Music Teacher's Helper Blog

iPad for the music teacher

I have had my iPad since July 2010, and I love it! I have found it to be extremely useful in helping me manage my studio. Unlike a desktop computer or laptop, the unit turns on in a second; I can check my emails multiple times a day without wasting time waiting for machines to be turned on and off. The built in Calendar and Contact Apps are a dream to use! How did I ever live without them?! I still love the look and feel of a Moleskine date book, but the electronic calendar’s ability to quickly enter repeating events and finding open slots for trial lessons, rehearsals, and scheduling makeups, is simply unbeatable. I am still relatively new to the world of Apps, but the following two really stand out from the crowd:

  • iBooks: This is a free App. You can purchase and download just about any book that is published today. What makes this App so great for me is that I have found many music books available for FREE download. I am talking about books that are currently in print, many of which I actually bought from Dover Publications such as Piano Mastery by Harriette Brower and Great Pianists on Piano Playing by James Francis Cooke. I have found at least two dozen music related books that are FREE! Reading on iBooks is such a pleasure, too; you can change paper color, font, size, brightness, highlight, bookmark, write notes, there is even a built in dictionary. I don’t know how it is that these books are available for free download; I used to scoop them up whenever Dover has a sale. If you love to read, these books are such classics; the fact that they are now in electronic format is even better for quoting and blogging!
  • forScore: This is a paid App, but for $4.99, it really is the best thing since sliced bread! There are over 1300 pages of built in sheet music, you can scan your own PDF files (take your most favorite pieces on the go), and best of all, you can download from IMSLP – the free public domain music library – right from within the App! This means you can download a popular student piece, say Beethoven’s Fur Elise, right onto your iPad, view and play from the forScore App (page turning is just a simple tap of a finger) and email to your student! Of course, the student still needs a published, paid copy if they want to enter exams or auditions, but if they just want to learn the piece first, and you have not had a chance to get hold of a copy yet, this is such a time saver! The reality is, there is a lot of public domain music that is available for students to use for learning purposes, and this App makes it easy for me as a teacher to find it and send it to the student without having to print it out myself. The iPad sits so nicely flat on the music stand that playing from the App actually is easier than using some of those thick anthologies that never stay open!

Are you also an iPad lover? What is your favorite App? Do share in the comments below!

About the Author

Yiyi Ku
Yiyi Ku is a pianist and teacher. Born in Taiwan, she grew up in New Zealand and obtained her Master of Music degree with Distinction in Composition and Piano Performance from the University of Canterbury. Yiyi also holds a Licentiate in Piano Performance from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano from Music Teachers National As... [Read more]


  1. Hugh Sung

    Terrific article! I too find myself enjoying my iPad more and more as a collaborative pianist, particularly the forScore app for reading my sheet music. You might be interested to hear about a new pedal for the iPad that will allow you to turn pages hands free within apps like forScore and others. The pedal is called an AirTurn, and it works wirelessly (via Bluetooth) and silently. Tapping the pedal with your foot (I use my left foot) allows you to turn pages forwards and backwards while keeping your hands on your instrument and your eyes on the music. The Bluetooth AirTurn will be available in a few weeks, around mid-November.

    For more information on the Bluetooth AirTurn for iPad, please visit

  2. Valerie Kampmeier

    Thanks so much for the article, Yiyi. I’m very interested in using the iPad for reading music, but I heard that it’s not big enough to show the music at its normal size, unless you turn it sideways, and then you can only see half a page- is that your experience? How do you deal with that?

  3. Yiyiku

    Hugh: yes I have heard of the wonderful air turn and am a big admirer of your YouTube posts! I look forward to trying the air turn when it comes out!
    Valerie: It is true that if you turn it sideways, you can only see half a page, so you have to scroll the rest of the page up, but, for me, the normal orientation works just fine. I don’t find it too small. I find the App useful for when I want to brush up on old repertoire; I know the pieces from memory, but I may have forgotten a few notes here and there. Having all my favorite pieces in one App also means I do not have to waste time looking for them on my many book shelves; it is also easier for me to keep my studio tidy because I don’t have too many books scattered all around! But, if I am learning a brand new piece from scratch, I still prefer the printed Henle edition:)

  4. […] is my review of the Apple iPad on the Music Teachers Helper […]

  5. Joan James

    Great article. I am looking forward to getting an ipad soon. I am planning to justify the expense by downgrading from a ‘smart phone’ to a ‘dumb phone’. I hate paying $30 per month for data on my blackberry. The ipad will replace the data portion of my cellphone (among other things).

    The Apple/Verizon 3G plan is very flexible and encourages you to use less data and save money. I spent some time at the Apple store this weekend to get an understanding of how their 3G data plan works. I am planning to buy the model with 3G and 16GB flash drive. I don’t plan to watch movies on it because I don’t do this on my laptop so I don’t expect to do it on the ipad. Is 16GB enough for all the music applications discussed? The news about AirTurn helped me make my decision. I plan to keep the ipad on my piano music stand. I have two pianos in my studio and use one for the student and one for me. The ipad will be on the piano I use.

    Regarding the comment about the ipad not being professional in the studio – I totally disagree. However, if you are texting your friends during the lesson – yes, that is unprofessional! If you are checking your MTH schedule and making lesson notes, reconciling lessons – it is totally professional to use the ipad for this during or between lessons. Also, I won’t need a CD player in the studio anymore either. I will use the itunes function on the ipad. I heard that a blue tooth printer will be possible soon. And I can use my blue tooth keyboard with the ipad (although a smaller version is on my Christmas wish list.)

    The possibilities are endless! I have the MTH calendar on my Blackberry but it is not very useful when you get a phone call asking about your calendar!

  6. Joan James

    Here is an update to my last comment. I just noticed that Verizon is ‘unleashing’ the ipad Wi-Fi version with their mobile hotspot. Don’t be fooled by this offering! Ask alot of questions about their data plan and contract. The cellphone service providers want to lock you into a contract but the Apple data service does not have a contract. It is more or less pay as you go and will use WiFi network first before looking for a 3G network. You can use it once per year if you want. Verizon will use their mobile hotspot to access the 3G network (an additional device).

    The only advantage to the Verizon offering is for those who already purchased the ipad WiFi (no 3G) and are having regrets about not getting 3G. You can get a mobile hotspot to ‘add’ 3G to your ipad.

  7. Rachel Smith

    The Wifi-via-mobile-hotspot-option is an option for me because I already have wifi service with another company. If I use the hotspot then I can connect multiple devices (regular laptop, ipod touch) to my hotspot. If I only use the 3G on an iPad then I can only connect the 3G on an iPad. I am considering an iPad with 3G so I’d have the 3G option, in case I ever want to cease my current “deal” with my cellphone company, but it’s expensive to buy that option.

    For some people this is better. For others it’s not. Just thought I’d through that out there. 🙂

    I really, really want an iPad, but I’m trying to justify it! I’ve been eyeing a convertible-tablet laptop for awhile. I’d have more options for software on the tablet, but the iPad might be faster in some areas. Since I have a netbook it’s hard to justify paying for both!

  8. Yiyiku

    Joan: if you plan on using the iPad for storing much of your music library, then I would definitely recommend getting more memory. The Apple 3G data plan is great, because you can just ‘buy as you go’ without locking into a contract. If you are on the road a lot, then 3G is for you. If you plan on having your iPad sitting on your piano for the most part, then you may not need the 3G.

    Since I got the iPad, I have used my laptop less, and my desktop even less! The main things I am missing right now from the iPad are Sibelius music software, built in camera, and easy access to printer. I am waiting for a good music notation App to come out.

    If there are any App developers reading this, please come up with some good music Apps! There are a ton of photo and graphic Apps; I have yet to find another music App that is the same professional quality as forScore – I just can not say enough about the people that make that App! They keep making updates (free) to make the App better and better – your $4.99 investment is so worth it!

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