iPads in Music Composition

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    Has anyone been using iPads, iPods, or any other devices to help teach music composition? I’ve read about some upcoming apps that might assist with creating/writing music (http://musiced21.blogspot.com/2013/01/up-and-coming-music-notator-for-ipad.html). What success have you had? How have you approached lessons with your students? I would like to start a class on composition and I’m curious about how to start my planning.



    Hello JMay:

    i use my I-Phone constantly in both general Music classes, as well as on the secondary level.
    My students are currently working on a Music Concrete’ Project that involves recording external ‘sounds’ besides the classroom synthesizers. It is a Cage/Ives idea.
    One inexpensive app is called ‘Multitrack’ – it is a 4 track open air recorder capable of recording the tracks individually. The sessions can be saved to its’ own library storage system for later use or editing. .

    I also have almost 3.000 musical examples on the I-Phone ready to go in organized Playlists. I like to crank them through the classroom PA System, sometimes nice and loud…

    You can also download SFX apps, etc. for free which are great for Soundscapes, etc.

    Pete Hansen, 5 Towns College, Island Trees Public Schools, New York


    Hi, JMay (and Pete!),

    I have done only a bit of exploration of using iOS devices for teaching music composition. I’d like to give it more emphasis in the undergraduate music technology course I teach. As you can see from Pete’s response above, there are many more teachers far more knowledgable than I—here are a few whose work I’ve been looking at:

    Brant Schneider (http://brandtschneider.blogspot.com/) and I have never met, but I’ve learned from reading about his applications of iPads in a variety of music classes.

    Clint Randles (http://www.clintrandles.com) is a faculty member at University of South Florida who plays in a faculty and graduate student iPad ensemble called “Touch.” Their performances include original compositions.

    Bill Bauer (http://www.billbauer.net) is a faculty member at Case Western Reserve University who has some helpful handouts on his website you might want to check out.

    Scott Watson (http://www.enter.net/~ascott/) has written a wonderful book about music technology and creativity (http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Music/MusicEducation/?view=usa&ci=9780199742776) that includes lesson plans that might help you think about developing projects for your own classroom.

    I hope you find this list helpful—and hope others will chime in and share resources!


    Hi jmay-
    I do a lot of composition with my 5th and 6th graders. I’ve started a curriculum with them called the Young Composers & Improvisors Workshop. You can read about what we do and see some online composition lessons that explain some of the techniques I use:


    You can also hear my student’s pieces on iTunes here:


    I do a lot with Noteflight (which can also be used on the iPad now) but there a few key apps that i’ve found to be really helpful.
    Check these out:

    inHarmony (great for teaching how melody relates to harmony)
    Playpad (This is allows to kid to literally “play” the staff)
    Mapping Tonal Harmony

    Let me know if you have any questions


    Hi, JMay,

    Dr. Patricia Riley (University of Vermont; patricia.riley@uvm.edu) attempted to reply to your question, but encountered some difficulties with this site. She sent me the following message and asked me to post it for you; I hope it’s helpful!

    Hello jmay – This past week I presented a session at the Technology Institute for Music Educators (TI:ME) National Conference about a composition that my undergraduate music education majors with a concentration in music composition created specifically for iPad performance. My presentation included perspectives and reactions of the composers, performers, and audience members regarding the composition’s creation and performance. The composition was created for and performed using the GarageBand apps instruments (keyboard, bass, guitar, and drum set). Although all of the different types of participants said that creating/performing/listening to the composition was “fun,” there were also some challenges and drawbacks – including that multiple octaves couldn’t be accessed on the keyboard without scrolling, and also the keyboard’s smaller keyboard size was problematic. In general, performing on the iPad’s touchscreen was also somewhat difficult, and the timbres of the guitars and drum set were not as good quality as traditional instruments. So – these are some things to keep in mind as you move forward. I hope this helps – Pat

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