Many of my students with autism love music, so I try to incorporate into my teaching as much as possible. Below are my favorite music apps, listed in order by approximate user-age. Please share in the comments any music apps you use. I’m always looking for more! It’s also important to note that none of these apps are explicitly designed for learners with autism. However, they are apps many of my students with autism enjoy.
Tap A Tune ($0.99) There are many reasons to love this app. First, you can choose between Nursery Tunes (such as Twinkle Twinkle) or Jingle Tunes (such as Jingle Bells.) Once you choose, there are two more options for how the child plays the music. The first looks similar to wack-a-mole, which I love. An animal is associated with each note, the animal pops out of a hole, and when the child touches the note plays. This is a great way to practice scanning skills, and for kids who love music, it’s super-reinforcing to scan quickly and touch the animal to hear the song played. The second option looks like a typical child’s xylophone, except at the top there are small holes, and the animal appears in the hole when it’s time to hit that note. It provides an opportunity to transition to a real xylophone. On both options, once the child has played all the notes, all the animals pop up and dance as the song plays. Below, you can see pictures of each option.
The final thing I love about this app is that it allows you to choose if you want the notes to sound like an accordion, a guitar, a clarinet, a drum, a harmonica, a harp, a keyboard, a xylophone, or the animals themselves. Some of my students get pretty cracked up listening to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star played in pig oinks and elephant trumpets, and what’s better than laughing along with your learner?
Music4Kids ($2.99) This app includes two activities: Make A Tune and Challenge. I use Make A Tune with several of my learners. In this activity, learners place notes on a scale and can explore putting different notes together, changing the length of notes, and including rests. I love that there are different themes, presenting choices at the beginning of the activity. I also appreciate that this app designed for young learners uses a real musical staff, notes, and notations. It’s easy for the learner to play back the music they’ve created, then making changes by adding notes in, dragging notes to different parts of the staff, or dragging a note off the staff completely. Plus, the learner can save the song when it’s completed and play it back any time they want!
Loopseque Kids (free) This app is designed to allow kids to compose. It utilizes a unique interface that also provides opportunities for young learners to explore patterns and symmetry in music. Depending on your learner, you may want to let them figure it out on their own or you may decide to give them a brief tutorial. As pictured below, you can see it looks like a wheel, and each section of the wheel has four different buttons. On the upper right part of the wheel, you’ll see that a section of four buttons is highlighted. This highlighted section moves around the wheel, almost like a radar, playing any buttons the learner has pressed. The pressed buttons are much brighter than all other buttons. It’s a wonderful visual, and with three different styles of play (based on the center button with the star) learners are provided with many options for creating compositions.
Virtuoso (free) What I love most about this app is the “Duette” button, which allows two players to play simultaneously while sitting across from one another. Set up like a regular piano, with arrows that let you move the screen for access to higher or lower notes, it’s intuitive and easy to start playing upon opening the app. I frequently use this with a couple of my students during breaks. We’ll work, then get to play together for 1-2 minutes before getting back to work. I appreciate the ease with which I can join in the play with the student. There are also multiple versions of Virtuoso, so you may want to try several out and find the one that best suits your needs.
Rockmate ($2.99) This is another app that you can play with your students or get peers playing together. It’s more complex than the apps described above, with multiple instruments and enough options that if you google “rockmate tutorial” you’ll find many different videos. However, it also allows your learner to explore the different options and instruments easily. I use this as one option for sibling play with a couple of my learners and find that for some learners it is highly motivating to be assigned a particular instrument to play along with everyone else.
Nodebeat ($1.99) This app is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s intuitive and visually interesting. The learner drags “nodes” to different parts of the screen, connecting them to one another to make unique beats. It allows you to record the music you’ve created. One of my students loves that he can increase or decrease the tempo; he creates a song, then turns the tempo up to 150 beats per minute, then dances like you wouldn’t believe. My favorite thing about this app is that it’s designed in such a way that anything you create is pleasing to the ear.
With any of these apps, I’m really looking for what will interest each individual child. I don’t use apps with all of my students, but I have found that with some of my students, these music apps are fun and motivating. They can serve as a great way to connect, to take a break, or to practice new skills. If you have music apps you love using with your learners with autism, please share!