Best iPad apps for piano teachers - Creative Music Education

Best iPad apps for piano teachers

ipad apps for piano

Last updated: 27/11/17

Why you need iPad apps for piano teaching

I’ve had an iPad now for a number of years and, like most iPad converts, I can’t think how I’d ever teach without it!

It has literally revolutionised the way I do most things: store files and music,  research, read papers and magazines, watch movies, get my news – pretty much everything!

It can enhance your teaching in many ways by making things more engaging and interactive for students, by supplying backing tracks for music to help them with rhythm and groove, fantastic aural and rhythmic testing software and much more.

While there are other tablets on the market I would strongly recommend music teachers purchase an iPad for a number of reasons:

  • The availability of the widest selection of apps for music teachers
  • The reliability of the apps is second to none
  • The iPad has the most connectivity options for connecting to other devices
  • The screen sizes and resolution are great for music educators
  • It’s fun to use and very easy to learn
  • Comes packed with lots of apps for free and ready to use (eg. cameras, video recorders, GarageBand, etc.)

Related: Best Ear Training Apps for your Piano Studio

What’s the best type of iPad and how do you find out what apps to use in your studio?

Read on!

Which type should I get?

When I first started teaching, I bought a second-hand iPad 2 (ie. “Second Generation” 64GB WiFi only. While the iPad 2 was fine for music use they are getting a bit old and slow now. Similarly with the Third, Fourth and even Fifth Generation. Not sure about the “Generations” of iPads?

In fact, I’d generally avoid iPads older than the iPad Air 2. Definitely don’t buy an iPad 1: it’s heavier, bigger and has a much lower resolution screen. Older models are becoming increasingly obsolete as new operating systems are released with extra speed and functionality which the older models struggle to cope with.

I now use an iPad Air2, 128GB WIFI, which is perfect for my use. I’d highly recommend it for any piano teachers. If I were to buy a new iPad today, I’d now get the latest release, the iPad Pro which has a much bigger screen which is perfect for score reading.

What capacity?

If you’re wondering about capacity (16GB, 32GB, etc.), please read this article. Basically, the bigger the better and 16GB won’t really cut it for music teachers. Go for minimum of 64 GB, more if you can afford it.

Looking for iPad Air Accessories?

WIFI or Cellular?

The choice between WIFI or Cellular (3G/4G) is totally dependent on how you plan to use it. If you are regularly on the road and want access to the internet (and perhaps your files via Dropbox) while away from home, consider getting the 3G version.

‘This will allow you access to the internet anywhere, but you’ll have to pay for a SIM card and a data plan, just as you would on a mobile phone. This might be worthwhile for teachers who travel to students’ houses.

I have always bought the WiFi-only models as I only teach from home or school, and as long as I’m prepared, I can upload files and do my internet work at home using WiFi before I do any teaching or take the iPad to school.

So far, this has worked well and I’m happy to be saving the extra access fees of a new SIM and data plan (and the cost of a more expensive iPad up-front!).

Find the best price on iPads here.

What apps should I get?

Once you’ve got yourself an iPad, you’re going to need to download some apps! There are also a number of free apps in-built into the operating system, including sound and video recorders, calendars, email, word processors, etc. but to maximise the value of your teaching (and your iPad), you’ll want to invest in some of the brilliant apps that are now available.

Here are my top picks for the best iPad apps for piano teachers and music students. If you’re short of time, check out the links to the App Store in the box below.

PS. If you want to load these apps  straight onto your iPad, make sure you’re reading this on your iPad and just click the links. 

Studio Management

I manage my own piano teaching studio with MyMusicStaff which a comprehensive studio management solution that can be used on any platform (laptop, phone, tablet) and allows you to automate just about every aspect of your teaching including billing, scheduling, invoicing and reporting. Their support is second-to-none so you’ll never get stuck and my Inner Circle Members get 90 days to trial the software for free. I can’t recommend MyMusicStaff highly enough.

Music Teacher’s Helper is a complete scheduling and billing (plus more) app and online software. They offer a free 30-day no obligation trial, making it easy to “test drive” and figure out if it’s a good fit for managing your studio. Every account also comes with a free music studio website.

Score/PDF Reading/Music Scanning

forScore – my go-to music-reading app. forscore allows you to store and view sheet music in PDF format. Files need to be in PDF format and are easily loaded via Dropbox or iTunes. You can annotate and save changes, re-order pages, print wirelessly and page turns are easy. The ability to store, read and print sheet music is one of the key reasons I bought an iPad. Previously, I was lugging folders and books of music between school and home. Get a Bluetooth page-turn pedal and you can even perform with your iPad! forScore also allows you to add scores by photographing them with the in-built camera.

SuperScore – this is a brand-new app by TimeWarpTech. I think of it as the love child of Home Concert Xtreme and forScore! It’s a MusicXML score viewer that comes with in-built backing tracks that follows along listening as you play. Like Home Concert Xtreme, the app will listen as you play at your tempo (not just a steady metronome beat) meaning that you can truly perform musically with it. It uses a “liquid” display that means as pages are resized, the music re-renders for the highest-quality resolution reading experience. If connected to a MIDI-enabled digital piano, it can play the piano as you watch or you can play with others remotely.

NewZik – a new app like forScore except this one not only reads PDFs, but also MusicXML files. This app allows you to read music files in many formats and can synchronise your scores with video and audio files. It also has a clever Band Mode which can synchronise page turns and scrolling across all devices in a group – great for live performances. This is only one of these three apps that work on iPhone as well as iPad, meaning that your scores will be available on both devices.

Need a way to scan music into notation software in MusicXML (and other) formats? Check out SheetMusicScanner which allows you to take a picture of any piece of sheet music and translate it into a MusicXML file to import into your notation software. Impressively accurate too! You can also play on-screen and export as PDF, MIDI, WAV and MP3. Great tool for music teachers.

Metronomes

Tempo – this is my preferred metronome/beat keeping app. Although there are plenty of free ones available, this one is infinitely customisable. It plays every conceivable irregular meter or unusual subdivision of normal meters (including 2+2+3 for example) and you can save metronome and beat patterns for quick access. One thing I really like is that it allows you to hear the difference between swung triplets verses semiquavers at the click of a button – great for explaining aspects of rhythm theory in practical detail. Also for iPhone/Android.

Super Metronome Groovebox Pro – if you want students to really groove with their music, while also feeling a steady beat, then this is the metronome for you. Instead of just clicking, this one plays drum beats that you can choose to suit what your students are playing. You can customise any of the beats in an on-screen grid pattern mode which is great for teaching students about rhythmic patterns. It has a huge bank of rhythms, beats and patterns included and has a high-quality sound output. You might just never need a boring old metronome again! Also for iPhone.

Rhythm, Pulse & Meter

Rhythm Lab – this is my new favourite rhythm tapping practice app. As part of my students’ weekly lessons, I used to write-up rhythms on a whiteboard for them to clap; now I do it all on the iPad with this app. It has heaps of built-in rhythm patterns in all sorts of meters and students can tap right on the screen and get instant feedback. It even has example rhythms from some of the big classical composers built-in! Read more about this in my article here.

TMASG “The Most Addicting Sheep Game” – weird name, great app. This is an app for students who need help feeling and maintaining a steady pulse. It’s a video game that requires precision in tapping along to a beat. As its name implies, it’s great fun and very addictive! Also available for iPhone so kids can practice on the way to and from school.

Note/Interval/Chord Recognition

Flashnote Derby – I love this app for younger students. It’s a note-naming game conducted like a horse race complete with sounds and images! For adults and teens, check out PianoNotesPro (below). Now also available for Android – Oct 2013.

MusicFlashClass – actually an iPhone app, it’s the most customisable note-learning app I’ve found. It replaces what you might have done with flashcards. Here’s a great review by Jennifer Foxx. This is a great one for older students to download to their own phone so that they can practice a bit of note recognition everyday (I recommend my teen students do it on the bus/train to or from school). The only disadvantage is that it can’t listen as you play the notes on your phone (see Note Rush below).

Note Rush – Similar to the above apps, however this one listens as you play the notes on your piano. You can choose from three themes (space, soccer, ladybug) and different levels of complexity. The only downside to this app is that you can’t (yet) specify precisely the notes that you’d like to quiz student on.

NinGenius Studio Edition – this is a fun note-learning game where each correct answer helps the on-screen ninja break through a wooden board with his Ninja kicks! Can tally high scores and become very competitive in your studio. Kids really enjoy this app. There are three editions of this app: one for students to download, one for schools and one for studios. The link above is for studios.

Sight-Reading

Read Ahead is my latest find for helping with students’ sight reading. One of the hardest things about teaching sight reading is getting students to read ahead and not stop. To do that, they need to practise memorising a bar of music ahead of time. They also need to drill lots of patterns that come up in musical scores. This app practises all that and more. Definitely worth exploring – you can try demo levels for free and then buy upgrades as you need them.

The best new app for piano teachers released in the last few years has to be PianoMaestro by JoyTunes. This app is basically a completely interactive library of music, exercises, backing tracks and method books that listens and responds to students’ playing, creates a video-game like experience for them (great for your teen beginners) and is just great fun to use. I can’t recommend this app highly enough – it’s without-doubt one of the best apps for beginner piano students on the market. Oh, and did I say it was free? What have you got to lose?!

SightRead4Piano – I’ve blogged about this in a previous post as it really is a must-have for teachers who prepare students for exams. This app tests students’ sight reading by deletes bars as the student plays (the primary reason to get this app). While the app is free, it only comes with a few example pieces of music so you have to buy the music to suit each exam board (about $50 for all the AMEB grades, for example). Or you can buy all the music for all exam boards for about $120.

Aural Training

AuralBook – the aural training app that actually listens to a student’s singing and critiques them according to their pitch and rhythm. The voices and sounds are a little clunky but this is a HUGE improvement on anything else. Read about it on my blog here. It’s already set up with all the requirements for ABRSM and AMEB exam systems, grade-by-grade. Must-have for exam teachers around the world.

Ear Master – one of my new favourite apps available for ear training and musicianship. This one not only tests students on things like rhythm, intervals, pitch, progressions, etc. I’ve used this to help students with syncopation, hemiola, triads, scale degrees, etc. It really is an all-round musicianship app that every music teacher should have.

Tenuto – Good aural training app for recognising chords, intervals, etc. Also shows you how everything looks on the keyboard. Easy to use, good functionality.

Backing Tracks/Play-along

Pop/Jazz

Looking for backing tracks that students can play along to? NoteStar by Yamaha has lots of recent pop music and has been a hit with my teen students in particular. While the app is free, you pay to download the songs you want (you get a free 30 second preview of any song you choose from the catalog so you can instantly see how hard the music is). You then get access to on-screen auto-scrolling music, plus backing from a band and, the best part: vocals. You can change the key instantly, and slow the music down to suit your level. Brilliant app!

If you’re looking for simple drum/bass/rhythm section backing tracks that you can create yourself, look no further than iReal Pro. Works on iPad and iPhone, this app converts a chord chart into a rhythm section. Great for pop, jazz and rock playing. There are thousands of downloadable charts for most of the famous tunes from the 1930s onwards and they are all free. Great for exercises: scales, chord drills, pentascales, etc. Your only limitation in how you use this app is your own imagination.

Scale Backing Tracks/Improvising Tracks

If you’re interested in making scale practice fun, check out Musiclock. My kids LOVE this app (and so do I). It has the grooviest set of backing tracks that you can use for scales and general improvising. Once students can play along to the backing track, try getting them to improvise along using the scale they’ve just learnt or they can try and work out the underlying chord progression and play along. Great all-round aural/musical exercises.

A relative newcomer to the App Store is Scale Tracks, an app that gives you backing tracks for students’ scale practice in every key and a whole variety of styles. Download for free and try out the styles and backings in C and Am, purchase the upgrade for all keys and tonalities. I love that there are so many styles that kids can choose from – eg. Drum and Bass, Jazz, House and fun ones like Danger! If you’d like to get your students playing scales more often, playing along to fun backing tracks will help. Check it out.

Concertos

If you have students preparing to play concertos, then there are two great apps you can use. Firstly, there is a new app by a company called Tom-Books which features high-quality orchestral recordings with on-screen score. This link will take you to an example Mozart Concerto movement that you can explore. You set the tempo and the music (and orchestra) will play and scroll as you progress. It’s a great option for students who want to get a feel for working with a real orchestra as the sound quality of the orchestral parts is excellent. Individual scores are less than $5 and bundles range from $18-$25 with new scores being released regularly.

Also in this category is Home Concert X-treme which is more versatile in that it allows any MIDI score to be loaded and it has a clever system of following the performer’s tempo, but doesn’t have the same quality level of the sounds it produces, given they are MIDI-based. The other downside is that it costs $50. Apps like this are well worth the investment for students working on concertos, even if they never actually play with a real orchestra.

Practice Tools

Practicia – this is a new app that has released after years of development and testing and will likely revolutionise your students’ approach to practice. It keeps track of all the practice that your students are doing, it replaces the old practice diary/assignment book, it allows you to hear what they are doing at home and provide feedback, you can gamify their practice by adding online awards and badges and the list goes on… Definitely one worth checking out.

AnyTune – an app that takes any recording from your library or dropbox and allows you to slow it down or speed it up without changing the pitch. Also has easy looping, editing, etc. fantastic app which you can trial for free, but the full version will cost you $15. Money well spent. Here’s one of my blogging friends, Leila Viss demonstrating AnyTune. And another good article about AnyTune is here.

Notation

While there are now a few options for hand-written notation on the iPad, the best is Touch Notation by Kawai. Another option is NotateMe which is great if you want to download the in-app purchase that can scan-in scores, but otherwise I’d stick with Touch Notation for quick day-to-day use. If you want to play your piece into the iPad with MIDI, then check out Notion.

Leave a comment if you have other recommendations!

And if I had to choose my Top 10?

If you are on a budget and just want to know the absolute best of the best, then this would be my pick of the bunch, designed to cover most aspects of teaching including score reading, note recognition, aural, etc.

This list is in approximate order that I’d buy them. If you’re looking for more information about how to use any of these apps and see them in action, you can get full access to my training library if you’re a member of my Inner Circle.

Find out more about access to all my training videos here. 

  1. forScore
  2. iReal Pro
  3. NoteStar
  4. PianoMaestro
  5. Rhythm Lab
  6. Flashnote Derby
  7. Note Rush
  8. Read Ahead
  9. Ear Master
  10. Musiclock

What’s your Top 10?

Leave your list in the comments below.

  • Cindy says:

    Many of my students have android devices and therefore can’t use the game apps at home. Do you have any suggestions for those students?

  • Rebecca Dean says:

    My iPad doesn’t have data, it’s just wifi but I have mobile hotspot with my phone so it works just fine 🙂 I’ll have to check out some of these apps I’ve been looking for a really good one.

  • Janet says:

    I didn’t have much success in my studio with PRACTICIA as not all of my students have iOS devices.
    BetterPracticeApp.com is another practice app that works with any device with a connection to the internet. In addition to providing a space to keep track of lesson assignments and keep track of practicing, teachers can post YouTube videos and recordings for students to listen to and practice with. It also allow students to change the tempo of the recordings so they can play along. Also offers friendly studio competition between students!

  • Lori says:

    Fantastic information about a variety of great apps. Thank you!

  • Becky says:

    I would like to add the “Amazing Slow Downer” app. I was introduced to this app by my daughter’s violin teacher and used it to learn a concerto that was way too fast for me to play with. It slows down the recording without changing the pitch, although you can change pitch as well. Thanks for all you do Tim! Love the podcasts and the blog. Great information that I use in my studio.

  • Tom says:

    I’d also add SessionBand, especially SessionBand Jazz 1-3, to the Backing Tracks/Play Alon category. And I think Unrealbook is a good inecpensive PDF reader.

  • Tom says:

    You need to add Komp to the notation category.

  • Guillaume says:

    Hi Tim ! To play music with piano and iPad, I like to use Piano Maestro, Tonara, and Piano Master System. With a little preference for the latter one. I hope they will add more songs. There is a module to tune your instrument in the app, so sound recognition works quite good. Also I like when I discover new piece, the possibility to play the right hand while the app plays the left one.

  • Nancy says:

    Hi Tim! I am a piano teacher from US. I found your blog through a post at Facebook. I thought your blog really give many creative idea to my teaching. Thanks for what your do to bright the other teachers’ teaching and bring the benefit to their students!

  • LizCisHere says:

    Thank you so, so much. I’m new iPad user and feeling a little overwhelmed by the availability of help available to music teachers. Your time taken to write this up is much appreiciated.

  • […] Best iPad apps for piano teachers – timtopham.com – Are you a piano teacher? Have you recently bought an iPad? Click here to save time and money, by searching my list of the best iPad apps for piano teachers. […]

  • Dr. Shereen Elguendy says:

    Hello Tim,
    Thank you very much for the great Applications, they are very helpful. In piano sightreading I want to suggest a very helpful wonderful app. It is Read Ahead which offers 36 days practice exercises in each grade devided into three levels A, B and C.

    • Tim Topham says:

      Thanks Shereen – I’ll check it out 🙂

    • Travis Hardaway says:

      I’m so glad to hear you like Read Ahead. My colleague Ken Johansen and I are the creators and we are about to debut our commercial release of Read Ahead with 3 levels available (36 days each) through a $9.99 in-app purchase per level.

      If you (or other teachers) are interested in trying out the beta in Test flight right now free for a month, send an email through the Read Ahead feedback requesting to be signed up and I’ll send you an invite.

      Note: The new version of Read Ahead coming to the app store will replace the old one and if you update the app, you will have to purchase Level 1 to continue to have access. Also, your progress data will be reset. The first 3 days of each level will be open so people can try the app out.

  • Contrary Motion says:

    Please have a look at the Kenny Barron Jazz Piano iPhone / iPad app to enjoy real performances of a jazz master !

    http://contrarymotion.co/kenny-barron-jazz-piano/

  • Guest says:

    MusicPal is a pretty awesome app that allows a user to take a photo of a piece of sheet music and see it instantly converted into an interactive score. Users can listen to their music, play note-by-note, isolate staves – it’s pretty nifty.

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/learn-music-musicpal/id976261614?mt=8

    for more info: http://www.musicpalapp.com

  • kathy rosa says:

    Hmm. Leaves us android users out. How about considering there are non IPAD users in the teaching world of music??

    • Tim Topham says:

      Hey Kathy – I’d love to help, but not being an Android user, I don’t have the knowledge to share and unfortunately, as much as I’d love to review apps on multiple systems, I just don’t have time! I used to link to a good review of Android apps but it’s since been removed, so if you find any other good resources, please post a link 🙂

    • Travis Hardaway says:

      Hi Kathy,

      I am one of the creators of Read Ahead mentioned above in the list. I just wanted to let you know that we have begun developing for android. Our tablet app Read Ahead isn’t yet out for android tablets, However we just last week released Read Ahead Hybrid for android phones in the google play store. It is designed to go with the Read Ahead books, but you can download a sample to print out and it has some really good memory training exercises for piano.

  • Rebecca Ly says:

    Agreed, iOS systems are on top when it comes to music education related applications, but I think education is about trying to be as inclusive as possible, my supervisor has advised us to be agnostic about technology, rather than to stick to one system. I own a few Android devices, a kindle and use a Windows laptop, also close to getting myself an iPad… and for the purposes of my education (the masters degree is on video games, I own/have access to an Xbox 360/Kinnect, Wii and WiiU). At the first lesson, I like to ask ALL my students what devices they own, in fact I have a whole excel sheet full of apps and their compatibility.

    • Tim Topham says:

      Hey Rebecca – it’s a tough call to be across all systems. I personally find that the cast majority of students have apple devices, and so being an apple users, that’s always been my focus. I think you’ll find that most musicians would agree that apple has the edge over others when it comes to music.

      • Rebecca Ly says:

        Absolutely – Apple is great, great for music education, and yes, many tablet owners own Apple ones. In the end, I think the easiest way to be inclusive is to be cloud based/browser based (rather than app based).

      • Rebecca Ly says:

        Also, its not hard to assess compatibility, there are sites for these things you know 😉

  • It’s really wonderful to use this kind of technology especially that there are a lot of people who can do many things by using iPad especially in education. Such a nice thing that you included other benefits that it can give to a person.

  • AppFromTop says:

    Great apps! Thank you)

    I also wrote about it, if you interested: https://appfromtop.com/best-apps/learn-piano

  • […] Best iPad apps for piano teachers via Tim Topham […]

  • […] Best iPad apps for piano teachers – … – Are you a piano teacher? Have you recently bought an iPad? Click here to save time and money, by searching my list of the best iPad apps for piano teachers. […]

  • […] Best iPad apps for piano teachers – … – Are you a piano teacher? Have you recently bought an iPad? Click here to save time and money, by searching my list of the best iPad apps for piano teachers. […]

  • Karyne says:

    Great list!! The iPad is worth the investment for the wealth of apps to enhance their lessons!

  • Linda Christensen says:

    Love ALL these apps! Thanks for the great list!

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  • wkmtbyjuanrezzuto says:

    This article is remarkably good. We will try and put in practise your advise and suggestions ASAP
    We are a piano practise based in London and committed to deliver piano lessons and also music theory ones. I hope we can collaborate with your blog and add some highlights on the Vicente Scaramuzza piano technique soon.

    If you want to check us up please visit
    http://www.piano-composer-teacher-london.co.uk

  • Elyse says:

    Hi Tim,

    I appreciated your article on apps useful in piano lessons. May I suggest you take a peek at Strike a Chord for iPad. It harnesses the scoring and recording functions of the iPad so that students learn in and out of lessons. Starting with just the alphabet letters, students are coached to compose a song with four keys of their choice. This activity facilitates improvising and composing right from the start. As students are making creative decisions they are also indirectly memorizing the note names without any extra effort. My beginning students have loved making their own recordings and benefit greatly from the emphasis on letter names in their other activities such as sight reading and music theory.

    http://www.strikeachordapp.com

  • espadrilles says:

    espadrilles

    Best iPad apps for piano teachers – timtopham.com

  • Gareth says:

    Thanks Tim. My students love Flashnote Derby and ReadRhythm. I have 43 students and the majority of them have downloaded these apps and use them at home. I also use Young Music Genius to teach the younger ones about instrument sounds and the composers. It has a game of memory too which gives me a chance to write in their diaries. Thanks for all your posts. I’ve adopted the 40 piece challenge too and it’s working wonders.

  • Bee says:

    Hi Tim, Thanks for all this info. I’ve been thinking about getting an ipad, as I’ve read a number of blog posts about some wonderful ipad apps, and you’ve added even more. However, I have a windows lap top and an android phone, so have been wondering about compatibility between all these devices. You’ve inspired me to do some more homework on this and get on with making a purchase!

  • 88pianokeys says:

    Thank you for this, I love hearing about new apps that are “necessities”!

  • Yolanda says:

    Thanks for the tips Tim. I have also found the iPad useful for taking a video of a student playing during the lesson, for instant playback. This is great for performance practice or letting the student see their hand position from a different angle.
    There is a great app that I use for note reading practice, it is from SuperKiddoStudio. The app gives an accuracy percentage as well as the average time it takes to read the note and then play the correct key on the virtual keyboard. The students like to improve their scores each time they play it.

    • timtopham says:

      Hi Yolanda – thanks for that. I’ve just checked out that Super Kiddo sightread app. As you say, it’s very like the piano notes pro but with the added accuracy rating which is great. Wasn’t sure about the $5 price tag for what you get. I’ll investigate more!

  • grahamfitch says:

    Great advice Tim – many thanks!

  • Carly says:

    Hi Tim,
    Fantastic post! Over the weekend I will be looking at these apps and seeing if they have them for tablets.

    A month ago I got the new ACER tablet and it is fantastic!! I’ve found a few great apps for metronome, aural, sight reading, note learning and rhythm.

    Primarily I use it to store all of my student files and have a play list for each of them as well. I use Dropbox heavily and kingsoft for opening and editing documents.

    I also use recording functions for students to hear themselves playing, YouTube for other (previously researched) examples of works. In addition to those apps for music I have google lists and calendar together with a reading list and all my emails. Instead of buy a 3G, I just tethered it to my mobile and piggyback off that Internet. I am yet to come close to my limit each month.

    And I can have PDF’s of student sheet music all at my fingertips. All for $400.

    In my piano bag now I just have a pencil case, a folder with a pad of paper and stickers and such and my tablet. It’s so light!!!

    Now to go hunt down those apps and see if the have a tablet equivalent.

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