app that contains heaps of musical content for iOS devices.

    It’s called Music Resources and its home to hundreds of documents that you can print and give to students. This save teachers from having to create their own worksheets and reference materials all the time.

    You can check it out here:
    http://rondostudios.com/MusicResources.html

    Truest me, there’s nothing else like it.


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