must have teaching apps

There are just certain pieces of technology & must-have apps that make life so much easier.  And honestly, if I didn’t have access to iPads, a cell phone & online apps my studio would look very different & wouldn’t be nearly as profitable. These are “The Apps I Can’t Live Without” – Teaching Edition!

If you are just getting started with technology (or want ideas on how to streamline), the list below is the one you need.  None of the links are affiliate links (meaning I don’t receive any compensation for having them).

These are the apps that I use all the time & use to streamline my work week. They have ensured that I can make the most profit with my set work hours AND still have a personal life.

Must-Have Teaching Apps

In the last few years, I’ve made a big change in how I teach my students. While we still focus on various concepts (improvisation, ear training, note reading, etc.), things are much more integrated than before. That being said there are some apps that just have to be listed.

While all of the apps listed are student favourites, online lessons can present a bit of a challenge.  If an app has (OL) next to it, it means it works well during online lessons.  I’ve included tips for each app on how to use it during online lessons.

Creativity/ Creating music:

  • GarageBand & iReal Pro (OL):  Great for creating backing tracks that get students ready for recitals & are oh so much fun to play with!
    • OL: create the tracks beforehand to send students.  Or, have students use their device & share the screen.
  • Yamaha Chord Tracker (OL): With an audio track, you can get the chord progression. This gives students a leg up when improvising or adding an accompaniment pattern using the same chord progression from a piece they are playing.
    • OL: Get the chord structure of songs you already have on your device.  Help students build chords into their playing from an early age.
  • Music Memos (OL)(now know as Voice Memos): Have a musical idea stuck in your head? Record it & listen later to write it out.  NOTE: iTunes transitioned to “Voice Memos” (an app already on Apple devices) as a replacement for Music Memos. (Jan. 2021).
    • OL: Students listen to recordings both in the on & during the week when they purchase the app.

Ear training:

  • YouRecord (OL): Long time favourite in the studio because of how easy it is to use. Great for getting students to record, then listen for specific things in their recording.
    • OL: Students listen to recordings both in the on & during the week when they purchase the app.
  • Music Memos (OL): Also a great app for listening back to practice. Or, sending a copy to your teacher. (As of Jan. 2021, Apple has converted strictly to Voice Memos for this purpose.)
  • Good Ear (OL): Contains several apps that cover scales, intervals, chords, & melodies!
    • OL: For the “Scales”, “Intervals” & “Chords”, you will need to select the answer for the student.  “Melodies” requires the student to play onscreen so it will not work for online lessons.
  • Blob Chorus (OL): Students listen to 2 – 8 blobs & match the pitch.  
    • OL: You will need to select the blob for the student on your device.
  • ABRSM Trainer: I really like how you can get a balanced set of exercises & that it always comes back to the music.
  • Ear Cat (OL):  For all the cat lovers in your studio. Match the pitches for up to an octave.
    • OL: You will need to select the pitch for the student on your device.  May be more difficult when playing back a song at higher levels.

Note Reading:

Most note reading apps tend to be time-based & not ideal for online lessons.  There are a few workarounds though!  Any app that requires answers on a time limit will require great internet for both teacher & student to reduce the lag.

  • Noteworks (OL):  Timed note-reading app that lets students go back to incorrect answers to fix them.  Set up student profiles within the app.  You can customize speed, clef & whether to use keyboard, note names or fixed do.
    • OL: You will need to select the note for the student on your device.  This could work for lower levels but is not recommended for higher levels since the notes move faster on the screen.
  • NoteFlash Derby (OL):  Timed note-reading app that is highly customizable.  You can set up a teacher account to send homework, customize which notes will be quizzed.
    • OL: This was one of the few apps that recognized the pitch on a student device.  But, it was not consistent.  For the best results, you will need to select the note for the student on your device.  I would not recommend for higher levels if you need to select the answers.
  • Note Rush (OL):  Timed note-reading app that is highly customizable.  You can create levels then send the QR codes of those levels to families.
    • OL: This was one of the few apps that recognized the pitch on a student device.  It was more consistent then NoteFlash Derby.  As long as the sound is turned up on both the student & teacher side, the sound does carry through.
  • Treble Cat & Bass Cat:  Great for when you want to train students to scan the score.  Asks the student to select only certain notes.
  • Ningenius (OL): Set up profiles for each student in a variety of instruments.  A popular option for the studio.
    • OL: You will need to select the answer for the student on your device.  Not recommended for higher levels since the game-play is so quick.
  • Tenuto (OL):  Minimalist design & highly customizable.
    • OL: You will need to select the answer for the student on your device.
  • MusicFlashClass (OL): Minimalist design & highly customizable.
    • OL: You will need to select the answer for the student on your device.


Most rhythm apps require students to interact with the screen directly & are not ideal for online lessons.  There is one workaround (so far) though!

  • Rhythmic Village: Popular with elementary-aged students
  • Rhythm Swing: Popular with elementary age
  • Lost in Harmony: Popular with teens
  • Metronome (OL): A must in the studio, any app will work since it doesn’t have to be fancy.
    • OL: If a student does not have a metronome, they can hear this through your audio.
  • The Most Amazing Sheep Game: Back by popular demand!  Students love this game & have no idea they are learning pulse.
    • Perfect when a student is going on holiday!  Friends & family members will clamour to have a turn as well.

Sight Reading:

This is another category in which apps are more difficult in an online app.  My suggestion is to use all the physical books you have as short sight-reading excerpts.

  • Scan Bee (OL):  Scanning short exercise excerpts allows students to mark up the page with colours & not destroy your books.  It also ensures you have a digital copy to screen share during online lessons.
    • Unless you have permission from the publisher or composer, do not send these copies to students.
  • Piano Maestro & Dust Buster:  Another long-time student favourite! Students will gladly spend all lab time trying to up their level.
    • OL: While Piano Maestro did hear the student audio, the lag during online lessons meant it marked almost all the pitches wrong. You could use this as an intro to a piece though by using the “Learn” feature & disregard the scoring at the end.
  • Read Ahead:  It trains students to check for patterns, to keep a steady tempo, & look ahead as they play.


  • MusiClock (OL):  Who doesn’t like playing scales with backing tracks?  Also, a great way to build up speed without students really noticing.
    • OL: Have the backing track play on your device.  Keep in mind that audio lag will mean the tempo will sound a bit off to you.  As long as it is consistent, go for it!
  • Piano Companion (OL):  This is a more academic approach to scales & chords that shows both on the staff & keyboard.  I will say that the options can be a little overwhelming since “everything” is included, but you can filter out much of that with easy to find settings.  For chords, select which inversion you would like to show the student.
    • OL: If a student is struggling to see what you are playing on your piano, this may be the option for you.

Theory (general):

  • Tenuto (OL): I still love the customization within this app, plus older teens & adults appreciate the simple look.
    • OL: You will need to select the answer for the student on your device.
  • Notability (OL):  This is THE app my students have used to access their lab assignments.  Adding PDF’s with links is easy & students can mark up PDF’s to their hearts’ content.
    • OL: Have the student screen share as they mark up the PDF, or screen share from your side & include a screenshot of their completed work in their folder.
  • Google Drive (OL): Storing worksheets, studio sheet music & student portfolios … it all goes here.  And, makes it easy to transfer labs between my office to the student iPad.
    • OL: Quickly pull up theory worksheets into screen share & have students annotate directly during the lesson.
    • Check that anything you place in the folder follows copyright laws & licensing agreements.


  • Safari (OL): (Comes with iPad)  Student is unclear on a musical term?  Look it up!  The student just HAS to play a new song they just heard?  Easily find a level-appropriate score!
    • OL: Even share the link with the student during their lesson either in the chat or by texting/emailing.
  • Google Drive (OL): Keep a folder of digital sheet music so it’s easy to pull up during the lesson.
    • OL: Quickly add during lesson & move out of the folder once the student does not need it anymore.
  • YouTube (OL): Love ’em or hate ’em, tutorials are all over YouTube & they give students a great visual practice tool during the week.  Set up repertoire lists for students that they can view new options during the week rather than using lesson time.
    • OL: Keep in mind that your devices processing speed determines whether the video will freeze during screen share or not.  If your laptop or tablet is older, hold up a secondary device to the camera so your student can watch the video.
  • Native camera app (OL): Have students use the Camera app on their device so they won’t forget what to practice in a new section.
    • OL: Have a student take a picture of the screen for a quick reminder of what something looks like.  Alternatively, you can just send a recording from their lesson time.

Must have apps … your list

If you are looking at this list & feeling overwhelmed, keep in mind you can start with just one app.  I’ve been building up this list of apps over the years as I worked to solve the challenges in my studio.  As I mastered one app, I would add another to solve yet another problem.  But, it all started with ONE.

If you are just starting out, what is ONE app that you will try out this upcoming week?

Or, perhaps you’ve used apps for years in your studio.

What is a teaching app that I’ve missed that your students love?


UPDATED: July 6, 2020 to reflect the different needs of online teaching.