I love iPads for the music room! They’re the perfect size for little hands and great for enhancing and supporting instruction. The only first generation item I’ve ever bought from Apple, I knew the iPad was going to be a game-changer in my teaching and my students’ learning. Many grants later, I now have 15 iPad minis in my classroom with music apps for students in grades Kindergarten through Fifth Grade.
I’ve bought A LOT of apps over the years. The good, the bad, and the downright ugly! I’d love to share with you today my5 Favorite iPad Apps for Elementary Music.
Before I begin, I want to tell you that every app on our classroom iPads is carefully and purposefully chosen to support the learning that occurs in my classroom. Rarely do I have apps that are “just for fun.” The reality is, I have 40 minutes every 3 days for music instruction. I need to make sure every thing I do with and for children is growing them musically.
1) Garage Band – Everyone knows about Garage Band, right? But how are you using it with your students? The possibilities are endless! Songwriting, Composition projects, Video game background music projects, Ukulele strumming accompaniments, and Recorder practice loops. It seems like every time I think I’ve mastered the app, they add a new feature to it! Have you played with the new Special Fx tools yet? So much fun!
2) Rhythm Cat – This app is essential to my rhythmic notation instruction. Students read simple rhythms in real time with background music of different styles and tempi. As the students read the notation, they perform it by tapping a button on the screen. It’s great feedback to see who is really reading versus those who are still working towards mastery. As each level is achieved, new, more challenging rhythms are presented.
3) Tune Train – I love, love, love this app! It’s perfect for lower elementary students as they begin exploring and learning melodic direction and the function of harmony and style within music. There are 11 “levels” to choose from – each level a different song. Students choose to add people to their train at each stop but here’s the genius of the app. Each represents a different chord within a progression. At each stop, students choose 1 of 3 people with each person representing a different pitch within a triad! Students have to make musical choices in order to create their melodies. Once the student has completed their melody, they can select to hear it back using one of three different styles of music. They can also play it back seeing the notation in real time. If they hear their melody and want to make changes, they can edit their selections and re-route the path selecting different people at each stop. My only wish was that we could print a student’s final composition, otherwise it’s a great little app!
4) Monkey Drum – Monkey Drum is a simple app, but with great rewards. The concept is simple. There is a monkey with a drum but he doesn’t play rhythms for you – you must tap the rhythm for him first, then he REPEATS what you performed. I use this app with little ones with simple reading activities. Each group (we have a 2:1 ratio of iPads) gets a bundle of rhythm pattern cards. They must read them, then tap them on the iPad, listen to the monkey play them back and decide if they read/performed it correctly. But the real win was trying the app with my special education students! I’ve worked with special education students for many years – believing and knowing there is music inside of them, but unable to access it because of their physical limitations. Using this app, my special education students were able to communicate with me musically by the simple tap of a finger! And there are additional instruments available for the monkey to play!
5) Carnival of the Animals – There are so many things to love about this app! I use it as a extension activity for my Carnival of the Animal unit. What makes this app amazing is that each movement of the piece is performed by an ensemble (which students can watch) with simple, magical illustrations. (I don’t know that words can do this app justice.) For instance, if watching the Royal March of the Lion, you’ll see and hear the ensemble playing while an adorable little cartoon lion walks through the ensemble. It’s magical. Long after we’ve done our Carnival unit, my students choose to use this app during their music center time on the iPad. The same company recently released a Four Seasons app as well!
It’s so hard to narrow my list to just 5 Favorite Apps, but these are my must-haves for my classroom. What are your favorite, must-have apps for elementary music?