The Best iPad Apps For Use In Music Education


This article could actually serve two very different functions. One would be to talk about the best iPad apps for teachers to use to help them teach in a music classroom. The other  topic could be what the best apps are for students to have on their iPads in a music classroom.

Since I am writing this from a band/choir Director’s point of view, and I am the only one using the iPad in my classroom, I will focus on that situation. I think this a very realistic situation as many schools and teachers are just starting to explore how iPads can best benefit them and their students.

I use my iPad every day while teaching my bands. The apps that I find myself constantly using the most are the ones that fit into the category of music reading. That is, PDF readers that have been developed with the musician in mind.

There are many great apps out there that deal with PDFs, but there are three that stick out as great apps to use when reading music.

unrealBook is from developer Aron Nelson. This app is developed by a musician with the idea of replacing all those bulky, heavy binders with an iPad. This is actually the main reason I bought an iPad. I scan all my music and turn them into PDF files before loading them onto my iPad. I can then quickly find any song at any page and jump around much easier than with a paper version.

unrealBook allows me to create lists of music for any given class, concert or practice session. These lists are quickly changeable. I can annotate on these PDFs, just as a musician would with a pencil on paper music.

Being able to use multiple colors, highlighters and then easily change that later is also a benefit. I can also take the annotated PDF file and email it to others, or save it to my computer for use the next time I play this music.

unreal Book allows me to quickly make hotspots for spots where I have repeats, D.S.s or have to jump to a coda. I can also, from within unrealBook, play a song from my iTunes library or turn on a metronome. There is also a pitch pipe feature and a recorder built into the app which allows me to quickly record a practice.

The next app that also has many of the same functions as unrealBook, is ForScore. This has a look that is a little more polished than the previous app.

Many of the same features exist in both apps and include integration with DropBox. DropBox provides a much quicker and easier method of getting music into these apps rather than having to work through the iTunes interface. ForScore also has half-page turns. This allows you to be looking at the bottom part of a sheet of music, tap the iPad and the top half of the page turns, revealing the top part of the next page but allowing you to see the bottom of the first page. Try doing that with real paper!

Turn your iPad on its side and the music becomes larger. ForScore handles PDFs in landscape orientation better than unrealBook and, whereas unrealBook has the pitch-pipe feature, ForScore has a built-in keyboard. ForScore allows you to enter more meta-data for each score such as composer, genre, rating, difficulty or keywords. This allows greater flexibility when searching for a specific file.

Once you start loading music onto your iPad, it will be hard to go back. This means that a thousand songs later, you will need a better way to look for that specific song!

One more PDF sheet music viewer to mention is DeepDish’s GigBook. GigBook is again an app written by musicians and music educators for musicians. GigBook was updated recently and has really improved several of its capabilities.

Annotation is now a wonderful part of the app and easy to access. Another area that just improved and puts GigBook a step ahead, is the way in which the emailing of information from the app to other people has been implemented.

All three apps mentioned allow you to email scores and set-list information to others, but GigBook really has this down pat. You can email one score, information about one score or an entire set-list at once. There are options built into this that allows you to even draw in a set-up diagram and include meta-data from the scores. The app will even mail the entire set-list as one PDF file. If you go to their website, you can get a good feeling for how this works.

The best part of all these apps is the price. You could buy all three of them and each app is only $4.99. Another great part of each of these apps is that the people developing them are all very open to suggestions for improvements and recommendations for future features. In fact, many of the features now included are there because they were requested by the very musicians using them.

While we are discussing music notation on the iPad, I have to mention that MakeMusic, the makers of Finale, and Avid and the makers of Sibelius, have started to develop iPad apps as well. If you use either one of these music notation programs, you should also be using the iPad app that goes with it.

Avid was the first out the door with AvidScorch for iPad. At first, I was not excited when I heard the name of the app, as I had used Scorch for the internet before. However, after actually using Avid Scorch for the iPad I became a believer. With Avid Scorch, I can load a file I have created on Sibelius and, on my iPad, it becomes very useful.

I can play the file, look at each individual part, transpose the file, play along with a metronome and even change some of the ways in which it appears. Avid is also developing a music store you can access through the iPad app.

The Finale app is not out yet but you can see it in action at the Finale Blog at:!.aspx.

MakeMusic has another iPad app that goes with their SmartMusic program. If you use SmartMusic and have an iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad or even an Android device, you need to get the SmartMusic Inbox app which is free. More info is here:

All musicians are trying to learn music by ear at some point in time. It turns out that with the help of an iPad app, this can be a much easier task. Capo and AnyTune both take music from your iOS device and slow it down. They also make it very easy to loop sections, allowing for the repetition needed to learn music by ear. These apps are some of the higher-priced apps that I have bought.

Of course, a musician’s toolbox has to have a good metronome and a great tuner in it as well. FrozenApe’s app, Tempo, is $1.99 and offers an astounding number of ways to get just the right beat going.

Metronome+ is another metronome that lets you dial in the tempo you want by beats per minute and even tempo markings.

ClearTune is a chromatic tuner that works great for any instrument:

If you like strobe tuners, then Peterson Tuners has iStroboSoft for you.

For all of you who have forgotten all those fingerings for your secondary instruments, you should reach for an app like MusicInReach’s Instruments: for $1.99 or for $9.99 you can get Patrick Q.

Kelly’s Fingerings app that has all the fingerings for woodwind and brass instruments you would ever want, including trills. Patrick’s web site:, has other apps you may want to check out as well if you are a vocal teacher or teach strings.

As an educator using my iPad every day in class, there are several other apps that I find indispensable but are not music apps. One of the most exciting of this sort of app is AirSketch. If you are teaching with an iPad in a classroom with a projector you need this app. The best way to describe why, is by way of the comment my principal made after I showed her the way AirSketch worked.

Her comment, made in awe, was, “Why would I ever buy another SmartBoard?” In response, I showed her one more worksheet, displayed on my projector, that I had worked on with students in class. With my iPad in hand, I was able to wander around the room and write on the worksheet while it was being projected wirelessly.

Another app that I use daily is a database app to keep track of my music library, instrument inventory and locker information. There are two that are outstanding apps for this, both from FileMaker. If you are a beginning database user, then Bento is for you. If you want to dive in and build more detailed databases that work hand-in-hand with the top selling desktop software, then FileMaker Go is for you.

Of course this article does not even begin to touch on music creation apps like GarageBand, SampleWiz, Morphwiz, Seline, ThumbJam, SoundTank and GeoSynth. Also not discussed here are the Office type of apps like Pages, Numbers and Keynote or CloudOn. The apps mentioned in this article are some of the best that I use on a daily basis


Husband to a beautiful wife and father to six wonderful kids, Paul currently resides in Farwell, MI where he is teaching band and music technology
to those in the 5th to 12th grades at Farwell Area Schools.

Paul has a Bachelors Degree in Music Education from Spring Arbor College, a Masters Degree in Education Technology from The University of Southern Queensland and has done other graduate studies at Central Michigan University and Vandercook College of Music. He is always finding new ways to integrate technology into music education as well as his own music creation. Paul loves using Apple products as well as kayaking every chance he gets.

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Education Technology Solutions
Education Technology Solutions has been created to inspire and encourage the use of technology in education. Through its content, Education Technology Solutions seeks to showcase cutting edge products and practices with a view to expanding the boundaries and raising the standards of education curricula. It introduces teachers and IT staff to the latest products, services and developments in education technology with a view to providing practical how-to guidance designed to facilitate the integration of those products and services into the school environment in the most productive and beneficial manner possible.

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