Quirky music

Two addictive webtools and apps for experimenting with sounds, both of which might be used to introduce aspects of the computing curriculum.

Incredibox allows you to conduct your own human beatbox choir by dragging icons to characters on the screen, controlling what sounds they make and then ‘playing’ them by clicking to mute or solo. This is a great way to encourage children to think about cause and effect, sequencing, thinking ahead and problem solving. Try using it to encourage collaboration and to prompt useful talk about how to get the most from the tool.  You could use it to explore a wide range of musical concepts such as rhythm, layeriing, a cappella singing and timing. It would be a good introduction to a physical computing project using a Makey Makey kit to make other quirky instruments such as a banana piano or a human drum kit. Read a comprehensive review from Torrington High School with some interesting ideas for using Incredibox in the classroom.

Isle of Tune is a visual music sequencer in which you build your own musical islands. Draw roads and place streetlights, houses and trees to make notes and beats, then animate cars to play your choices. You can grade the level of challenge to fit the abilities of the children and the degree of scaffolding they need, from basic exploration to creating catchy and even recognisable tunes. This enables children to explore musical form and pattern, removing many limitations to musical innovation and also teaching logic and sequencing. Alongside your experimentation, watch OK GO’s remarkable Needing/Getting video of a car with pneumatic arms playing real instruments along a desert track.

Find more sound and music resources here in my Pinterest Collection.

Drawing with sound

A collection of simple apps suitable for Key Stage 1 which enable children to make musical drawings.

Fingerpaint with Sounds is a free app from HelpKidzLearn that is designed to help young children practice interacting with a touch screen and explore colour, sounds and music without the mess.  You can draw with music or with sound effects. Great fun!

Minimops is a website with five interactives for young children including a band you can ‘play’ and a ‘rainbow’ notepage where you can scribble with sounds. The ability to record and share is a great feature and all the activities work well on the interactive whiteboard.

Glow Tunes (69p) and Glow Tunes Christmas (free) give you a palette of lights and a selection of instruments for drawing using light pixels. You then press play to watch your drawing come to life.

Falling Stars is a simple and appealing generative music app in which you choose from seven vines to draw across the screen and then release stars to interact with them as they fall from the night sky. As the stars bounce on the different tones they build up to produce complex rhythms.


Singing Fingers app lets you fingerpaint with sounds on an iPad.


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Interacting with Sound

A collection of apps for interacting with sound.

Touchscreens have opened up a host of possibilities for making unusual musical compositions. You might use these apps and tools on their own; you might compose music for dance movements; or you could use them to respond to another artwork using sound. They offer starting points for thinking about patterns and repetition, and much potential for talk and collaboration as children ask ‘what if’ questions whilst they explore a tool’s music-making potential.

SoundPrism makes your musical inventions sound good straight away by only playing notes that are in key with each other. You can explore melodies, tone and chord patterns through a choice of 5 soundpacks, giving a good range of options.

Mixtikl 5 Free is a generative music maker which gives you control over the output as you  customise sounds, effects, musical parts and even add your own words. You can combine loops to create soundscapes out of the original 12 tracks or you can add your own. The message and display settings mean that you could write haiku poems that display text along with your music or you could create a composition that combines sound, a visual display and text in response to an artwork.

In Love like Rain you can touch, tilt or rotate your device to create a gentle tinkling ambience:

BeatEvolve Free is a music sequencer based around a 16×16 beat grid. It offers a way to visualise musical patterns and watch how they evolve. You can add layers choosing from piano, harpsichord, electric piano and drumkit, and then flip, shift and rotate the patterns and adjust the tempo to produce your riffs.  If you are online rather than on an iPad you could try iNudge, which lets you play with a matrix of sound patterns in a similar way.

Music Ball by Acoustic World is a very simple sound toy that creates tranquil chiming sounds as colourfall balls interact. You can play in landscape or portrait mode and create complex patterns by tilting the screen. Try the online tool BallDroppings for a similar experience.

Caelestis is a free sample-based generative music app that creates sounds with bouncing balls inside ‘rooms’ that contain different sounds. Balls can be thrown around inside these rooms, generating notes when they collide with the sides. You can spin the rooms, control pitch and speed, and explore 30 different sound samples in tuned, abstract or percussive categories, providing many creative possibilities.