Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Apps I Use at Every Lesson

Call me a softie, a push-over, perhaps even an app junkie, but I just can’t help accumulating apps. However, I don’t just collect them. I like to organize them and upon purchasing, I am intentional about how I use them in my music studio. Recently, I’ve discovered four I can’t live, or more accurately, teach, without.  Disclaimer: I use many more apps in every lesson, the ones listed below directly assist me with taking care of business.


Evernote Compatible with  iOS Android Blackberry Windows Phone WebOS (via App Catalog), Mac OS XWindows Windows 8 Safari Chrome Firefox

From recent encounters with other tech-savvy peeps, it appears that this app is a favorite as users can sync content and access it from any device. To be honest, I’m just getting my feet wet with this one as sometimes huge applications such as this one (which really want you to upgrade and pay for it) can intimidate me. I tend to prefer apps that offer a specific function, at a set price that allow me to use them even with my limited but growing app-intuition capacity.

That being said, I am thrilled to now use Evernote for more than just my to-do lists! In an effort to streamline my lesson notes (I’m really too embarassed to describe how much time I was taking to write these notes but my recent change in my lesson-note approach has made me incredibly happy) here’s what I’ve discovered so far:

  • Make a Notebook and title it with the last name of every student family
  • Within one Notebook, add a Note and label it with the student’s first name
  • Create a Lesson Note Template (mine is similar to the sample below)
  • Copy this lesson template to all Notebooks and change the names for each student.

All lesson notes are typed on my computer (my other iDevices are too busy being used by students during lab time) DURING the lesson. Upon completion, they are copied and pasted into when reconciling the lessons. Unfortunately, when copying and pasting this template into the, the formatting disappears (lines and bold font). However, I use these as they help me keep the notes organized as I type them during the lesson.



Hello, Favorite Student.

NEWS FLASH:  Here is where I place any studio announcements or instructions on how to earn music money, etc.


LAB TIME: This is where I write a brief description of what was assigned during the lab time


APPS: Since I use apps (on the iPad) at every lesson and since many students ask about them, I always include the app names  for the sake of the parents.



  1. Be Creative:
  2. Exercises:
  3. Lesson Book:
  4. Project Piece
  5. More…



What does Learn mean? Be able to play an assigned section counting aloud and 0-2 errors.

What is HA and HTHands alone and hands together.

What does Master mean? Be able to play the assigned section with confidence with zero errors the first time.



  • 5 = WOW = exceeded MY highest expectations, all goals were met and then some
  • 4 = EXCELLENT = all goals were met and progress made by consistent practice
  • 3 = NICE = most goals were met but some were not, due to lack of time, goals stated unclearly, goals set were too difficult to meet…
  • 2 = OK = some goals were met, but practice between lessons was not sufficient for much progress
  • 1 = HO HUM = looks like last weeks goals will be repeated as little or no practice occurred and little progress made


PROGRESS SCORE: Parents love looking for this score so I place it at the end so they need to read through all the notes.


See you next week!

Ms Leila



Besides creating notebooks, and notes, I’m a fan (so far) of these features:

1) Tags: at the top of each note, I can add Tags. So, if someone needs a new book for next week or if I need to search for something on YouTube or iTunes or purchase a book for someone, I add a tag at the top of the lesson note with one of these names: 

  • Borrow
  • Charge
  • iTunes
  • Purchase
  • Youtube 

Thanks to Natalie Wickham at MusicMatters Blog for terrific tag ideas!

2) Mic: While working with an adult student who was learning and arranging  a piece by ear, he liked the way I played a portion of the piece. I had his note open on Evernote on my iPad, so I tapped on the mic icon and recorded what I played. I emailed the lesson note to him with the recording (straight from Evernote) which he opened up on his iPad. With his quick listening skills, he  had the portion learned by ear by the next lesson. 

3) Web Clipper: As I access pdf theory worksheets from various websites, I am now storing them in Evernote and group them in Notebooks according to concepts, ie: Intervals, Rhythm, Key Signatures, etc. Then if I need to find one quickly for a student who needs review in a certain area, I can copy the pdf to their notebook. From there I can either print it off or have them complete it on Notability, my favorite app for annotating pdfs. Read more about Notability in my blog at


Turbo Scan Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later and optimized for iPhone 5.

Thanks to a post written by Jennifer Foxx, I can no longer give students music to purchase or borrow until I get out my iPhone and “TurboScan” it. This app turns my iPhone into a multi-page scanner for documents, receipts, notes, whatever. . . After taking a picture of the music book title, I can crop the scan, add a student name and the price of the book. When I get time after lessons, I enter the book to be purchased or borrowed in my account and only then delete the picture.  You can also use a feature called “Email to myself” which sends documents to the appropriate email. It will also upload them to online storage sites like Evernote, with a single tap. I haven’t done this yet, but you could then transfer the scan to the appropriate notebook in Evernote.


 Square Register Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later, optimized for iPhone 5, Android 2.2 and up.

The next time a family is late with a payment and claims they’ll bring it next time because they forgot the checkbook, you can happily say: “I accept credit cards!” Simply download the app, and a free Card Reader will be mailed to you. Once you link your bank account, you plug in the card reader to your phone or iPad and begin swiping.  A great addition to any studio “store front”! Although it is a free app, there is a charge %2.75 per swipe. Visa, American Express, MasterCard and Discover are accepted and there are no monthly fees or merchant contracts. Within 1-2 days, payments are deposited into your bank account. Just make sure to record the payment into your account.


Music Teachers Helper (app) Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later, Android, Blackberry.

The app is still limited compared to the web application, however, it provides pertinent information a finger tip away. I use this the most when parents stroll in with their credit card, ready (and willing) to pay tuition but can’t remember what they owe. Invoices are available on the app so this, combined with a Square, allows my studio store front to take credit card payments with little effort. Furthermore, when I need to check my schedule on the go, it’s easily accessible.


What apps allow you to take care of business?


About the Author


  1. Anna Fagan

    Hi Leila!
    I love your lesson template, and will probably steal it! 🙂 A question — do you print the “lesson note” and give it to the student (so they will hopefully refer to it as they practice) — or e-mail it through Evernote and/or MTH? Currently — I type my lesson assignment into Microsoft Word (I keep a folder for each student), printing a copy each week for the student to take home. Later that day, I go into MTH and just type a sentence or two to the student & their parents, and a few notes to myself.
    Thanks for your great suggestions!

  2. Leila Viss

    Hi Anna,
    Feel free to “steal” the template, that’s why I shared it 🙂
    I typed the notes in Evernote the first week. I tried sending them straight from Evernote, however, the “free” version allows only so many emails within a certain time period and I wanted the lesson notes recorded in my MTH history as I’ve done in the past. So, now I copy and paste the notes to MTH when reconciling lessons . I do not print them out for the students and encourage them to read the notes on their smart phones, iPads while some parents still print them. It does make them accountable to looking for their assignment–I now only supply a practice chart where they must mark off how many times they practice.
    Always good to here how others do things–thanks for sharing!

  3. Leia

    I love to read about the way you use apps, and I’m glad I’m not the only tech junkie teacher! I’ve been using Evernote for years (never upgraded to Premium though) and only recently started using it for music. I have notebooks for recipes and other miscellaneous stuff, as well as one where I store my music teaching ideas. I just love being able to type in teaching ideas on my computer and then see them on my iPad during a lesson. One question: how do you manage to type lesson notes onto your computer while teaching; that is, where do you put your laptop? I always struggle with trying to remember what we did in each class and what homework I’ve assigned because I normally don’t have time to type up lesson notes till the end of the day. I’ve tried handwriting them but that’s a bit too slow, and of course the iPad is constantly in use so that’s not helpful either. I like the idea of using my computer, but I’m just not sure where to *put* it while I’m at the piano!

    Also, I love that your students call you Ms Leila. I’ve really been trying to push Ms Leia onto my students, but the culture here is such that every teacher is referred to as “ma’am.” I *hate* being called “ma’am,” it makes me feel so old! I think I’ll borrow your idea and start signing my notes Ms Leia, maybe that will help them remember 😉

    I had never heard of Turbo Scan but it looks very useful; same with Square! I had heard of an app that could scan credit cards but never managed to find it, so I’ll definitely be downloading this.

    And lastly, while I wish the MTH app was as great as the website (wouldn’t it be useful to see the monthly calendar at a glance when you’re out and about so that when a potential student asks you which slots you have available you can tell them immediately?), I do use it sometimes. It can be useful for lesson notes as well (especially if you’ve typed them in somewhere else and just need to copy and paste).

    Another wonderful and informative blog post; thank you, Leila!

  4. Stephanie

    These tips are FANTASTIC! I downloaded the Turbo Scan. I use paypal online and haven’t had any problems with late payments. Does the other person need evernote also? I use SoundCloud for recording audio’s and sending them.

  5. Leila Viss

    Thanks Stephanie–yes, Sound Cloud is one my list to utilize more. I know this is a terrific tool, thanks for reminding me! Most of my payments are made through Paypal or check, however, the Square is handy to have on hand and it’s free until you make a swipe. And lastly, no, the other person does not need Evernote to receive emails from you. However, you can sync notebooks with others–something to explore in the future.

  6. Lori Burleson

    I accessed this post from your link via Facebook on my phone yesterday and didn’t get a chance to read it in its entirety. Then it when I was ready to read it last night I couldn’t find it because I couldn’t remember where I saw it or even who wrote it. At 12:30 a.m. I finally came across it again deep in my FB feed. So glad I didn’t give up because your ideas are always so useful!! I’m going to use the Lesson Note template too. I’m a “techie” and am enjoying bringing all the great resources you and others on the web are introducing to us “not so creative” teachers out there. I love how you not only introduce an idea but tell us exactly how you use it. Thank you!!

  7. Leila Viss

    Thank your for you efforts to find this blog and find something to enhance your teaching. Yes, I type lesson notes at my computer placed on my studio table. I move up and down a great deal in a lesson.
    You all raise some good questions which I will keep in mind for another post…

  8. Austin

    Can’t function without the smart drums on GarageBand or The Amazing slow downer

  9. Leila Viss

    Those sound like must haves, Austin. I use Anytune and iReal b just about every day. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Kerri Green

    Leila, you are my go-to app source! I finally got an iPad for Christmas and have been so grateful for all of your ideas. I’m an Evernote junkie, but I love your ideas on how to implement even more great teaching ideas in it. And your idea about scanning in borrowed music? Brilliant.

  11. Leila Viss

    Hey Kerri,
    Oh my, how exciting to get that iPad–congrats! I find myself wanting yet another–watch out!

  12. Yvette Lee

    Good morning from west Georgia,
    I just had to send a note saying how much I enjoy your blogs. I want to teach piano lessons and I’m in the process of getting started. Do you have any suggestions for beginning teachers? I haven’t been to college, or have a degree in music, but I was classically trained as a child, I can play by ear and I’ve been a church musician for the last 20 years. I’ve admired piano teachers for years and always wanted to become one. Since I’ve become unemployed, I thought this year would be good as any to test the waters and if it works, this could be the career I’ve been looking for. So any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks and keep up the great posts 🙂

  13. Leila Viss

    Hi Yvette,
    Thank you for your kind words. I’m so glad you find my posts helpful. I believe you are already finding terrific sources for becoming a wonderful teacher: blogs. As much as possible, surround yourself with forward-thinking, positive mentors. Trust your instincts–they must be strong because although teaching piano is enjoyable and rewarding, it is not easy. Asking others for help is key. I along with others are here to share our experience. Take advantage of it!

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