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Get the Beat: Making Music on Your Tablet

Tablet devices have changed the way in which we are able to teach music to our students. With a tablet, students are able to not only study music, but they are also able to create and mix it. Yet, we cannot just simply give a tablet to our students and say “Go.” (I tried this once, and my students just started to listen to Pandora and Spotify.) Instead, we need to consider the different types of music apps and how they can work together to create learning experiences. After working with these types of apps, I have some tips for fellow teachers.

  1. Consider the purpose of the music app. There are some music apps that play music for students, such as Classical Masterpieces, and others that provide definitions of musical terms, such as Music Term Free. While there are other apps that let students learn about musical groups, like Band Bio, or identify music, like Sound Hound. And other apps let students make music, Spotlight Drums; write songs, Songwriter’s Pad; and teach students to read music, Music Tutor. The main thing to keep in mind with the functionalities of all these apps is to understand their purpose(s) before using them. Matching an app’s purpose to how you want to use it in the classroom must be a first consideration when planning instruction.
  2. Let students enjoy the app and then introduce an assignment. There are so many quality apps for students to engage music in different ways that teachers may want to move students quickly from one app or activity to the next. Instead, we need to take our time and let students enjoy the apps they are using to its full potential. After students understand how the app works and what they can do with it, I recommend then guiding students into an assignment. This strategy of assigning work lets students build familiarity with the app first, which fosters student enjoyment with the app and the assignment.
  3. Create music and conduct research about music. It is natural to want students to memorize important information about music and then test them. However, musical apps can do so much more. For example, students can play musical instruments directly on their tablet using an app. That way, students can use an app to learn a musical principle or technique and then try it out right on their tablet. Plus, when ready, teachers can use their tablet to record students playing a musical instrument on an app. Teachers can follow-up this experience or precede it by having students research the principle that they had or will engage.

The key to using musical apps well is being creative with them. To do so, have students experience a musical phenomenon with one app and then have them try to replicate it using another app. Or, have students research a band and then critique their music using apps. I hope this blog has got you thinking about unique and creative ways to use apps… musically!