Week Four: making music

This past week we have started using some of the free music instrument apps on the iPad. The size of the device allows an octave of reasonably sized piano keys, though the apps we have used all had one shortfall or another when it comes to actually making music. However, for demonstration or performing a basic pattern these apps actually are quite useful. And when keyboards are scarce, the iPad provides a portable and accessible option. Plug the headphone jack into an amplifier and you can balance the iPad as part of a rhythm section.

My favorite keyboard is on Jam Pad. It’s keys are big enough to play chords and the keyboard scrolls so it is easy to go right to the octave you want. Unfortunately this scrolling feature can’t be turned off which makes it kind of like playing a piano that you can’t really feel that moves underneath your fingers. The piano sound also has a permanent sustain which makes it tough to play staccato.

Musical touch has two manuals which span an eleventh, but the keys are too small to voice chords. It also has the permanent sustain problem with the piano sound. It does have the option of turning on or off labels of the note names on the keys.

Clef tunes lite is an app which allows you to play right off the staff. It has an interesting set-up and actually the best sounding instrument of these three apps: you hold your finger on the note and it sustains, let up and it stops – brilliant! We’ve actually used it to play the left hand of the piano in our sixth grade jazz unit. It also has the option to turn labels on or off. Since it uses staff notation it has the ability to select major or minor key signatures. This could prove to be a powerful tool to help students learn the landmarks of the grand staff.

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