Celebrate the Arts in you!

Posts tagged ‘iPad’

Smart Instrument Chording


This is a paid activity is for GarageBand for iPad available from Teachers Pay Teachers.

Chords are the emotional support for your melody. Teaching students chord progressions is so important to model this important foundation of melody writing.

Using the Smart Instruments chord bars and Autoplay, they can explore loop-type chord patterns to underscore their chord-based melodies (taught in an other resource).

In this activity, students enter chord patterns using the Autoplay feature, changing chords when necessary to match the chord requirements. In another track, the melody can be played – sheet provided. Additional tracks can introduce drums and bass, or any other instrument.

Using the track settings, students will learn about panning, treble and bass enhancement, as well as reverb and echo. There are other features here, as well. Quantisation and graphic notation editing is also mentioned.

Saved work can be shared via email, Airdrop, as a audio file, or a GarageBand file to be worked on another device or the Mac GarageBand version. Remember, once an iPad version project file has been transferred to a Mac and modified by GarageBand for Mac, it cannot be exported back to the iPad for editing.

Enjoy and let me know your thoughts!


Fostering Musical Language

We are living in an age where traditional music notation is no longer a prerequisite to being successful in music creation or performance.  Traditionally, music education has been driven by factual knowledge over musical creation.  Technology has opened music creation to the masses producing music styles that involve traditional composition with notation programs (Finale, Sibelius, etc.),  Digital Audio Workstations via computer (Logic Pro X, FL Studio, Ableton Live, etc.) or mobile device/apps (GarageBand, Notion, Symphony Pro, etc.)  The fact is, mobile technology allows for music creation with results beyond anything seen anytime in the history of music.

Fostering Musical Awareness


Students are influenced with years of school-based music programmes that typically drive music theory and history as the building blocks to musical knowledge.  Isolating music theory in small packages without a larger picture can damper any interests students may have about music, especially what they listen to and participate in outside of school.  Backwards by Design thinking supports this notion that music engagements can start on the other end of looking at a completed work, and traverse backwards looking at how it was created (melody, chords, accompaniment, instrumentation, and rhythm, for example).  Think of the motivation this would create within our classrooms!

Using a variety of apps, my goal is to introduce creation of music without the baggage of  having to learn to read music first.  I want to open their minds to the incredible ways mobile tech can allow them to play around with musical sound, rhythm and chords to create music first, then assimilate music theory directly related to their interests.  This is nothing new in other subject areas, but critical to give students the tools to be independent in their trek through music creation.  Many of these apps are available for other platforms, not just Apple.

In the first month of weekly classes, apps were chosen to reinforce that music isn’t determined by their knowledge of theory and ability to read notation.  The goal: sound creation through hand gestures and icons on the screen.  eDrops Nature and eDrops – Bouncing Balls Music App Studio are similar to a pinball game reacting to the laws of physics with the results being a pattern like, musical soundscape.  I demonstrated this by recording one and a half minute of music from eDrops Nature and premiered it over a 4K nature video to stimulate musical conversation with the students.  The questions were, “What would the music look like in notation for this score?”  “Could you do this?” “What are the challenges of notation?”  They were so surprised that there was no music notation, only a game-like screen with falling balls of light bouncing from various points on the screen.  Yes, it is normal for some students to enjoy the game aspect of this app forgetting they are creating sound.

eDrops Nature . Music pinball to create relaxing ambiences on the App Store on iTunes at 1.03.20 pm.png

eDrops Nature


eDrops – Bouncing Balls Music App Studio


The next app is quite a unique one, called Playground.  It provides sets of instruments that react to finger movement.  It has proven to be the students’ favourite app because of its contemporary sounds and tactile involvement.  After a ‘play’ period, we talked about the importance of establishing a beat, like a drummer.  Students need to become familiar with the layout of the instruments and the various icons and triggers that affect the sound creation.  Within the second week of using this app, students had to start to show patterns of rhythm and consistent tempo of finger movement.  You must try this app to understand what this means.  It’s free to try!




Within the third week, students explored Nodebeat.   This is a pattern creating musical app that has a game-like appearance.  It’s an enormous app that has so much to offer and would be better presented over a couple of classes highlighting its capabilities.  Students need time to learn the icons and their associated sounds and instrumentation.  Sound modification is also important within this app.  It is highly customisable.



Next Steps

Students will be challenged to use one of these apps to create a thirty to sixty second musical piece.  I find they are highly motivated when they have an endpoint and useful reason for doing this.  Their music will be promoted on SoundCloud for others in the school (and parents/teachers) to listen to and comment.  It will also be meshed with video of their choosing and placed on YouTube for the same purpose.  The goal is to get their music ‘out there’ for the world of social media to push them along with careful guidance from their teachers.

Please comment and share.  Thank you for reading!  This post will be updated throughout the year.


App-etisers for May

I’m excited to share some apps that are new, or just discovered.  I will highlight which features are transformational in the way we (students, teachers, and everyone else) can aid in personal music or art education, whether at school, home, or on the go.

Touch Notation Free – iOS

Touch Notation Free on the App Store Firefox, Today at 12.52.15 PM.png


The fine app (Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co., Ltd.) has the fastest ‘on the go’ notation entry I’ve ever used – I’ve tried many.  Regardless, finger or Apple Pencil, a few minutes of using, and an exquisite piano sample sound plays your music.  I’m still testing the free version with limitations – try this out!  Full version, with further in-app purchases is about $12 US.

Vanido – Your personal singing coach – FREE

Vanido - Your personal singing coach on the App Store Firefox, Today at 1.06.15 PM.png


Vanido (Himanshu Singh) takes you through progressive, traditional, vocal exercises (chest voice, foundation, head voice, agility) with piano support.  Where this app flies is its visual of your voice as a sound wave-like line that signifies your accuracy to the target pitch.  For hesitant singers, this gives a much needed visual goal to strive for.  It has a basic, colourful display, game-like qualities, and must be used with earphones with built-in microphone.  See if this app supports your independent learning to become a better singer.

Art Break – FREE
Art Break. Draw, Relax and Get Things Done on the App Store Firefox, Today at 1.29.02 PM.png

Art Break: Draw, Relax and Get Things Done (Tarasov Mobile) gives you a unique set of tools (brushes) that motivate an exploration of your love (or lack of) for drawing on a tablet (available at Google Play) with or without a stylus.  Students love the brushes that augment your line as you draw – ribbon, shaded, fur, web.  If you remember the popular Spirograph set years ago and the excitement that it caused, the next set of brushes bring a new level of amazement for users of all ages.  Mirror ribbon, symmetry ribbon, and symmetry fur are worth a look.  There are in-app purchases to upgrade to Premium version and remove Art Break watermark from your drawings and the addition of more brushes for Premium users in next updates.

This photo is from a student’s first use of the app over 10 minutes.


你好 (Hello) GarageBand iOS Update

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!

3D Touch = Expressive Playing

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.

%d bloggers like this: