iPad’s multitouch gestures make it perfect for emulating musical instruments, which is probably why there are so many virtual instrument apps out there. Before you splash out on any old app though, I would really recommend this week’s favourite – Apple’s own GarageBand app – which not only includes loads of instruments, loops and effects for introducing students to instruments, but also the ability to record, add effects and even let students jam together.
What is GarageBand for iPad?
I’ll just start by saying, GarageBand for iPad is a completely different beast from the desktop version of GarageBand you get in iLife. It isn’t simply a slimmed-down mobile version, it’s a fully featured app for making, recording and processing music directly on an iPad. You get a selection of playable instruments, with keys (pianos, organs and synths) and drums (normal live drums and electronic drum machines), a music processing app with a wealth of effects to add to instruments, automated Smart Instruments so even non-musicians can quickly create a backing track, and the all-important Record function, which lets students create multi-track compositions for sharing and assessment. And it only costs £2.99!
How can it benefit the classroom?
GarageBand is an ideal way for students to practise playing when space and resources are limited – for example, if you only have one drum kit, students can still get the benefits of using virtual drums on iPad. It’s also a fantastic introduction to a number of instruments for students who aren’t natural musicians. Using the Smart Instruments, they can simply tap a chord and GarageBand will automatically play a pattern based on the selected chord. Once you start recording compositions, GarageBand really comes into its own, though. Using the ‘transport’ buttons at the top of the screen, students can quickly start recording tracks (from the virtual instruments, iPad’s built-in microphone or an external mic like the IK iRig).
The Arpeggiator feature of the synthesiser instrument automatically creates arpeggios, which is great for teaching the basics of musical structure and scales. You also get a sampler, so you can record any classroom instrument (like a recorder), then use just one note to create a whole tune on the keyboard, as well as loads of great-sounding instrument loops and effects to add to each track.
When students have created their multi-track composition, they can share it straight to Facebook , YouTube, iTunes, email, iMovie for adding video or, most impressively, upload it straight to SoundCloud. This online service lets students post up their music for assessment, with the teacher being able to click the link to the SoundCloud page and make comments on each part of the track. GarageBand for iPad also syncs up nicely with the Mac version, so if any students wanted to take it a bit further, they could import their composition into the desktop GarageBand for more complex editing.
What’s the best feature?
Jam Session is by far the best feature of GarageBand for iPad. This relatively new update to the app lets up to four students connect their iPad devices over Bluetooth, so they can record together at the same time, ticking off those group work boxes in the curriculum. Tapping the little musical note symbol at the top makes GarageBand automatically search for and connect to other users nearby to add to your band. Each is given their own track for drums, guitar, keys etc, then everything is recorded onto the band leader’s (the student or teacher who set up the session) iPad, with everyone able to listen to everyone else’s parts on headphones the whole time.
Where can I get it?
You can download Apple GarageBand from the App Store or iTunes, for £2.99. We reckon that’s already a bit of a bargain considering all the instruments and features included, but Apple have also added it to their Volume Purchase Programme, so if you buy more than 20 copies for education, you can get it for £1.49 per app!
Want to find out more about great education apps and Apple iPad for the classroom? Give the team a call on 03332 409 333 or email learning@Jigsaw24.com. You can also keep up with all our latest education news and reviews by following @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’-ing our Jigsaw24 Education Facebook page.