Celebrate the Arts in you!

Tech Play for July

I am playing with the following apps to exploit all educational value for students, and/or their usefulness and notch above the rest in creativity .  Please add your thoughts, if interested.

Memrise. learn languages free on the App Store Firefox, Today at 8.44.46 AM.png

Memrise: learn languages free

Poto - Photo Collage Maker on the App Store Firefox, Today at 8.47.28 AM.png

POTO – Photo Collage Maker

Gravity Sketch on the App Store Firefox, Today at 8.51.19 AM.png

Gravity Sketch – 3D Drawing = 3D printing

Gunpowder on the App Store Firefox, Today at 8.53.15 AM.png

Gunpowder – fun, logic game

Languinis. Word Puzzle Challenge on the App Store Firefox, Today at 8.56.58 AM.png


“Elegantly pairing the match-three frenzy of Bejeweled with the word-making challenges of Scrabble”

Mozilla Firefox Firefox, Today at 9.00.15 AM.png

Visuwords – a site

TextGrabber - image to text app. copy recipe from a cookbook, scan QR code, capture text on photo and send to translator on the App Store Firefox, Today at 9.03.02 AM.png

AABBYY TextGrabber + Translator

LOOPIMAL by YATATOY on the App Store Firefox, Today at 9.13.02 AM.png

Loopimal – intro to music patterning

Please note that all of these apps were FREE at one point this year.  I always use the App, or  www.appadvice.com to get free apps to test.


The Erhu Debut

With Apple’s release of the Chinese Instruments and loops in the latest GarageBand update,  educating and promoting this beautifully expressive instrument definitely will follow.  Typically heard in soundtracks accompanying Chinese or Hollywood produced movies with a Chinese theme/location, people are probably curious about this traditional Chinese instrument.  It’s tone is unmistakably evocative of China mirror its glorious landscapes seen through online photo searches and famous Chinese painters.

Now, you can become digitally one with the instrument and its techniques through GarageBand.

Erhu Debut.png

This graphic was created using a FREE app presented on Apps Gone Free, called Cameraxis.

Cameraxis - Edit photos, Design graphics & add Creative typography, beautiful artworks over picture on the App Store Firefox, Today at 11.20.50 AM.png

Living in Hong Kong, it is somewhat common to see people playing an instrument near a street corner for extra income and exposure.  Its a treasured experience seeing a performance of a street musician on the Erhu, commonly playing traditional, Chinese melodies.

Have a look at Tim Cook’s “duet” with China’s famous J.J. Lin using GarageBand.  If you think it sounds good, it does!  Give it a try!

Apple has released an update that ‘celebrates the rich history of Chinese music’ (Apple).  Added to this update are three traditional Chinese instruments  – the pipa, erhu and Chinese percussion.  All a unique fusion to your music with 300 Apple-created Chinese musical loops, beyond beautiful.


Erhu – traditional Chinese violin


Pipa – traditional Chinese lute

These two instruments have different playing articulations, including rapid picking and note bend for pipa, and trill, grace note and glissando for erhu, making it incredibly easy for a novice to create a realistic and expressive performance. iPhone users can also use 3D Touch™ with the erhu and pipa to dynamically control vibrato and intensity, and both the pipa and erhu include Autoplay, letting users tap on any chord and get a complete, rich performance.



Chinese Kit available through Drums Instrument icon in the instruments section (page two) – Some of these have ‘secrets‘ to play automatically with two fingers, easily noted on the large drum.

Live Loops – Phenomenal collection of ‘live loops’ that allow you to build entire background music, or pieces of music based on the combinations of dynamic loops.  The FX feature allows you to individualize your performance.


The 300 Apple-created loops use a variety of instruments and styles including guzheng, dizi, yangqin, and Peking Opera.

Please note, you have to update your iOS device to acquire these incredible changes.  After this, switching on these features on your GarageBand app is required.



Toggle Chinese Instruments ‘on’


Select ‘Chinese Traditional’ under Apple loops Genre

Gather your newly updated device, headphones and head over to your favourite ‘Dim Sum’ restaurant and start creating your collection of exotic Chinese music with GarageBand iOS!

In the Director’s Chair

App Store App Store, Today at 11.32.19 AM.png

Apple’s line up of Mac Apps and its Pro AppsOfficial Apple Support Firefox, Today at 11.35.36 AM.png

Keep up-to-date with the apps that can help you achieve your artistic goals!  Many of these products have an accompanying iPhone or iPad versions that are useful for on-the-go use, and controlling your main Mac computer from the other device.

Go to the App Store from your Mac to something like this:

App Store App Store, Today at 11.37.16 AM.png

As mobile devices advance in capabilities, their technology affects the functionality of apps allowing for new features you may find useful.  For musicians, 3D touch has changed the expressiveness in how we use a keyboard.  Similar to sliding/gestures while playing a stringed instrument, cello, for example, the ability to meld your finger movement while moving between notes/keys is now at your finger tips.  New music apps are utilising this to add greater sensitivity and depth of sound, live in your recordings or performances.

From Apple,

When you press the display, capacitive sensors instantly measure microscopic changes in the distance between the cover glass and the backlight. iOS uses these measurements to provide fast, accurate, and continuous response to finger pressure, which could only happen with deep integration between software and hardware.

iPhone 6s - 3D Touch - Apple.png

A few years ago, a company called Roli created a dynamic keyboard that caught the eye of film composer Hans Zimmer.  That’s how I learned about it.  Since then, it has continued to evolve the keyboard’s expressive quality providing a more individual and personal sound and playing experience.

Mobility minded, Roli has produced an stunning app, NOISE  that simulates all of this on your 3D touch capable iPhone.



NOISE is an instrument that unlocks the extraordinary expressive potential of your iOS device as a touch-responsive surface for making music.
Create multidimensional sounds on-screen. NOISE takes advantage of the 3D Touch technology of the iPhone 6s, letting you shape sound through pressure and movement.
Or use NOISE as the ultimate portable sound engine for your favorite MIDI controller.

iTunes App description from Roli

If you have ever found yourself trying to add vibrato to your playing of a piano/keyboard (pushing harder on a key after the initial activation, or gyrating your finger hoping your sound is affected), you need to explore Roli products and its app, Noise.  Your expressive, performer-side of yourself is trying to tell you something!


Get Your Students Chording!

Here is another resource I’ve produced for use in teaching the power of chords and melody writing with passing notes.  Visit here, to see.

Chords and Melody Motifs Pages, Today at 12.11.15 PM.png

It all adds up to students composing for the purpose of creating and sharing.  This type of creation activity encourages tablet use for easily playing chords with a touch of a key.  There are numerous apps and online resources out there that support this.

This activity is holistic in nature building a purposeful  music skills such as notation, rhythm, chords and typical chord progression, melody patterns, motifs, ostinato, and structure.  I’m sure you could find more!

Don’t forget ScoreCloud Express and ScoreCloud Studio for Mac and PC that will listen to your playing or singing, and produce it in notation form, even ‘on-the-go’!

Please support teacher-created materials… thank you!

Playground App – Create!


HLO S.A.’s Playground app, at first glance looks to be another drumming app with a sometimes haphazard look to it.  Once playing through its tutorial, I soon began to sense that this was something that may help bring the world of popular drumming (and all its techno toys and effects) to people who typically shy away from these types of apps.  If coordination is your challenge in playing tablet or ‘real’ drums, then this app may be for you.  Or, if you are looking to lose yourself in a wonderfully creative world of techno drumming, you’re in the right place.  There’s nothing haphazard about this app.


I’m looking at this app for students who find reading music notation difficult, or the student who sees no value in learning to read music, let alone, drum notation.  I’m eyeing the student who finds ‘creating’ music in the traditional sense too daunting, or requiring too many steps (note reading, chord understanding, note and rhythm notation, patterns, structure [4-8 bar patterns/progressions], and wants instant results.  (For me, I want jaw-dropping 8 – 16 bar drum soundscapes to import into other music apps!)


Playground uses a collection of related drum, pitched drum, voices, and effects that sound good together.

You explore the circular and rectangular shapes and tap or slide on them to create your soundscape.  The tutorial follows you through simple finger gestures that help to efficiently touch/glide on the right choice of instruments to produce a drum/voice/effects that sound like a pattern that could be repeated to get impressive results – quickly.

This is how to create an incredible musical pattern with a flow of repetitive finger movements.  Without notation, or possibly any musical training, this app has provided the playground for you to perform quite impressive popular music, record and share it, easily.

Instead of requiring finger dexterity and extreme eye-hand coordination (think Launchpad, or less, Apple’s newest GarageBand for iOS Live Loops), sliding finger gestures help you to create (a) bar(s) of patterns and if your gestures aren’t exact enough, your overall sounds will be out of sync or rhythmically out.  To understand this more clearly, have a look at the tutorial pictures and the recommended finger movements – consistency is the key to create a pattern that can be repeated successfully.  However, some shapes are dynamic and have different variations in the same shape requiring some adjustment to your prescribed flow.


Contrasting the traditional music composition approach, errors would be seen by studying the score and the notes that aren’t quite right.  Here, you are looking at your movements and listening to the results in real time.  Have a friend listen to give honest feedback, as there is no metronome provided – future suggestion?

Recording your performance is only a finger tap away for recording a .m4a version via email or AirDrop (Apple).

This would be a valuable opportunity for teachers to give students the task to create a success rubric and give advice to their peers on what makes a effective and unique creation.  How would they know if the performance is rhythmically out, or lacks in structure?  How would they communicate this clearly to their classmates?  Don’t forget to add music terminology to this, and possibly a recorded pattern from Playground represented in traditional notation.

I will be trying this app out with students, and add it to my kit of best apps that help students perform and create music ‘on the go’ and in non-traditional forms (which may be traditional in years ahead!).

The key here is, a variety of methods available for student expression of music.  It’s shareable and savable, too… equally important.

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