Tech & Media

How Apps Can Help Kids Learn About Music

Nov 10, 2015

Many kids love making music. Long before they’re ready for guitar lessons or piano recitals, kids find joy banging on drums, shaking maracas, jingling bells or pushing buttons on toy synths.

There are also lots of apps on tablets and phones that can help kids explore music. Some teach kids music fundamentals, some help them practice their "real" instruments and others just let them create and have fun.

Music Apps Make Music Accessible

The great thing about music apps is their accessibility—they make it easy for kids to experiment with music without having to invest in expensive equipment or instruments.

While a digital ukulele doesn’t replace the real stringed version, it does allow you to see if your children have an interest in pursuing music education.

Instructional apps also offer extra benefits that make learning music easier for some kids: self-directed learning (helps kids avoid being overwhelmed), gamified learning, and constant, objective feedback.

You'll Also Love: 8 Music-Making Apps For Kids

Experiment With Lots Of Different Sounds

Recording programs, like Apple’s GarageBand, essentially give kids their own studio with which to experiment, says Josh Lyon, a musician from Kingston, Ont.

His quartet of kids, ages four to 12, all play around with various instruments, write songs together and stage performances.

“They love GarageBand and have spent hours putting together layers of sounds, both vocal and instrumental, as well as playing with some of the looping and sampling capabilities,” he says.

Creating music and playing with sound gives kids a chance to creatively solve problems while processing and expressing their thoughts and feelings.

“Mostly, I think they just love being able to easily record their sound experimentations, play with effects and layer different instruments over things they’ve already recorded. It’s all musical, but not necessarily something you’d really want to listen back to—it’s about the process of playing with sounds.”

Lyon is thrilled his kids are making music, both digitally and with physical instruments. Creating music and playing with sound gives kids a chance to creatively solve problems while processing and expressing their thoughts and feelings.

Plus, Lyon loves that they're working together in a non-competitive way. "There are no losers when a bunch of people get together and play music and work together toward creating something together. That’s pretty rare in any other context and important to kids’ development,” he explains.

“It’s also important for kids to find their ‘voice,’ whether that’s singing or playing an instrument or any other kind of creative expression—and it can be hugely formative to how they live their lives and interact with the world."

Strike a Balance Between Technology And Human Interaction

Studies suggest that learning music helps kids’ brains mature, with positive effects on attention, anxiety and emotional control. Other research shows that early musical training has a positive effect on how we process sound much later in life. To get the full brain benefits of music training, kids have to be actively engaged. This means allowing them to be creative and have fun.

James Neilson is a music teacher who works with Yousician, a guitar and piano teaching app that can be used in combination with more traditional treaching methods. Technology and one-on-one music instruction are different things that meet different needs, but they can work beautifully together. 

Music lessons with a teacher provide guidance and social learning that technology simply can't provide. Apps offer a different experience, says Neilson. "There’s also no way for human teachers to [offer] … 24/7 feedback on accuracy and timing, an on-demand library of thousands of songs [in] all musical styles and difficulty levels and a syllabus that evolves and improves based on performance data from millions of players.”

Neilson doesn't believe that one is better than the other. "It all comes down to the quality of the instruction and the needs of the student,” he says.

“This is really the best of both worlds: teachers and technology working together to provide the best learning experience possible."

Want to introduce your kids to music-making apps but not sure where to start? We've assembed our favourite: 8 Music-Making Apps For Kids.

Article Author Erik Missio
Erik Missio

Read more from Erik here.

Erik Missio used to live in Toronto, have longish hair and write about rock ‘n’ roll. He now lives in the suburbs, has no hair and works in communications. He and his wife are the proud parents of a nine-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy, both of whom are pretty great. He received his MA in journalism from the University of Western Ontario.

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