For me personally, the iPad has provided me with so many essential tools whilst working in the classroom and around the music department. In this post I’ll be sharing my 30 must-have apps ranging from recording and performance, to productivity and file-management.
We’ve all used a basic recording app of some sort on our phones to record musical ideas that we don’t want to forget later. Apple’s Music Memos app is a recording app that is just completely next level. Once you’ve recorded your idea, the app will attempt (usually successfully) to work out the tempo of your recording and move everything in time. It will then identify the chords you’ve used and give you the option of adding a bass guitar and drum track to your recording, allowing you to get more inspiration for your idea very quickly. That’s not all though – you can then import that idea into the GarageBand app to add more tracks and ideas. Within minutes you could map out your idea into a song. This is great for students who need some inspiration after they have composed some basic ideas.
There are 3 really, really good DAWs for the iPad. Auria Pro, Cubasis and GarageBand. Both Auria Pro and Cubasis have more options and are perhaps slightly more intuitive when editing audio, especially if you’ve done a lot of work before on desktop DAWs. However, in terms of MIDI, GarageBand is awesome. The quality of instruments are fantastic and with support for Inter-App Audio and the new AU feature, your options are endless. Works fantastically with the Music Memos app listed above and is very user-friendly, which is great for students.
Music teachers inevitably have to play the piano at some point whether it’s an impromptu class performance, assembly or a concert. Carrying a piano around the department or the school can be a pain, even digital ones are fairly heavy. Korg Module is an app that has many high quality piano and organ sounds. Simply connect a MIDI keyboard to the iPad with a Camera Connection Kit, then connect the iPad to an amplifier, and you have a solution that’s much more portable. The Korg Module app is not particularly cheap, nor are the in-app purchases, but it sounds fantastic and works really well.
If you’re teaching DJing on a Music Technology course, or simply want to engage students in music with something they probably haven’t done before, DJay Pro is a fantastic app. The app recreates hardware decks and plays music using whatever is in your music library, or (and this is so good), the millions of tracks available on Spotify. Beginners can get right in by selecting tracks and using the sync functionality, or more advanced users can sync the tracks themselves and take advantage of the effects and number of other available editing parameters. It also includes VJing functions allowing you to blend music videos to create some fantastic audio/visual mixes.
SessionBand is actually a range of different apps on the App Store. Create simple backing tracks very easily by choosing the chords and preset rhythm patterns and before you know it, you have a session band behind you. It sounds great too! This is particularly useful for putting together a quick backing track for an extra-curricular rehearsal, or for classwork when students need help figuring out where to change chords or understand the structure. There are a number of different apps available including Jazz, Blues, Rock, Ukulele and Piano.
LaunchPad is a free app by Novation which plays loops grouped together by style. Students can choose drum, pad, lead and vocal loops to create their own tracks. It’s quite effective in getting students to understand texture and arrangement. Students with limited motor-skills should be able to access this app. It’s free so it’s definitely worth trying out.
Sheet Music & Notation
There are a few notation apps for the iPad, but Notion seems to be one of the better ones. Creating sheet music with this app is easy and a large number of instruments are sampled with more available through in-app purchases. The easiest and quickest way to input notes is with a MIDI keyboard, although using just your finger is also easy. Hopefully the app brings Apple Pencil support to give users a wider variety of options. There is also a desktop version of Notion which is a lot cheaper than rival Sibelius.
Sheet Music is an app from Sheetmusicdirect.com where you can buy sheet music to print off. It’s great for quickly getting scores, especially for students doing solo performance modules for GCSE and A-Level music. The app allows you to buy sheet music but also provides a digital version which supports playback, tempo and transposition changes and a number of other useful tools for learning the music you have purchased.
If you have a lot of sheet music in PDF format saved in the cloud, ForScore is a fantastic viewer for these scores. More than just a viewer though, it allows annotations and contains useful tools such as a metronome and a tuner. If you have a recording of the piece in your music library, you can link that to the sheet music too. It also has support for bluetooth page-turning pedals too.
SmartMusic requires an annual subscription but gives you access to a ton of scores and band arrangements. This is an essential app, especially if you run ensemble groups and need convenient access to a variety of scores.
Tabs HD is from Ultimate Guitar and aimed primarily and guitarists, bass guitarists and ukulele players. However, sometimes you just need a chord chart for a particular song and this will provide that. Chords are displayed above the lyrics for the song and chords symbols are displayed along the bottom for string instruments. There are also a number of ‘Tab Pro’ tabs that feature playback for all instruments on the track, showing tabs and allowing track isolation too (note: the tracks are GM sounds, not the original audio recordings). To use the app you can buy a lifetime subscription for a one-off fee and there are regular sales and discounts for this. It’s totally worth paying for.
There are loads (too many!) tuning apps for the iPad but one that stands out for me is insTuner. It has a clean interface and a nice clockface-style display and which clearly shows you where the notes are currently tuned at. I’ve used this for months now and it’s very reliable. It copes really well when there is a lot of background noise too.
Pardon the cliche phrase, but PolyNome is a metronome on steroids. Sure, you can use it to quickly set a tempo and play along, but you can also get the metronome to play rhythms on a loop, or assign different sounds to each particular note. This is awesome for drummers, but great for other musicians too, especially those you want to have a click-track that is more useful than just a series of beeps or clicks.
Video Recording & Editing
Acappella continues to be really popular on social media. Essentially it’s a multi-track video recorder. Seen those amazing acappella arrangements of songs done by one person? You can do that with this app. Import the original track to the project file then record yourself playing over the top as many times as you want. When you’re done, take away the backing track and you have an amazing version consisting of just your original recordings. You can adjust levels between the different recordings and add instagram-style filters over the top if that’s your thing.
YouTube Capture hasn’t been updated for years and long very out of date if you’re using an iPad Pro. However, it still works and is still the easiest and quickest way of filming and uploading videos to YouTube. If you’re uploading videos of students performance, you should seek the advice from your line manager on the school’s policy about this. What I’ve found to be a good compromise is to film a whiteboard of performance-related targets and have the students playing in the background. Students can then listen to their work at home without being seen in the video.
iMovie and Pinnacle Studio are the best film editors on the iPad, but iMovie is the most intuitive and is a lot easier to use. Quickly make professional looking video, add music and titles and save or upload with ease. If you’ve filmed on different iDevices, you can use AirDrop to send the video to a single device to start editing.
TouchPress make some amazing music apps and I’ve picked The Orchestra as a must-have. Listen to selected movements from pieces such as Haydn’s 6th, Beethoven’s 5th, Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique and several more. Whilst listening you can watch the orchestra perform, select the camera angle you want to see, look at the score and something that TouchPress calls the ‘Beat Map’. Alongside these recordings are many videos about the instruments of the orchestra too. There’s definitely some great material to use when covering orchestra related topics.
In the battle of the music streaming services, Spotify wins it for me. It’s compatible across a wider range of devices, has great playlists and is compatible with fantastic apps such as DJay Pro. The monthly subscription is worthing paying for and the family package is decent too.
Whether it’s at the start of the lesson as students are entering the classroom or as the audience are waiting before the concert, sometimes you just need to play music. Pyro is by Serato who make fantastic DJ software. It’s very simple to use. Load a playlist or set of songs you want to hear and Pyro will play them, mixing out the intros and endings so the music plays continuously with no silence in-between. It’s free and as I said before, very easy to use.
Organisation & Productivity
Probably one of the most important teacher apps you’ll own. This is a one-stop-shop for your planning, timetables, class lists, progress trackers, seating plans and more! It’ll take some time to set up, but the developers website provides a ton of information to help you get going. Once your timetables and classes are set up, you’ll have an app that will allow you to keep organised from day to day. Personally, I find tracking students work and linking to video/audio recordings or work in the cloud an incredibly useful feature.
Being a teacher of any subject inevitably means you have a to-do list. The problem with to-do lists is that they become very long, very quickly. 2Do is an amazing app that allows you to categorise all of your tasks, set individual reminders or deadlines, add tags, batch edit, add attachments and so much more. It’s a to-do app for busy people. The app is also available for Mac, iPhone and Apple Watch with a range of syncing options to help you stay on top of things. It’s not free, but is frequently on sale (50% off at the time of writing) and is definitely worth getting.
Like metronomes, there are loads of calendar apps on the app store. Fantastical is a brilliant app. It features natural text entry so you could type something like ‘Meeting with the Headteacher this Friday at 4:30pm’ and Fantastical will automatically put ‘Meeting with the Headteacher’ in the right place on your calendar – works really well when you use dictation instead of typing to enter it too. The thing I like the best about it, is it allows you to look at your list of events for the week as a scrollable list, rather clicking each day of the week to see what you’ve got coming up. There’s also an app for Mac, iPhone and Apple Watch.
Outlook is probably my favourite e-mail client for work. It’s layout is similar to the stock Mail app on the iPad, but comes with additional features such as a calendar and links to a number of cloud storage services. E-mailing attachments using Outlook is very, very easy. The best feature of Outlook is probably the way it prioritises your e-mails using two seperate categories in your inbox: ‘Focused’ and ‘Other’. E-mails that are from mailing lists are sent to other and e-mails from your colleages are sent straight to ‘Focused’, allowing you to get to your important e-mails first.
Document Creation & Editing
Okay, this is technically three apps, but you get what I mean. The Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps are hands down the most fully featured and easy to use apps on the App Store. The layouts are very similar to the desktop versions which means you’ll be able to start using them straight away. Not all features from the desktop versions are available, but there’s enough for you to do most tasks.
Over is an app that allows you to put text and icons over images in a very nice way. If you need to create flyers or posters for events in school very quickly, Over is the app to use. You get a variety of fonts and icons with the app and more are available with in-app purchases.
Teachers get given far too much paper work. Sometimes the queue for the photocopier is too long. Scanner Pro helps to overcome these issues. It’s a scanning app for the iPad. Take a photo of the document and Scanner Pro will automatically convert it into a photocopied-style document, allowing you to print them or saving them as a PDF. It does a fantastic job and is definitely worth paying for.
Prezi Lite Editor
Prezi is online presentation software that allows you to create visually-pleasing slideshows with animations. Videos and images can easily be embedded allowing your presentation to be seamless. The app isn’t perfect and there are some functions in the desktop-browser version that aren’t in the app, but this is great for creating simple presentations quickly and easily.
In the battle of cloud-storage services, OneDrive wins it on value for money. When you sign up to Office 365, you get 1TB of cloud storage, full access to up to 5 installations of Microsoft Office on PC/Mac and Tablet and 60 free Skype call minutes per month. Whilst OneDrive doesn’t have the same level of app integration as iCloud and Dropbox, it’s still unbeatable in terms of value for money.
FileBrowser is an app that allows you to access your cloud and network storage services in a single app. If you have network drives at work, then this is a must-have. Easily move or copy files from one location to another, print or share documents and keep everything organised very easily.
This app from Rhinegold gives you access to digital publications and teaching resources from Rhinegold Publishing. One book you must check out is Teaching Music: Practical Strategies for KS3 by David Ashworth. It’s a brilliant book full of strategies, lesson ideas, plans and resources. The book can be purchased from their website and used through this app.
So, what do you think? Are there any apps you use that aren’t listed above but deserve to be mentioned? Let me know in the comments below.
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