Wednesday, April 3, 2013

iPad for Music Classes - Overview

We are all waiting (impatiently) for the decision to be made regarding next years MLTI offerings.   The thought of changing technology completely with so little time to prepare is a bit frightening.  The iPad is looming as a very clear front-runner for selection, so while we wait, I decided to compile a list of what I have been using for the last year with my high school band.

Benefits of iPad:

  • Instant availability to free apps: tuners, metronomes, audio recorders, video recorders
  • Digital sharing and portfolio creation
  • Constantly in development -- people are ALWAYS writing and improving apps
  • Small, fits on music stand
  • Garageband -- the new format is AWESOME!

Disadvantages for a music teacher:

  • Garageband.  (Yes-- listed both as an advantage and a disadvantage.) The iPad version is nothing like the computer version.  Cool things can be done with it --  I LOVE using it.  But it is very different.  I think with exploration, the units you may have used with the computer version could be done, but in a different way.  
  • Lack of physical keyboard (for typing)
  • Flash -- any websites that required flash will most likely not work on the iPad. However, there are browsers that can handle flash.  And since this problem is NOT one that is going away, development is happening at a rapid pace for apps

What you are DYING TO KNOW.

Are there musical notation programs? 

iWriteMusic  is a simple notation tool. It is free, and very basic.  

NOTEFLIGHT can be used the Safari or Chrome apps on the browser, but it is still VERY glitchy.  There are many issues.  They are actively working on it though, so perhaps it will be a useable option by the time the devices are deployed.

-**** Edited -- Noteflight is much better now! They have really revamped their site to be tablet friendly.

Do kids get distracted and play games on them (or worse -- find a way around the firewall and access facebook)?
YES.  They do.  My experience has been with high school students who are incredibly savvy about knowing how to appear that they are on task, and knowing what apps to use to bypass our school filtering software.  
Does this present an overwhelming problem?  No. I use the iPads at the first part of class, and sometimes throughout class if we are recording and assessing some of the music, and after that, they place them under their chairs.   I also tell them that the transition between songs was not designed as an opportunity for them to check facebook.  They laugh and get back on task.

Best Tuner App:

InsTuner    --  LOADED with options.  Best part?  It can be transposed to the student's instrument key. Alto saxophones can see the note they are playing, instead of having to transpose quickly.

Even better?  FREE, and also works on iPod or iPhone.

***** Edited -- in the time since I have written this, the FREE version does not have all of the options, but it still my favorite free tuner and the one that I ask my students to download.

Here is a video where I explain this app to my students and the next app I mention. (Pro metronome)

Best Metronome App:
Pro Metronome  -- tap to set, change time signatures, click wheel to change from faster or slower

Fun Music Apps:
Music Studio Lite - the lite version has great piano keyboards to use,  and it is very fun to use.

Guitar!  - an EXCELLENT app!  A great alternative for my guitar class if students are sidelined from playing because of an injury.   The one thing that I love is that it requires touch both at the fret AND the string for notes which are not played on an open string, which mimics the actual playing of the guitar.

iRealB - Imagine every real book you ever owned combined with Jamey Abersold play-along cds and you have the iRealB app.  I use this every week with my jazz band practice.  It is a phenomenal tool, with a forum with helpful members who can help with questions, issues, or anything.  It is $9.99, and worth EVERY penny.  It is also available for Android platforms, though the two are separate purchases, of course, which is why I only have it on the iPad.

GarageBand - I mentioned earlier that the iPad version is not the same as the computer version.  The emphasis of the app is the creation of sound, rather than choosing already created loops.  BUT there are created loops available.  Simply make sure that you are looking at the track screen of the project, rather than the individual instrument, and the familiar "loops" loop icon appears.  If you click on the icon, a window appears where you can choose the instrument family, genre, or other descriptors.  The database is not as extensive as the computer version, but it is VERY useable!  (And I just found this feature TODAY while I was writing this post!!! Yay!!!!)
Okay--- besides finding the loops (hooray!), this app is amazing.  The smart piano, smart guitar, smart bass and smart drums make putting together a quality project a breeze.  It is a very different process, and I am still learning things every day.  But the more I use it, the more I love it.

An article about the 10 best piano apps!

Coming up--  using the iPad for assessment and portfolio building.

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