Rhythm apps for teaching music

There have been several apps that help practice and learn rhythm concepts the past few months.

MyRhythmMyRhythm, from Gregory Burk, is an app that helps you practice your rhythmic skills, co-ordination, listening skills and memory. MyRhythm is full of features that anyone from a non-musically trained person to someone who is is music classes will appreciate. The app does not use traditional musical notation to show rhythms. It simply uses a grid of dots that are filled in, or not, to indicate whether you should be tapping the large pads in time with the groove that is being played.

When you start up the app there three main modes you can go into… 1)Challenge Mode 2)Study Mode and 3)Creative Mode. The screen shot you see to the right is about the same in any of the three modes. In challenge mode you listen to and watch a pattern being played then the little violet and blue dots are all taken away and you have to play back what you just heard. It’s an answer and call mode in other words. In the Study mode the idea is the same except that the violet and blue dots do not go away and you can still see them and you do not get to listen to the rhythm being played first. Then in the creative mode you are able to create your own rhythms. It is in this mode that you can do another time signature besides 4/4. In the other modes all I found were 2 measures of 4/4. Of course no where is there ever any mention of time signatures in this app. There are four levels of difficulty to play around with. No matter which level you are in the timing algorithms being used to decide whether or not you are playing the correct rhythms are very strict! It is not good enough to simply hit that pad “close” to the rhythm! You have to really get into the groove and sub-divide so you are accurate! Mentioning grooves…. there are options to play along with simply a metronome or a very long list of different grooves at different tempos. Gregory did a great job of making sure there was enough variety here to keep you interested and challenged for a long time!

option settings for MyRhythm

option settings for MyRhythm

I like the fact that there are many options in this app…. the different grooves, the call and answer, the creativity section, the ability to change several levels, the choice of what sound you hear when you tap the pads and how easy it is to quickly tap the new rhythm button to try the next rhythm. Even as a band director I like the co-ordination skills this builds even though my kids don’t always need to use two hands to play rhythms in class. I think students will find plenty in this app to keep them interested. There is an iPod/iPhone version of the app as well.

I don’t like that this app only deals with 8th notes. As a music educator I don’t like that music notation is not used and yet at them same time I think there is a place for this type of graphic notation in a music class. Another slight issue I have is that I am pretty skilled at rhythm and I have to work really hard to get all the notes green! Now, maybe this is because I’m not as good as I think I am at rhythm BUT I KNOW what I am going to hear from the kids! No, seriously though, I do believe the app has a little bit of issue “hearing” correctly played rhythms sometimes.

Wish list – I do wish there was a way for my students to keep score of their progress as they work with this app.

green and red dots on MyRhythm

green and red dots on MyRhythm

Creating music with iPads

There have been some outstanding new developments in the world of music for iOS users this past few months!

First has been the actual release of AudioBus for iOS. As they say on the iTunes Store… This is a revolutionary new inter-app audio routing system allowing you to connect your AudioBus compatible apps together with virtual cables. In other words…. I can be playing a synth on my iPad, like Magellan, and record it into my MultiTrack DAW on the same iPad! This opens up very different possibilities of being able to record from a long list of currently compatable apps into other apps on one iPad instead of having to have two devices or using audio copy/paste. Check out their website for currently compatible apps as the list is changing almost daily!

In the late 80‘s I remember spending many hours programming keyboards for the ministry team at college that I was involved in. It was great fun to get inside of a synth patch and make all sorts of tweaks to it to come up with a new patch that was my own. Little did I imagine then, that I would be able to do this on an iPad with a color, touch screen! Check out the list of apps othe AudioBus page. I think there are some outstanding apps there that will make some outstanding music! Imagine if we could get these apps into the hands of our students in a non-traditional music class!

Audulus App

Audulus

Another major development is the development of apps that allow your creativity to fly to new heights! One of those apps that blew me away today is Audiolus. Audulud is a modular synthesis app that is available for the iPad as well as the Mac. This app allows you to create synth sounds from scratch, one step at a time! I can not begin to imagine the possibilities of this app in a music class combined with science concepts being integrated all in one mega fun unit! Your science teacher and you, the music teacher, could have a hay day with this app! You have got to watch the tutorials on their tutorial page! This tutorial in particular floored me when I started to get a grasp on what this app is capable of…. I love how it starts with a demonstration of the outcome and then it takes you back step by step to build the patch starting from absolutely nothing! (Wait…. isn't that the model for a great lesson plan?)

Lastly, I would like to leave you with a couple of great examples of amazing performances from people who are truly creating amazing music using iOS and iPads/iPhones. Both of these groups have active YouTube channels that I would suggest you subscribing to

The first person is Rheyne – Rheyne uses live looping with analog keyboards, USB controllers and iOS devices. The videos on his channel are all performed live! The integration he has between all the apps and devices is stunning! His music is digital and does not attempt to re-create an acoustic instrument performance!

The second group is the DigiEnsemble Berlin – This is a group of professional musicians trying to turn mobile devices into instruments. This group has music of both the electronic nature as well as classical and everything in between. You can see them recreating a classical string ensmeble using iphones and ipads for instance or performing Starlight (from the alternative rock band Muse) and then performing a magical, musical interpretation of Silent Night.

This sort of musical creativity needs to be taught in our schools alongside the traditional Band, Choir and General Music classes. Of course that means new classes need to be created and staffed! The biggest reason we need these sort of classes is that our students would be forced to become the innovators, the ones creating and designing the final product. There are not many programs like these in place yet so the development of this type of course is going to muddy water and the learning process will be messy. Let's wade in and get dirty!

 

iPad Apps used on a daily basis in teaching Music

 

What apps do you use on a daily basis while teaching music? I teach Band every day to five different groups from 5th grade through High School. We also have one experimental group that is exploring the Pop, Rock, Electronic side of music creation and arranging.

I use a group of apps everyday in almost every class. Then I use another set of apps when not in class but still doing teaching related activities. There is of course a group of apps I use when I am creating and exploring music as well and one more group of apps that I use when I am not doing musical activities.

Here is my list of apps I use constantly while teaching;

unRealBook, ForScore, Avid Scorch, Tempo, ClearTune, Fingerings, SL-Remote, Filemaker Go, DropBox, AirSketch, PlanBook, YouTube, Music (the app) and of course YouTube and Safari. I wish our school had an instant messenger app for GroupWise. Why we are still using archaic technology like GroupWise I will never know! If we had an Instant Messenger app all teachers could use I would have WAY fewer phone interruptions!

My list of other apps I use for my job but not while I am teaching… (in addition to those listed above – because some of those listed above I still use while NOT teaching);

PlanBook, Pages, Keynote, MagicalPad, SmartMusic Inbox, AnyTune, Capo, Hokusai, Mail, Contacts, PDF Expert, Calendar, WunderList, Notability, NoteShelf, Skitch, Evernote, Hello, GMusic, AirSharing, SilverWiz, Photos, Videos, Camera, iMovie and PhotoSender. My newest find is iCam.

My list of Apps I love to use while creating, exploring, and playing music are;

MorphWiz, Mugician, GeoSynth, Seline, ThumbJam, Sunrizer, SampleWiz, CrystalSynthXT, GarageBand, Magic Fiddle and Piano, PianistPro, ProKeys, and my latest SampleTank and MelodyMaker.

The list of Apps I use when I am not making music, working on music classes or enjoying music…. in other words the rest of my free time;

ByLine (RSS News Feeds), Pulse News, Flud News, River of News (I can’t decide which I like the best but I did list these in the order I use them the most), Twitter, Flipboard, Showyou, Music, GMusic, WeatherBug or AccuWeather, Alarm Clock HD by the Alarm Clock Company, PackTheBag, AirVideo, Screens, Fandango, Flixster, What’s On?HD, Launch Points and Maps, and of course Safari, Mail, Contacts and Calendar.

What apps do you use constantly? I would love to discover new ideas and find out who else is using the same apps as I do on a constant basis. Leave a comment below.

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