Category Archives: iPad Apps

Ten (iOS) Tech Tools to Help a Secondary Music Educator Prepare for a Concert (#2: Keynote)


This is the penultimate post in a series about ten iOS tech tools that can be used to help secondary music educators prepare for a concert.  The idea comes from Amy Burns, who is wrapping up a series on ten tech tools that can be used to help elementary music educators prepare for a concert.  Amy’s series should wrap up today, and will be followed with a webinar.  You can find Amy’s work at

Without a doubt, Keynote is one of my most used teaching tools.  Keynote comes free with every iOS device and every MacBook.  I find it to be an easy to use program that creates attractive presentations, with a few power tools for power users.

A typical day in my class when we are in “singing mode” currently looks like this:

  • Introductory video to catch their attention and get them in the room on time (credit: Katie Wardrobe and Midnight Music…see her list of videos as a starting point).  Videos are started at the bell.  I take attendance and deal with other issues while the video plays.  I used to do the written work for Dale Duncan’s S-Cubed method, but students were not completing the work and taking their automatic 50% instead (it’s a attitude about respect for learning that we are trying to change in the whole school).  I am always open to trying new things…and this is working.
  • The S-Cubed “Forbidden Pattern” game (credit: Dale Duncan S-Cubed Method)
  • Vocal Warm-Ups
  • Rehearsal
    • Song (working on the song as needed as the concert approaches)
    • Sight-Singing Exercise based on an S-Cubed Lesson, but using Sight Reading Factory
    • Song
    • Sight Rhythm Exercises based on an S-Cubed Lesson, but using Sight Reading Factory
    • Song
    • Sight-Singing Exercise based on an S-Cubed Lesson, but using Sight Reading Factory—this time with solfége added
    • Song
    • Sight Rhythm Exercise based on an S-Cubed Lesson, but using Sight Reading Factory
  • Announcements
    • At concert time, don’t forget to make slides about concert dates and times, as well as slides to discuss behavior and safety expectations.  Make special efforts to discuss what to do if a student is ill before the concert or starts feeling ill during a concert.
  • Ukulele Time
    • Get ukuleles
    • Warm-up time
    • Introduce existing/new chords
    • Play through play-along videos as created by Dr. Jill Reese, Dr. A, Kevin Way, Kris Gilbert, Ukulaliens, and others (including myself)
    • Put ukuleles away

Any item bonded in this list uses Keynote as a tool.  I used to run Keynote off my iPad, but I like to use my iPad for other things, such as iDoceo for attendance, or just to be able to work off my own screen without reflecting it.  I used to reflect music on a regular basis, but I found that students stopped using their own music and became dependent on the screen (not learning their music in time for a concert).  Now I only reflect my own iPad on occasion.

A few suggestions about the use of Keynote:

  • While it is against copyright in the purest sense, download videos to use before class and embed them in the Keynote presentation.  There are a few solutions to this, but the one that is well known is  If you have to switch between your presentation and a web browser (YouTube), only bad things can happen.
  • I have a running collection of warm-up slides that I switch up every day (We are on an A/B schedule) for warm-ups.  I have a specific order of warm-ups that I follow every day, although the warm-ups themselves change.  It is a very easy to select slides from my warm-up collection and to insert them in my daily Keynote.  Someday I will publish this collection, most likely as a Patreon reward.  Projecting warm-ups is very helpful…students are trained to look at a screen, so it will help with some behavior issues, and it can also reinforce music literacy.  Sure, you can call out warm-ups, but try projecting yours.  And if you have warm-ups you would like to share with me, please, send me an e-mail.  I have several hundred, but an always add more.
  • Some people may wonder why I use Keynote instead of other services like PowerPoint or Google Slides.  Simply put, Keynote is easier to use and it looks better.  Keynote acts very much like a merger of the best parts of PowerPoint and SMART Notebook.  Can you do these things with other programs?  Sure.

While Keynote isn’t solely used for concert preparation, it is definitely used as a key tool in my instruction, which leads to two performances per year—and thus it deserves to be mentioned in this series.

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Ten (iOS) Tech Tools to Help a Secondary Music Educator Prepare for a Concert (#3: Assessment tools: Schoology or Showbie)



This is a continuing series on ten iOS Tech Tools that can be used to help a secondary music educator prepare for a concert.  The idea comes from Amy Burns, who created the idea for this series with a focus on elementary music educators.  You can find Amy’s series at

I have had to try to find ways to assess students that reflects what they know and what they can do.  When it comes to a performance, I cannot grade them individually, as I cannot hear what they are individually doing in the concert.  I have to assess them before or after the concert on an individual basis.  I don’t have lesson time, and we don’t have funding for red/green note programs.  We are a 1:1 school, however, so what I can do is have every student record themselves singing a part of a song during a rehearsal.

I used to assess student performance with Showbie (see post #4 in this series), where I would post a rubric in PDF format, and then have students use the embedded audio recording tool to record themselves in class on that document (make sure they know where the microphone is on an iPad or Chromebook—it has moved locations on the iPad in recent years).  Then I later used Showbie’s quick grading feature to toggle through each of the sung assessments and to quickly mark the rubric with a finger, stylus, or Apple Pencil.  I have about 340 students—and if you choose the right area of a song to assess, you don’t need much more than 15 to 30 seconds of music to ascertain a students’ current level of ability on a song.  I stole the idea of using rubrics for this process from a colleague at another 1:1 iPad school in the area (Sue Bujold), and middle schools in our district cannot give a grade lower than 50% on any assignment, even if a student has not attempted the assignment (please do not take this statement as my approval of this approach).  If a student missed the opportunity to record in class, they could attempt to record at home (a cappella), or record another day in class, if we were still working on the music.

This past concert season, I assessed two songs, along with sight singing and rhythm reading, all in a group setting—it is incredibly efficient, even with a large number of students.  You do have to use your prep time efficiently if you want to keep your home life your home life (otherwise you will be grading non-stop at home, something I try to avoid).

Last year, my school decided that all teachers would use Schoology, and this year our district provided funds for the enterprise version.  The full version of Schoology has an embedded audio recorder, and has rubrics built in.  This year, instead of using Showbie for assessments, I have used Schoology…and this works incredibly well.  Students record themselves in an assignment, and the assignment is already linked to a rubric (pretty much the same rubric as the past).  Grading is just as fast as Showbie, particularly if I grade using a MacBook (and not my iPad).  As in the past, students can resubmit recordings, and the minimum grade of 50% still applies.  Again, please note that the free version of Schoology does not allow for in-app audio recording.

In both programs, I can add specific comments (something I do not always have time to do), and with the 50% minimum, scores may not be what a student desires—but they do not completely destroy the grade, either.  As you can see on the rubrics, the categories are “meets expectations,” “partially meets expectations,” and “does not meet expectations.”  One of the great joys of this approach is that students have to sing for you, but they do not have to sing alone or in a small group in front of you, which can be absolutely nerve-wracking for some students.  In this method, they can sing with their peers, but their microphone (I find about 6-8 inches away from their mouth while singing) allows you to hear how they are doing individually in the safety of the herd.

I will be using similar rubrics with video assessments (pointing at the students hands on the instrument) as we move to ukuleles as a primary focus for the next 10-12 weeks.

If you are a teacher that has been looking for a way to individually assess student performance in music classes, these technology tools are an incredible way to help you in that process.

I have attached some images of the rubrics that I have used in the recent past with both Showbie and Schoology.




Ten (iOS) Tech Tools to Help a Secondary Music Educator Prepare for a Concert (#4: Showbie, or forScore for High School)


This is a continuing series of ten iOS tech tools to help a secondary music educator prepare for a concert.  Today I’d like to talk about what students see in our 1:1 iPad School.

Contrary to what Google’s marketing and Anti-Apple evangelists would like you to believe, there are still schools that are 1:1 iPad, and there are still schools moving to 1:1 iPad.  Yes, there are many schools that look at costs and decide to go with Chromebooks.  And as I have written about in the past, Chromebook has won (ultimately) and as a result, the application solutions for music education have improved due to necessity.  That said, Apple’s new 9.7” iPad that sells for under $300 is a direct response to the Chromebook.  I still believe that the iPad is a better solution for any classroom without a desk—both in terms of form and function.

One of the easiest ways to implement the iPad in music education is to use it for sheet music.  This is where people get very angry about the issue of copyright.  As I have said in the past, if you are converting school owned paper resources under copyright to digital resources and using them in a school, in the purest sense, you are breaking copyright.  My advice for you, if you choose to use digital music, is to make sure that you own a legal paper copy for every digital copy that you are using, and distribute the digital version via a method where you can easily “collect” the digital copy after a performance.  Do not simply buy one piece and share it with 150 students!


I have tried a few solutions over the years at the high school and middle school level when it comes to reading music on an iPad (or Android device).  We’re seven years into the iPad, and I have to report that the experience is still the best on the iPad.  If you are an Android user, I believe that MobileSheets is still your best solution.  And if you are a high school student or older, look at any of the apps that I mentioned in my previous post about forScore, unrealBook, or Newzik.

A few days ago, a reader e-mailed asking why I didn’t recommend piaScore.  piaScore is a freemium app (download for free, pay to unlock features) that has advanced over the years.  I had issues with piaScore at school as YouTube is embedded in the app (can you think of a reason why you wouldn’t want YouTube available to your students in rehearsal?) and by the time you unlock all of piaScore’s freemium features, you will have spent more than forScore or unrealBook or Newzik.  I also think the other programs are laid out in a more logical way, but that bit is a bit of opinion.

However, when it comes to middle school students, particularly those who are required to be in a music class, and therefore a huge percentage end up in choir (60%-70% of the total number of students in music), having a music reader with 8,000,000 buttons is NOT a good thing.  The Keep It Simple approach applies.

Therefore, I use Showbie as a music reader for my students.  Showbie is a “light” learning management system, and they have recently changed its pricing and features.  Simply put, there is a free version and a paid version (either individually or by district), and it is another tool that uses GAFE login protocols (can I hear an “Amen?”).

I used to use Showbie for many of its other features, but our school moved to the enterprise (paid) version of Schoology, so I am using Schoology for most of that prior work—but I continue to use and pay for Showbie for music distribution.  I can create a “folder” of our music that students can see and annotate, changing pages by swiping left and right (no hot spot feature).  Yes, some students just draw on the pages (they would be doing so on paper, too).  But with Apple Classroom, I can make sure they are in the correct app (I try not to look at individual screens—if they are in the right app they are close enough), and at the end of a concert season, I can delete the folder, removing access to that music.  Showbie just turned on the ability to reorder music in the folder—so you could theoretically change the order FOR your students every day (during rehearsals) or put the music into concert order (as the concert day approaches).  You can also add individual files to individual student folders (and this is how they can also turn things into you).

I could easily operate as Showbie as our only LMS…but Schoology is pretty cool, too.  I’d love to see Showbie and Schoology merge into a single solution.

The free version does limit the total number of assignments that you can have, and to be honest, I haven’t worked under the free version for four years.  Still, if you are a 1:1 school, Showbie may be an answer for digital music distribution.  Showbie also has a web based version which is improving (they also see the allure of the Chromebook), so theoretically you could put parts in Showbie and students could access those parts at home without dragging a music folder with them (they can access Showbie on any device).  You can pin a recording to a PDF file (you can upload many file formats to Showbie), but you still cannot upload an existing audio file (such as a recording exported from Notion) to Showbie.  I keep hoping…as then students could practice with the track at home.

With the free version and the web version, perhaps Showbie might be a solution for you in terms of providing music for students to use in class or to practice with at home!

Ten (iOS) Tech Tools to Help a Secondary Music Educator Prepare for a Concert (#5: Notion)


This is a continuing series about ten tech tools (iOS-minded) to help a secondary music educator prepare for a concert.  The idea comes from Amy Burns, who started a series about ten tech tools for elementary music educators prepare for concerts at  She is wrapping up her list with a live webinar (this series on techinmusiced will not be followed by a webinar).

My iPad Pro, my own personal investment, splits time between being a device for school and a device for home.  When it comes to school use of my iPad, there is no doubt that forScore likely gets the most amount of screen time.  When it comes to preparing music, however, Notion is where I spend time.

It is a long story, but when the iPad came out, a couple of college kids came out with a program called Symphony Pro.  It was the first true notation app for the iPad, and it had a lot of issues—but then the team split up as life started after college.  Since that time, Symphony Pro has been re-started and is once again available in the App Store, ever improving.  However, around the time of Symphony Pro’s disappearance, Notion entered into the world of iOS and has really become the Cadillac of notation on the iPad (even factoring in web-based options like Noteflight and

Simply put, Notion for iOS works very well, and is a perfect companion to the Mac/Win version of the program.  I use the iOS version to write music (how I do many ukulele arrangements), edit MusicXML files, and to export audio from Notion.  Can the desktop version do this?  Sure—but I always have my iPad Pro with me (or my iPhone), and there is a huge benefit to audio on the iPad.  The entire library of Notion sounds on the iPad is $30.  The full library of sounds on Mac/Win is $300 ($150 on sale right now, and yes, I’m extremely tempted to buy it).  The iPad sounds are not as dynamically diverse as you will find with the full Mac/Win version—but they are good—better than the sounds that come with the full desktop version of other notation programs.  And to be honest, when I am using an accompaniment with my choirs, I am not usually concerned about slight dynamic contrasts on a score….most of the time, I am concerned that my students can hear the accompaniment and stay together as a group!  Additionally, Notion on the iPad has a mixer that is related to Studio One in appearance, making it very easy to create part-heavy audio tracks (rehearsal track) or part-empty tracks (accompaniments).

If you want percussion parts, you can enter then using Notion for iOS, but in truth, the Mac/Win version has wonderful percussion “standard” beats that can be dragged into the score, saving a lot fo time and resulting in a good sounding percussion part.   Pretty much whatever goes into the Mac/Win version of a score is visually correct and often played back correctly on the iOS version.  The major tool missing from the iOS version is the Mac/Win version tool called N-Tempo where you can either tap in a beat and have a song follow your pre-planned tempo changes—or N-Tempo’s ability to be controlled live in performance (a number of broadway musicals use Notion for this reason).

While I created some accompaniments with GarageBand and others with iReal Pro, for scores that had existing accompaniments, I use Notion for iOS.  I scan in the music with NotateMe or Sheet Music Scanner, export to Notion for iOS, and then work on that file, exporting the final audio to forScore.  Additionally, your work in Notion for iOS is saved in iCloud, which can be opened on your Mac, allowing you to make changes (e.g. add a percussion part), and save—leaving the updated file ready to be opened by Notion for iOS.

Notion is a $17 app with In-App Purchases for sounds (available independently or as a bundle) and for handwriting.

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This may be old news for you, but joined the ranks of web-based apps that have also released an iOS version of their web app called Flat – Music Notation.  I had been a beta tester of the app (I didn’t have a lot of time to provide feedback), and since the last beta version, I had not used the app and was not aware that the public version had been released.

If you aren’t familiar with, there are two solutions for web-based music notation.  One of those solutions is Noteflight, and the other is  In my opinion, Noteflight is the heavy duty app, with more functionality and features. has always been easier to use, but more limited in its features.  Of course, as time rolls on, both programs keep adding features, and it is always nice to read updates from the team.

I bought a one month subscription for my students to use the education version of last year—which worked well, even on iPad.  You can use on an iPad, but the app offers even more flexibility for the iPad user (Noteflight had discussed making an iPad app at one time, too).  The things I like about are its interface (which creates notes out of existing rests, like Sibelius), its connections with Google Apps for Education (any time you take away the need for yet another password, you make my life as a teacher easier), and’s ability to embed musical scores into a Google Doc (something new in 2017).  That will revolutionize music education papers at the college level in the future (and something I am eager to interact with when I teach at the college level).  I also like the doesn’t hide features if you don’t pay for the service.  They give you three private scores for free, but if you go beyond those scores, your scores are public unless you upgrade.  However, you have full access to all features and instruments in all of those scores.  And of course, you can import existing MusicXML files and export MusicXML files (into an app like Notion, for example).  The only feature I would still love to see added is the ability to have chord diagrams as chord symbols.  Right now, only letters appear as chord symbols.  If you love Flat, they have a one time lifetime purchase option that leaves you as a member forever, and they have been known to offer a discount on that purchase at various times, such as Black Friday.

The classroom version was wonderful…easy to assign a template to all students, and they only had to join their class with a “join code.”  It was easy for students to work on their assignments as well as to turn them in—and easy to correct them and give feedback.  It cost $100 to give 350 students access for a month.  There is a cheaper plan to give access to your students for a year ($1.50 a student), but I didn’t want to spend $525 on the service when we were only going to use it for the month.  If I could find a way to make composition a part of our course throughout the year, that $525 would be well spent.

There are benefits to Noteflight as well—but this post is about

It is FREE to start a account…you can login with your traditional Google account…and the Flat – Music Notation app for iOS is free.   So…why not take some time over the remainder of your holiday weekend and see what flat has to offer?