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I <3 my iPad

By Cathy Smetana Smetana.Cathy@MacPhail.org

Yes, it’s true.  I LOVE my iPad.

OK, it isn’t really mine—it’s MacPhail’s, and they are letting me use it as part of a school-wide technology initiative.  I got my hands on it right before Christmas, and have hardly set it down since then.  Here is a brief description of my current top ten favorite apps.

10) MetroTimer

I don’t get too excited about virtual metronomes, but I do like being able to tap on the screen and have the metronome speed appear; it makes setting practice guidelines for students so easy!

9) Ear Worthy

This is an intensive ear training app.  I personally would get more use of it if it were a game, but adult and “serious” students will appreciate the professional lay-out.  There is a free version and a paid version which allows more customization. You can practice identifying individual notes, intervals, scales, and chords.  It’s a great resource for aural exam preparations!

8) iMprov-Fundamentals

I haven’t had time to explore this app as thoroughly as I’d like, but I can tell it has huge potential.  The app includes a series of 7 lessons which cover the major scale, intervals, and various chord progressions.  Additionally, it includes information about different types of chords and some ear training exercises.  Finally (and most exciting to me) it includes 4 “JAM-A-longs” - pre-recorded chord progression loops to improvise with.  Both tempo and key can be changed for each “JAM-A-long.”  I can’t wait until summer, when I hope to have time to work through this app myself!

There are other titles in this series as well which I have not yet downloaded, including iMprov-Modal, which also look promising.

7) Piano Bird

While this is not my favorite note reading app, its free version is much more complete than some free note reading apps that I have found, which makes it a good option for some students.

6) Music Tutor

Another note reading app, ideal for older students as it is not “cartoony.”  The free version allows one to choose treble, bass, or treble and bass clefs; to select 1, 5, or 10 minutes of play; and to choose to hear (or not to hear) the note in question.

5) Class Dojo

Admittedly, this is another app I have not yet had time to explore thoroughly, but I plan to use it with my group piano classes next year.  This app uses a point system to motivate students.  Teachers can completely customize the settings so you can reward your students for specific behaviors tailored to your teaching situation.  Students can log on online and choose their own personal avatar.  Automatic emails can be sent to parents showing them how their child is performing in class.  This clever, fun program makes it very easy to track attendance, preparation, class behavior, etc.—and communicate this information automatically with parents.

4) Evernote

This program has really become indispensible to me.  I now do all assignment sheets, meeting agendas, etc. in Evernote, and use it from my iPad, iPod Touch, home computer, AND work computer without any problems.

The free version would work very well for smaller studios, but I pay for Evernote Premium to increase my monthly storage quota.  Whenever I’m on wifi, I have access to every assignment sheet and every meeting agenda, and I can choose to have access to folders offline as well.  I can create an assignment sheet on Monday night before I leave work, and update it offsite from my iPad the next day.

Each student has their own electronic notebook, where I put their weekly assignments, studio calendars, etc.  I can record audio or video of students playing and attach them directly to that week’s assignment sheet.  I can insert links to YouTube clips right next to the song title, so students learning the “New World Symphony Theme” can click the link and watch a good orchestra performing the piece.  I can insert links to the exact books I want a family to purchase so there’s no confusion.  It’s fabulous!

The one downside to this program is that parents do have to download the program and access it, which has proved to be a challenge.  But, it’s just as easy to print an assignment from Evernote as it is from MS Word, so if I find a family can’t get into the swing of this new way of doing things, I simply print out their assignment and put it in their 3-ring binder.  I hope over time parents will adjust because I think it’s a perfect way to increase their involvement in their child’s lessons, which is an on-going goal of mine.

3) Rhythm Cat Pro

There is a free version of this app as well, but I like it so much I sprang for the “pro” version.  My kids just love this game.  It is a great way to get kids to practice rhythm and, if they’ve passed the level, I know they did it correctly!

2) Garage Band

I love this app.  The very first day I got “my” iPad I stayed up until 1:30 a.m. creating a background track for “Let it Be” by the Beatles, which I use to teach chords all the time.  My backing track includes percussion, acoustic guitar, bass, and keyboards.  It’s way more fun than playing with the metronome, and easier than playing along with the recording because the tempo can be adjusted.  The “Smart” instruments are so much fun to play around with; I can’t play guitar, drums, or strings, but with “SmartGuitar” I can lay down a basic chord progression that sounds great.  I also used the normal keyboard setting to manually play and record duets and ensemble pieces (the mp3’s got attached to their Evernote assignments!).  Students could hear the entire 4-part piece and play along, making it much easier to put the parts together in class.

And, drumroll please . . .

1) Noteworks

There is a free version of this app, but go for the full version.  It is simply the cutest, most customizable note reading app I have found.  My favorite feature is that you can create a user name and profile for each student, so the app automatically remembers exactly which level each student is working on.  It’s a winner!

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Thanks for telling me about the web page option - I didn't know that! I'm not sure it would solve the root issue though (lack of parental involvement in lessons and home practice). A parent who is willing to bookmark and check a web page would probably be willing to download a free program, though maybe the web page option is easier enough to make a difference. I will have to try and see!

Great article and excellent recommendations, Cathy!

One clarification: students and parents CAN access Evernote notes without downloading the program by viewing the notebook through a web browser. The notebook can be bookmarked just like a web page. However, functionality and appearance are much better if they download the program.

Again, great post!