It’s no wonder that parents are having a hard time motivating their kids to practice at home. Look what they’re competing with: video games, TV, sports, dance classes, after school activities, social media, and a number of other interesting options. With all of the attention being drawn away from piano practice, it’s time to draw them back in with iPad apps that will have your children begging for more time at the bench. As I manage a studio of 70 students (and growing!), here are my top six go-to apps that I rave about and encourage my students and parents to use at home:
1. Flash Note Derby by Luke Bartolomeu
Throw out the old flash cards! Flash Note Derby comes to the rescue by making note reading a breeze. Students can practice as few as two notes at a time, and add as many as they’d like as their skill improves. It is visually reinforced with an interactive horse derby. Each time the student gets a note correct, the horse advances. It is very easy to use and customizable as well, which makes it perfect for learners at every stage.
2. Rhythm Cat by LMUSE
Let’s face it, you want to be the perfect piano parent, but you might not have time to sit down with each child for half an hour every day. With 60 levels to explore independently, Rhythm Cat slowly advances students to more complex rhythmic exercises with ease. Each rhythm is accompanied by an upbeat background track, which helps the student stay in time. Instant feedback is given, so you can rest assured that your child is progressing even on your busiest days.
3. Piano Maestro by JoyTunes
Rescuing even my most seriously bored students, Piano Maestro is the ultimate practice tool and must-have app in my studio. With constant updates and monthly new features, this award-winning app keeps even the teachers excited to see what’s next. As students play their variety of favorite Bach or Bruno Mars hits to rockin’ background tracks, they are assessed on rhythm and note accuracy, making Piano Maestro the best holistic experience for your budding (or even experienced) pianist. My students walk in the door begging to play Piano Maestro. They love the large assortment of popular songs, the visually engaging graphics, and the ability to see their progress within minutes through entertaining practice and feedback. (While Piano Maestro is MIDI capable for headphone use, it also utilizes the built-in iPad microphone to identify pitch on even your acoustic piano; no cords necessary!)
4. The Most Addicting Sheep Game by JustSoGames
A simple little game that lives up to its name will likely feel less like a music education game than others. Behind the silly sheep and music, however, your child will develop a spectacular sense of pulse. The player taps on the screen to the beat of the music, using various video game-like finger commands to control a sheep on his way to rhythmic perfection. Tapping offbeat results in game over. Beware: the addiction is real!
5. GarageBand by Apple
Composition and improvisation seem to be lost arts these days. At a certain point in piano education, many students grow out of the method books and repetitive drills. These students tend to thrive on being able to put their creative juices into original musical blenders like GarageBand. They are able to explore the world of multi-tracking magic, and create masterpieces on the spot.
6. Music Theory for Beginners
For those youngsters who crave validation, the quizzes in this cute game hit the spot. A wise owl guide literally flips for correct answers and helps students practice randomly-selected questions in a wide array of musical categories such as expression, clefs, ear training, and many more.
Becoming an electronically-enhanced piano studio has increased student satisfaction and enthusiasm more than I could have hoped. Parents, once desperate for a teacher to merely spark a dying interest, now applaud the changes they notice in their child’s proactive approach to practice. While the piano masters will always have a place in piano pedagogy, student engagement does not have to remain in the 19th century. Kids today are ready to learn in ways we couldn’t have imagined even five years ago. These apps are just the beginning of a revolution of educational technology. Dive in, and watch the magic begin.