Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Apps for Your Digital Toolbox



It’s amazing how much can change in a year. I just returned home from the 2015 Music Teachers National Association conference in Las Vegas. When I asked a roomful of teachers to raise their hands if they owned an iPad (yes, I’m partial to Apple products), there was a forest of proud hands. I’m not sure that would have been the case last year. It seems more and more music teachers are favoring the user-friendly device and realizing that apps can truly enhance their teaching. As the app world can be overwhelming,  it’s good to start with those that are recommended by others. That’s how I developed this list below. These are just a few of the many that I integrate regularly into my teaching. I’ve listed only two or three per category and omitted some favorites to keep the list reasonable. To view a more thorough directory of apps for your digital tool box, click here. Links are included but prices are not as they fluctuate frequently. I’ve included a brief sentence on how I use each one or links to posts with further explanation. If the app is available for other operating systems, I’ve indicated that with an asterik.*


  • AnyTune – slow down ANY tune in your iTunes library. Tap here to learn more about how to use this with students who play by ear.
  • iReal Pro – a lead sheet generator and backup band. Tap here to learn how I use this to encourage improvisation.*
  • Notion – a notation tool for composers of all ages. I used this last spring with elementary and high school students in a studio-wide composition unit and it worked well.

Early Theory and Ear Training

  • Bubble Tones – a simply designed app that trains pitch discernment.
  • Decide Now – a versatile and virtual decision maker for improvisation, trivia quizzes and more. Tap here to learn more about how to review music terms with the app by playing a round or two of Piano Charades.*
  • The Most Addicting Sheep Game – a steady beat builder disguised in an addicting game. Although this one borders on nonsense, it’s worth consideration as a teaching tool for a steady pulse AND it is addicting. Perfect for those students who need a brain break during a tough lesson.*

Advanced Theory and Ear Training

  • Better Ears – includes chord progression ear training which is a rare find and is customizable to suit your needs.*
  • Octavian Basics – a visual reference for understanding theory concepts on or off the bench. Tap here to learn how I encourage students to use this when completing theory.
  • Tenuto  – this should be a required app for all music students. It is basic yet comprehensive, drilling concepts and training the ear. Tap here to learn more about it.


  • My First Classical Music App – similar to an interactive comic-book, this app provides a broad overview of music style periods and famous composer. Read more about how I correlated material from this app with YouTube videos here.*
  • Interactive Listening – a perfect, interactive resource for advancing students looking to learn more about the history of music making.


  • FlashNote Derby – THE go-to app for note reading as you can easily isolate specific pitches. Young learners love the horse races AND the reindeer races during the holiday season. Tap here to read my review.*
  • ForScore – most musicians turn to forScore as THE score reader for tablets. Tap here to learn more about my four favorite features of forScore.
  • Piano Maestro – this is THE app for building sight-reading as it offers feedback and fun–two crucial components to encourage early sight readers.


  • Practice+ – I default to this metronome more and more as it records students playing with the steady tick. Listening to the recording offers instant feedback on how accurately they are aligning themselves with the pulse. Recordings can be emailed to students as well.
  • Rhythm Lab – the app provides oodles of rhythmic exercises with increasing complexity. You can even create worksheets with Rhythm Lab and print them or use them with the Notability app mentioned below.
  • SuperMetronomeGrooveBox – need something more spicey than the typical metronome app to tighten up a pulse? This is it. I recommend the free version to students as a terrific groove-builder for pop songs OR sonatinas.*


  • Camera – come’s free with your iPad, take full advantage of this terrific tool! iMovie – this app allows rookie movie producers (like myself) to easily create pretty fine-looking videos.
  • YouTube – if you make movies you’ll need to upload them somewhere and YouTube makes it easy.  In addition, this is the best place for students to listen to others, develop a discerning ear and inspiration to keep practicing.


  • Dropbox – cloud-based storage is essential and Dropbox is the most iPad-friendly for sharing documents and images between devices. Tap here to learn more.*
  • Evernote – a warehouse to store all types of media–PDF’s, photos, web clippings and more. Check out how I use Evernote when collecting online worksheets in this video.*
  • Notability – annotate any Pdf and organize them with ease. Tap here to learn more.


  • HanonPlus – yes, Hanon on the iPad! It’s “sister” app called SightRead Plus provides thousands of sight reading exercises within five-finger patterns.
  • iReal Pro  see more info above in Creativity. Bradley Sowash and I use this regularly at our 88 Creative Keys Camp to accompany technique exercises.*

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