My Favourite Tech Tools
Year on year, the list of innovative devices, apps and software designed for music education grows longer. These tools can be used to enhance efficiency, engagement and provide opportunities in the classroom. We spoke to several educators about what their preferred “tech tools” are, and why.
Dean Hilson - St Catherine’s School - Korowa Anglican Girls Grammar (VIC)
InTune (app – iOS)
InTune is a wonderfully simple game of pitch discernment … Is the second pitch higher or lower than the first? Simply swipe up or down. This is the perfect game for training yourself or your students in how to discern finer and finer degrees of “in tune-ness”.
The game starts off quite easy, but with every correct answer, the interval diminishes – ultimately to 1 per cent of a semitone. (I am yet to achieve the feat of discerning this!) Generally, by the point that players start losing their three “lives”, they are concentrating intently; it really does suck you in! I have observed, on many occasions, students and colleagues alike beating their own “personal best” scores on each subsequent playing of the game.
ReadRhythm (app – iOS)
ReadRhythm is a rhythm sight reading trainer app that has to be one of the most engaging and addictive bits of tech I have ever used. It has graduated levels from beginner to professional, so you can improve at your own pace. As an educator, I have found it to be broadly true that rhythmic recognition is a weak spot with most students, and ReadRhythm is a great way to address this.
The app operates in two modes: “practice” mode (where you listen or tap along while a notated rhythm is played) and “test” mode (where you hear the metronome and must read and tap/play/clap the rhythm). Your accuracy is instantly displayed visually below the notation.
ReadRhythm has over 70 levels that cover multiple time signatures, note values and groupings, ties, tuplets, syncopation, swing and everything right up to “violation of the imaginary barline rule”. (Yikes!) As musicians, one area we can always improve is our sight reading, and this is just the app to help you with that!
Scott Mangos - Mount Clear College (VIC)
iPad (tablet) and Apple Pencil (stylus)
During remote learning, I was struggling to find a way of easily writing notes and music symbols for my students to see, so I started adding my iPad as an extra user to my meetings – and from there things have blossomed. Since being back in the physical classroom I’ve continued to use my iPad to push the image up to the screen in my room. It allows me to prepare work before the lesson and then annotate it easily; or I can take a shot of the theory exercise we are working on and students are able to see my thinking and how I work the exercise out in real time.
While these are an added expense, the ability to screen-record my music handwriting and/or push it up to a screen has been invaluable.
Filmora, iMovie, Adobe Suite (software)
During 2020–21, the benefits that students experienced through filming their performances have been huge and this is something that we will continue to embrace. With some upskilling on my part, the students’ performances have come out looking great. There are many film-editing software options, but personally I use Filmora. For a $100 one-off fee, this has all the effects and titles that I need, and allows me to have multiple angles on the screen easily (think virtual ensembles).
As well as filming performances, I have used Filmora to create engaging content that allows me to “flip my classroom” and prepare a video with instructions/tips/tutorials so that my students are able to have more independence in their learning, rather than relying on me as the teacher and holder of all knowledge.
Yes, you could just film on your phone or screen-share your laptop, but by using an editor – just like jazzing up a handout with images and engaging visuals – your video can take the dreary and make it engaging.
Carly McDonald (SA) - Piano Education Consultant – Yamaha Music Australia
Trello (app – web/iOS/Mac/Windows/Android)
Trello is like a giant pin board and filing cabinet rolled into one. I use Trello every day for teaching and for organisational purposes. Each of my students has a Trello card in my teaching board to keep track of lesson notes, repertoire and important information. Trello also helps my studio organise everything from enrolments to performances.
forScore (app – iOS/Mac)
forScore has been a sanity saver through many a Zoom lesson in the past two years. I can create repertoire lists for each student and have them at the ready, rather than in piles of books stacked on my desk. Being able to share my screen and annotate scores has also been a game changer for good communication in online lessons.
Josh McKechie - Loreto College (QLD)
OneNote (app – Windows/Mac)
OneNote has become a core operational app for many music educators. It is a fantastic substitute for a physical music diary, it allows for better tracking of student progress, and it enables lesson content and progress toward developmental goals to be easily shared with parents. In addition, it is a user-friendly repository for shared resources – particularly for group tuition and ensembles.
Flipgrid (app – web/Mac/Windows/iOS/Android)
Flipgrid is an intuitive, fun app for video uploads. It’s available on all platforms and, importantly, it’s free! Students of all age groups can navigate the simple interface and record, edit and upload videos with confidence. It’s been an invaluable tool during learning-at-home stages and has enabled quick, convenient collaboration between staff. It can also be used as a platform for online auditions and assessment submissions.
Paul De Cinque - University of Western Australia (WA)
Groove Pizza (web app)
Groove Pizza is a simple but powerful app that allows students to create drum patterns using three layers of sound (bass drum, snare drum and cymbals). It can be useful for younger students to demonstrate how basic drum patterns are constructed, and to demonstrate variations on basic drum patterns. You can also use the app to demonstrate cross-rhythms (such as 5:3) to more advanced students. After students create a drum beat, they can export it to Soundtrap for further development. It is a really useful tool for rhythmic development in the classroom.
StaffWars (app – Mac/Windows/iOS/Android)
Learning to read notation quickly and efficiently as a young musician is important to help retention and faster learning. StaffWars allows students to practise reading pitch notation in treble, bass, alto and tenor clefs in a fun game-based fashion. The game starts slowly and gradually speeds up as students answer correctly.
Rather than making note-reading drills dull or competitive, StaffWars allows students to compete against themselves in an entertaining education-based environment.