Music Apps for Beginners

Last Updated on 2024-05-04 | Originally Posted on 2019-07-25


Several years ago, I set out to find music apps I could heartily recommend to my beginners. Two of the biggest challenges for beginners are on-the-staff reading and rhythm, so I was looking to find the best app for each. I also wanted to find the best metronome app, for those that prefer an app to owning a stand-alone metronome.

Why the Bias Towards iOS vs Android

There is a clear bias in education towards Mac over Windows, and that carries through in the apps world parallel of iOS vs Android. What I learned just recently, thanks to this blog post by Leila Viss, is that there is a clearer path to profit for developers on the Apple App Store over Google Play. As a result, there’s a distinct advantage to having an iPhone or an iPad for the best availability of apps.

Fortunately, all of the apps mentioned except Rhythm Lab (iPad only) are available on both platforms. The links provided are to the iOS versions.

One More Thing

You get what you pay for, at least with music apps! When an app has a free version, it’s not worth much. Free apps have either a short trial period or are extremely limited. I tried going the free route and was totally frustrated! The good news is that all of these apps are one-time purchases, not laden with ongoing subscriptions. You own them for as long as the developers support the apps, which hopefully is a long time!

Best in Class

Note Rush: Music Reading Game

Note Rush is a fun flashcard drilling using your piano/keyboard to play along. It’s great for students who are struggling with expanding their on-the-staff reading as well as those who just want a bit of fun along the way. Intermediate students typically can read over the entire staff, so they wouldn’t benefit from the app as much.

Note Rush is a lot of fun to play, even though I don’t need to do so! It’s a hit with any student to whom I introduce it. The app uses the device’s microphone to identify pitches, and it has calibrated perfectly wherever I’ve tried it. If your piano is way out of tune, it may not do so well!

It’s pretty easy to use, since you choose from one of several pre-loaded levels. You could also customize your own choice of note ranges if you’d like something more challenging.

Rhythm Lab

Rhythm Lab, available on iPad only, specializes in training good rhythm. There are separate exercises for one and two hand tapping on the screen. It’s useful for beginners through intermediate students.

This is a super fun app, and I recommend it a lot for transfer students whose teachers have not been as strict with note values as I am. It’s great for training simple note values through much more complex patterns. The majority of my beginners struggle with rhythm at least a little, and could use this as a fun (or at least different) way to reinforce their learning.

The interface is a bit complex and the judgmental applause at the end of each exercise is a bit annoying, but I look at that as just a minor irritation.

Metronome Apps

I prefer using a stand-alone metronome, not one on an app or built into the keyboard. If you’re interested in that type of metronome, I have a couple of recommendations on my Piano Lessons – Books page.

Tempo – Metronome with Setlist

Tempo is a straightforward metronome app with bells and whistles not found on a traditional metronome.

This is my choice for a metronome app, and it’s the one that you may have seen if I’ve ever checked for a tempo during your lesson. Even though it has advanced features, it’s easy to use in a basic fashion. It’s not as fun as the Super Metronome Groove Box. However, it’s just several bucks.

SuperMetronome Groovebox Pro

This app is a more fun type of metronome with different instruments, beats, and compound meter. However, this is not how I personally like to use a metronome, so these features are lost on me.

The free version is just awful; it times out after 16 measures. However, I’d try the free version before you upgrade to see if it’s worth the premium price compared to Tempo. If you’re looking for your metronome to be fun and feature rich, could be your app. Some students enjoy playing their scales along with a rock or pop rhythm section to keep in time. Not me!

In Conclusion

Thanks for taking a look at this list of music apps for beginners. I am working on separate posts targeting intermediate and advanced students as well as for those with specialty interests. Let me know if you liked this post and let me know music apps you already enjoy or are needing help finding.

2 thoughts on “Music Apps for Beginners”

  1. Hi Broc,
    I use Note Rush with my students, too. I also like Tenuto, a paid theory app, and Earpeggio, an app for ear training.

    1. I’ll definitely check out Earpeggio; I can’t believe it’s free! I have a hard time using or recommending any particular theory app, because the curriculum I have to cover has to closely match the non-standard one for the Arkansas Music Teachers Association.

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