Music education technology

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This should become an overview page about music education technology. It may take some time to get there - Daniel K. Schneider 18:30, 12 September 2011 (CEST).

We shall be particularly interested in tools that help learners play and compose music by playing and composing, i.e. use technology as cognitive tool or in other words learning with technology as opposed to learning from technology. More precisely we shall investigate the educational use of music notation software, of editing/recording/playing software using the MIDI standard and the interaction of these with a digital piano.

In addition, there exists some more specific software. “There are applications that use the MIDI connection between your instrument and computer to help you learn different aspects of music. A music-reading program may display a note, chord, or passage on the screen; you play the displayed notes on the digital piano and the software keeps track of your accuracy and helps you improve. An ear-training application may play for you an interval that you then try to play yourself on the keyboard. The application will tell you what you did right or wrong and help you improve your ear. Other types teach music history and music theory. While many of these applications are geared to specific levels or ages, some can be set to multiple levels as you progress, or for use by multiple players.” (Computer Software by Alden Skinner, retrieved sept. 16 2011.

See also:



A range of instruments can be connected to a computer or another device via a so-called MIDI interface. I.e. The instrument can play sounds on the computer and the other way round. A computer can play sounds on an instrument that can produce sounds (like a digital piano). The device that sends messages is called a controller, i.e. a keyboard is a controller when it sends MIDI messages to another sound-producing device. Many kinds of keyboards (from cheap under $100 USB MIDI keyboards) to expensive digital pianos are MIDI capable.

Some of of keyboards include built-in educational technology and that is often based on MIDI or a related standard. A typical example is a keyboard that can play part of a partition (e.g. the right hand), display the music sheet and then follow the student while he/she is playing the left part. When the student makes a mistake, the keyboard then could stop, wait and signal the error.

In a USC News blog post, Julia Fraser reports the use of Yamaha Disklaviers for coaching a student at distance in real time.


Computers (Win/Max/Unix) can be connected through a so-called MIDI interface with most keyboards, some other instruments or other devices.

Of course, various kinds of software can and is being used in music education. See below.

Specialized hardware for education

Is there any besides lab furniture and some controlling devices ?

Integrated systems (music education labs)

E.g. Korg's educational division, Soundtree provides “turn-key learning systems for education integrating electronic music instruments, audio components, video production tools, computers and software” (retrieved 18:30, 12 September 2011 (CEST)).

Sequencers and related software

According to Wikipedia, A music sequencer (or just sequencer) is a computer program or electronic device for recording, editing and playing back music, in the form of digital audio and/or MIDI data.

Music sequencers come in two basic forms:

  • Software
  • Hardware

Some sequencer software also include other functions, such as music notation.

Garageband example

According to Wikipedia, retrieved 18:30, 12 September 2011 (CEST), “GarageBand is a software application for Mac OS X and iOS that allows users to create music or podcasts. It is developed by Apple Inc. as a part of the iLife software package. [...] It can play realistic, sampled instruments, used for creating songs or playing music live using over 100 sampled or synthesized instruments, which can be played using a USB or MIDI keyboard connected to the computer, or using an on-screen virtual keyboard. [...] GarageBand can import MIDI files, and offers piano roll or notation-style editing and playback.”. GarageBand was developed in the early '90s and first published on Jan 2004 by Apple. As of sept 2011, GarageBand is available as version '11, part of the iLive package included in each new Mac. These is also an iPad version available for $5.

GarageBand supports USB MIDI keyboards

Recent versions of GarageBand 5/'09 or later allow to download music lessons from GarageBand's Lesson Store for guitar and piano. There are two types of lesson available in the Lesson Store: Basic Lessons which are a free download and Artist Lessons which must be purchased. The first Basic Lessons for both guitar and piano are included with GarageBand.

Using music notation software

According to Tomas E. Rudolph, in Using Notation Software with Students (blog), “many teachers have found that notation software is an excellent medium to encourage composition and to reinforce theory and other concepts.”. Notable links in this blog post were:

See the music notation software article for a list of music notation software !

Computer-based learning software

See also: Recommended List of Music Software for Music Teaching and Learning

List of free software

  • GNU Solfege is an ear training program written to help you train intervals, chords, scales and rhythms. It is free software and part of the GNU Project. The program is indented to help music students with their ear training.
  • Jalmus is a free, open source music education software helping the musicians, specially pianists, to improve their sight-reading. You can train to read music with both exercises on notes or rhythms. Multi platform (Java).

List of commercial software

The provisional list below was taken from the (commercial) SoundTree Product Guide 2011.

( not complete ! )

Alfred Essentials of Music Theory (vol I to III)
music theory concepts through lessons, exercises, games, tests, ear training and recordings.
Alfred Making Music
discovery of pitch, rhythm and sounds of various instruments and styles of music for children.
Secret Composer
music composition (for beginners to advanced)
Music Ace
by Harmonic Vision
Various editions, e.g. Music Ace, Music Ace 2, Music Ace Deluxe, Music Ace Maestro (Includes Ace 1 + 2 + extras).
Music Ace Maestro Lesson list
Music skills (reading, listening, etc.) and an understanding of music theory.
O-Music O-Generator Learning to Compose
fundamentals of music and composition
Groovy Music
by Sibelius
Several age levels (e.g. Shapes for 5-7 yrs, City for 9-11 years)
teach the basics of sound, rhythm, pitch and composition using pictures and animation to elementary and middle school children.
Rising Software Auralia 4
Ear training package
Rising Software Musition 4
Music theory
Musition 4
by Sibelius
Music theory training & testing with structured drills and feedback, etc.
Smart Music
“is an interactive music software that provides the ideal practice environment”.... Teacher creates and assignement, where students have to play or sing along with background accompaniment. The program provides immediate feedback and also allow students to upload a performance.

Piano lesson software

Piano lesson software comes with various features, for example:

  • Play-along tracks (left, right, both)
  • Metronome
  • Progress tracking and feedback
  • MIDI interface
  • Included Keyboard (MIDI controller)
  • PC-based learning software (behaviorist/game-like)

The list below is highly provisional. None of the software was tested...

Piano Wizard Academy

Most titles seem to be quite traditional, i.e. a combo of Instructional text, videos and play-along CDs. Few truly exploit PC-keyboard interaction or recorder/sequencers built into advanced keyboards.

Learn and Master Piano

Rocket Piano

  • (homepage)
  • A series of piano books, plus "bonus software" (metronome, music reading, chord reading, ear training).
  • Price: 40$ (digital downloads), $200 (printed/CDs)

eMedia Piano and Keyboard Method

  • (homepage)
  • Based on learning 300 songs
  • 70 animated video demonstrations
  • Can interact with a MIDI keyboard and provide feedback
  • Also can be used with an accoustic piano (via microphone input)
  • Medium: CD
  • Price: $ 38 to $ 60 (eMedia Piano and Keyboard Method CD), $100 (Deluxe edition CD, including the intermediate version)
  • Optional keyboard

Piano for Dummies

  • eMedia Piano For Dummies (homepage)
  • Three levels. Level one is about half of eMedia Piano and Keyboard Method (see above)

Play Piano Deluxe

  • TOPICS Entertainment homepage
  • Also sold as: "Instant Play Piano Deluxe"
  • Five CDs and one DVD
  • No MIDI interactivity (?)
  • Price: $8 on (instead of $39)

Piano Suite Premier

  • (homepage)
  • Song-based instruction (500 songs), plus 8 games.
  • Interacts with a (required) Midi keyboard and provides feedback
  • Price:
  • The M-Audio KeyRig 49 USB Midi keyboard is recommended (about $80/ CHF 110). On Amazon this gets very mixed reviews ....


  • (homepage)
  • Digital manuals (PDF), Audios and videos. The latter are linked to the PDF.
  • No MIDI interactivity (?)
  • Price: $40

Online music education technology

Online interactive services

  • Creating Music “is a children's online creative music environment for children of all ages. It's a place for kids to compose music, play with musical performance, music games and music puzzles.”
  • (includes lessons, interactive exercises and tools). Also features Tenuto, a mobile music trainer (iOS).

E-learning programs

  • Berkelee uses a custom-made LMS that adds both pedagogical and music-spectific features that can't be found in other LMSs.



How to use technology in education / Overviews

  • Scorewriter Wikpedia's article about Music notation software.

Computer music links

Specialized vendors
Various software

Organizations and people

  • TI:ME, The Technology Institute for Music Education is an association. Membership is required for accessing some resources.
On-line communities
  • Vermont MIDI Project is to encourage and support students in composing and arranging music. A community of professional composers, teachers, pre-service educators, and students engage in mentoring and online discussion of student work
  • Music Tech Teacher, is an extension of the music technology classroom at Central Park School in Birmingham
Music teachers' sites
  • Peter Webster (Northwestern University) and David B. Williams (Illinois State University Emeritus)


  • Legget, Maria (2003) In Tune With The Times: Berklee Media’s Custom LMS, The elearning developper's journal, Jan 27, 2003.
  • Poulter, Zachary B. Teaching Improv in Your Jazz Ensemble: A Complete Guide for Music Educators,
  • Rudolph Thomas (2004), Teaching Music with Technology, second edition, Chicago: GIA Publications.
  • Spotlight on Technology in the Music Classroom
  • Williams, David B. and Peter R. Webster (2009). Experiencing Music Technology (3rd Ed Update), Schirmer: Cengage Learning.