My 10 Favorite Websites and Apps for Music Education

This afternoon, I was sitting in the Propel Charter School administration offices finishing paperwork for my daughter Maggie’s Kindergarten application.  There were no toys, no magazines, and I had 2 kids under 5-years-old who were ready to poke their eyes out because they were bored. 

My daughter, Maggie, playing Daniel Tiger.
This is not uncommon for my family.  The dentist's office, the doctor's office, the bank, the grocery store, and more, are places where my kids get bored. 

I’m all for keeping kids engaged in the world around them - not on devices all day.  But, when we go to the doctor, I really can’t send them to play anywhere, and especially when I need to fill out paperwork (and they aren't so helpful), I don’t mind handing over my iPhone for them to play with. 

I've let them play all kinds of silly games.  Angry Birds and Flappy Bird are their favorites.  But, since I don't want them sling-shotting birds all the time, and I decided it was time to find games that had a purpose.

This list isn’t complete by any means, but these are the games my kids (or, since my oldest is just going into Kindergarten, some of my voice students) actually like to play (that also teach about music).   We only have an iPhone, iPad, and a Mac computer, so these are the only types of games I can give advice about.  These games aren't in any order...just ones I see pulled up often.  Most are free, the rest cost very little.  Hope these help keep you and your kiddos entertained the next time you're at the dentist!  

For Little Kids (under 5 years old, who don't read music yet)

1.  Singing Fingers - This one is pretty goofy, but my kids love singing songs into it, and hearing it back.  We've "practiced" LPM homework by singing an ostinato into it, and letting the kids "paint" with it.  Lots of squeals.

2. Sound Drop - This one may seem like a dumb app that doesn't teach anything, but Maggie (who's going into Kindergarten) has been picking out intervals and solfege with it.  This one won't spell out that it's teaching, but is a fun time-killer.  And, truth be told, my husband loves it as much as the kids.

3.  Note Works - This one is terrific!  It is great for my 1st Year LPM kids because you can play games where you note-name in solfege.  You can also note-name with letters, so I'm putting it on my little and big kid list.  My daughter likes that it is a little more bright and colorful than basic apps like Tenuto.

4. PBS Kids - This is a favorite for my son (he's in Sound Beginnings), and 1st Year LPM kids.  This is a website, not an app, and has a plethora of games that are music-related.  Some are better than others.  Some of our favorites are the Daniel Tiger game that helps them talk about feelings.  It establishes major and minor tonalities, while also letting them work out happy/sad/angry emotions, too.  Martha's Make the Band is great to help the kids learn what different instruments look and sound like. Chuck's Classical Compositions is also a favorite, and I like that we recognize some of the songs on it!  There are other great ones, but those are the ones on the screen most often.

5.  Musical Autoharp - Of the Autoharp apps I've downloaded or played with, I like this one the best.  The chord buttons are spread out enough, that if you buy 1/4" sticker dots, they can go right on your iPad or iPhone screen to make red, blue, and yellow chords!  I had a 1st Year Let's Play Music student who wanted to play her mom's iPad Autoharp app for the spring recital.  She was GOOD!

For Older Kids & Grown-ups (can read music, but need lots of repetition to master skills)

1. Note Perfect - has some interactive, fun games to teach note reading.

2. Tenuto - This one is very bare bones - no cute animals jumping across the screen or what not, but it is GREAT at getting the job done.  Our family likes playing the games on better, just because it's a little bigger and easier to do than on my iPhone.  You can also get lessons on's other app, Theory Lessons.  They're for much older kids or adults, because they are very dry (maybe even as far as boring). My voice students like this one best, because they're "too cool" for the cutesy little games. It's a "just get 'er done" kind of app, and that's alright with me if the outcome is learning.

3. Note Works - (So great, I put it twice!) This is great for transitioning between reading solfege and reading letter-named notes.

4. Magic Music Tutor - We especially love the section of this that has boomwhacker music.  I've used this part many times for teaching music to elementary school students.

5.  Kinito Music Puzzle - I haven't played this, but lots of my elementary-age students love this one.  They tell me the story line goes that the orchestra conductor goes crazy, and needs help finding his scores and his musicians before the concert.  Maybe not so much theory (I really haven't tried it), but my 2nd and 3rd graders especially loved this one.

Does your family love an app or website that teaches music skills that isn't listed above?? I want to hear about it in the comments below!

If you want your kids to learn music, but don't want them glued to a device all day, sign up for a Let's Play Music Sample Class in the Pittsburgh area, or click on the green button to the right to learn more about a playful and active (device-free) approach to music education!

We Can't Afford NOT to Put Our Kids in Music Lessons!

Many friends ask my husband and I (both musicians), why we have our kids take music lessons at such a young age (our son is almost 3, and our daughter is almost 5).

We don't need our kids to be professional musicians when they grow up.  We'd support our kids in any honorable career path.

But, we see benefits of music beyond creating a career path.  Here are the top 5 reasons our children take music lessons (and why yours should, too!):

5. Music is fun!  Every day, my kids have to clean their rooms, get ready, and do the seemingly mundane routines of life.  Why not "whistle while you work" (our family sings instead of whistles...our kids haven't quite mastered whistling yet!)?  So, we spend time teaching our kids about music, in large part because it makes otherwise mundane things more fun!  Also, when we are bored, we pull out our instruments, and play them!  It's a great alternative to always plopping the kids in front of the TV.  Family bonding, cure for boredom, makes us feel good - music is FUN!

4.  Music helps my kids understand other people, history, and unfamiliar things.  The past couple years, I taught music at Antimony Elementary School in Antimony, Utah.  One morning, while prepping a lesson for February's Black History month, my daughter caught me singing, clapping and moving around to a version of, "Follow the Drinking Gourd".  What started as a, "What are you DOING, Mom?" turned into a discussion about slavery and the Underground Railroad - which might all be pretty over-the-head of a 4-year old, except that she really liked the song, so it sunk in a little better, and gave her a reason to want to listen to my "history lesson."  A few weeks after that, she asked if we chose to be foster parents to help kids like the people involved in the underground railroad helped the blacks.  Music was the means by which my daughter could learn all of that - WOW! Another reason we keep our kids in music lessons.

3.  Music gives our kids a way to cope.  Life is stressful.  Whether it be a bully, or you lose your job and don't know how to feed your family, stress is something that just exists in life.  People often go to the gym to work out, or play a sport, or read a book or a number of other things to "escape" that stress.  While those are all worthwhile things, I want to give my kids yet another tool in their tool belt.  One more place they can go instead of turning to drugs, alcohol and porn to "escape."

Although I don't think music is always going to be the difference between raising a drug addict or not, studies do show that kids who take music lessons as a kid will have a much lower risk of getting into trouble.  Good enough for me.

Music also is such a healing influence that our kids need.  Don't believe me?  Check this out.

2. Music works out our kids' brains.  Think about playing the piano and singing simultaneously.  You have to look at multiple lines of music, plus a line of words, and then get your left hand, right hand, and your voice to create different sounds at the same time.  Think of all that work your brain has to do to make that happen!  That is multi-tasking at its finest  (and you all know "grown-ups" need to multitask!)!

And the #1 reason my family puts such high importance on music lessons:

1.  Music makes kids smarter.  Numerous studies have been done that prove that kids who take music lessons from a very young age experience significantly higher test scores in elementary, middle, high school, and college than their non-musical peers.  Everything from better math skills, reading skills, science skills, and more, have all been correlated to music lessons from an early age.  Studies have showed music lessons over time improve ACT/SAT scores, better chance at college attendance and graduation, higher amounts of scholarships going to college.

Maybe this one is one I'm hypersensitive about, because my husband is in grad school.  Maybe it's because we're both music teachers, and music teachers don't make a lot of money, so we're really counting on scholarships to help our kids through college.  Really, though, it's just because at the end of your life, what do you get to take to your grave?  Money?  Fame? A huge house and a sweet ride?  Nope.  Just the stuff you experienced and learned.  And if music makes my children more capable of learning, or gives them rich experiences they otherwise could not have had, then I'm all in for music lessons.

Now, the question I ask you: Why would you NOT want your kids in music lessons?

Recital 2014!

Our Recital pictures finally arrived!  Kristin Clove over at C Dot Love did a FANTASTIC job on these really candid (and sometimes goofy) pictures!  I wanted to show some gems to you.  My studio in Utah was such a source of joy to me, and I saw that joy in the faces of all of these kids.  I will start fresh in Pittsburgh, but I'll always hold a place in my heart for these great kids.  I really, truly, have the best job in the world!

In the above photo, the kids are doing actions to Verdi's Triumphant March.  On the right side, my Monday 2:45pm class is working together to play tone bells to make red, blue, and yellow chords (the way I introduce I, IV, and V chords).  Below, you see them having WAY too much fun during the dress rehearsal!

You'd never believe that Hailey (right) and Emma (below) have only been playing the Autoharp for only 8 months!  They played so well!

Below, Hadley played the end of Do, Re, Mi all by herself!  She told me that she practiced over a million times, even when it wasn't on the homework list for that week.  She's quite the budding musician!

Parents of these students, thank you for letting me work with these kiddos.  I've said it before, but I'll say it again - they are so FUN to work with!  What a blessing, what a gift, to have little people in my life!  I hope you had as much fun at the recital as I did!


My Studio is Pittsburgh!

My husband, Matt, loves school.  If he could earn money to support a family just by going to school, he would.  He LOVES learning.  In December of 2013, we both felt like it was time for him to go back to get his Master's degree.  And the hunt for schools started.  Eventually, things fell into place for him to have a full-tuition scholarship to attend Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, and we just couldn't pass that up!  So, my studio is Pittsburgh!

I have a few students who will remain part of my studio via Skype (what would we do without modern technology!?), but I have to say goodbye to the rest of my students.  Second only to watching how sad my kids are to move, I am so sad to finish this chapter in my life.  My music students have been a source of overwhelming happiness, and it has brought a sense of home to my house that I can't explain.

Thank you to the parents who have supported my decision to move.  Thank you to the parents who have supported music education for their children.  And especially, thanks to the kids I've been able to teach and learn from.

My new studio will open in the fall of 2014 in Pittsburgh, PA.  We will live on Frayne Street in the Greenfield/Hazelwood neighborhood.