I think I have broken the code for working with audio on Google Drive

Dear techinmusiced readers,

Several months ago, I began questioning how to use Google Drive with audio files on the iPad. The iPad remains a mystery when it comes to audio, as you cannot save audio directly from an external source (webpage, cloud drive, etc.) without saving audio directly to iTunes and then to your iPad. If you don't sync your iPad to a computer (as none of our students do), they cannot utilize audio files in other apps that allow you to link audio files (e.g. forScore). It turns out that unrealBook will allow you to save an audio file to its library, and you can control playback with unrealBook's transmogrify buttons. This is a great solution, but it doesn't solve the initial problem, and if you cannot buy paid apps in your school, your students still can't benefit from the feature.

So, my solutions needed to include the following features:

  1. Be able to import an audio file from Google Drive
  2. Be able to play audio from Google Drive
  3. Be able to record audio over existing audio (e.g. recording a student singing as the imported audio file plays in the background)
  4. Be able to export the newly recorded audio back to Google Drive
  5. Be free

I still can't find an option that does all of these, but I have found solutions–some that did not exist just a few weeks ago. Google Drive has changed a bit, and so have some other apps.


  1. To import audio, you need to use an app that supports “Open In.” The solution is NOT GarageBand (which would be the easiest imaginable solution), but instead is Hokusai Audio Editor. You go to Google Drive, select the file (Google Drive does not have an embedded audio player), and then “Open In” Hokusai.
  2. To play audio, there is an app called “GDrive” which works wonderfully, allowing you to play music. It acts as a system music player (like the stock music app, or Pandora), which means the music plays as you go into other apps, such as a PDF music reader like PiaScore (which is, unfortunately, the sheet music reader we need to continue to use).
  3. To record audio over the existing audio, Hokusai allows you to add another track, and then to “Monitor Old” meaning that you hear the existing track as you record (headphones suggested). If you mess up the take, you can rerecord it many times over.
  4. To export to Google Drive from Hokusai, you choose to save as a mp4 and then “Open In” Google Drive. The file will save in Google Drive, and you can then move the file using the Google Drive app to a specific folder.
  5. All these apps: Hokusai, GDrive, and of course, Google Drive, are free.

This means that I now have the ability to put audio files on shared Google Drive folders for my students, and they can now listen to those files.

And this also means that I can require my students to record themselves singing on their iPad and to save their performance in their Google Drive, for assessment purposes, as well as for their portfolios for Student Led Conferences in March.

Yes, it would be possible for easier solutions: for example, if you could open an audio file in GarageBand, you could use GarageBand for recording new tracks–and then export right to Google Drive. Or if you could save audio to your music library, you could then link to those recordings in many apps, such as forScore or unrealBook, taking advantage of their wonderful audio linking features. If I could have students record custom-created SMP files (made with Finale) on their iPads with SmartMusic, this would also be easier (and could have impartial objective feedback included). Unfortunately, SmartMusic does not yet have this feature on the iPad.

But for now, at least I have GDrive and Hokusai as solutions–both free. The next challenge? Teaching students how to use these apps. That is what the week after our concert is for!




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