When it comes to introducing music to the next generation, you basically have 3 choices: show them the way to the good stuff (aka your favorite stuff), tolerate — nay, possibly even enjoy — the best of the kids’ stuff, or let them make their own stuff. These 9 apps will help them get started on option 3, ranging from the basic (frying pan + spoon = drum) to the advanced (geometric shapes = beat distribution algorithms). Of course, you could be all “Get off my lawn” about how modern music is nothing but a bunch of digital manipulation, but then you’d be robbing your kid of the opportunity to one day flip this joke on an unsuspecting crowd.
An Icelandic software team designed this app to teach your future Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, or Peter Cetera (you know, artist references you understand) how to identify instruments, read sheet music, and recognize different melodies and rhythms. Once they get proficient, have them record their own songs, or even go all T-Bone Burnett and sit in with the band for an interactive jam session. About the only thing this app doesn’t teach aspiring musicians is how to actually make money playing music.
Duckie Deck Homemade OrchestraAdorable anthropomorphized household items make fun musical sounds that your kid can arrange endlessly into their own original symphony. The app version beats the hell out of the real-life version, where slapping some headphones on your little conductor does nothing to erase the clanging of pots and pans.
$2.99 ( iOS); $1.99 (Android)
Toca BandDragging and dropping the 16 colorful members of Toca Band will teach your kid all about instruments, rhythm, tempo, and other musical fundamentals. Watching them do so will teach you all the different ways to replace rap lyrics with the name of Toca Band’s resident rapper, Stick Figga. (What’s his m—f’n name?)
Free ( iOS)
KeezyOne part keyboard and one part sampling machine, Keezy lets your kid build songs using pre-loaded soundboards (from musicians like Reggie Watts and Tegan and Sara), or they can record their own sounds and use those instead. The only bummer for your kid is that you might get addicted to it before they ever get a chance to play.
Free ( iOS)
Bloom HDUnlike Keezy, Bloom will mesmerize your child with a single screen tap. Each touch initiates a generative musical soundscape and color visualization that shuffles through 12 “Moods” (like Instagram filters, but for sounds) and keeps evolving even if the app goes idle. As co-creator and ambient music mastermind Brian Eno says, “You can play it, and you can watch it play itself,” which is easily the most Brian Eno-y description of an app ever.
$3.99 ( iOS)
LoopimalDropping different colors and shapes into an infinitely looping timeline will introduce your kid to computer sequencing, but more importantly it’ll make the birdy dance! And the sloth, the bear, the octopus, the pig, and the … is that a yeti? Each block corresponds to a different melodic or rhythmic sound and motion, so the animal animation possibilities are endless.
Bugg [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQrFBCDBwdg&feature=youtu.be expand=1] This app cleverly turns the whole world into a musical instrument, which means the toys you purposely bought because they don’t make noise … now do. Point the iPhone or iPad camera at a colorful object, touch the screen, and Bugg captures the color and then creates a musical tone that corresponds to how high or low it is on the spectrum. It’s like synesthesia you can turn off!
Rhythm NecklaceBeginning with a simple circle, kids create, flip, rotate, and merge shapes to build rhythmic sequences and discover the relationships between mathematical concepts and music. Any explanation more detailed than that starts to include computer scientists and words like “ethnomusicology,” so hopefully they just enjoy the fact that they can turn shapes into sounds without having to buy magic brownies from someone named Sunflower in a Phish parking lot.
MibblioMibblio turns children’s stories into interactive music videos that kids can read, sing, or play along with. These playable songs are called Mibblets, which are not only extremely fun to say but are written by notable artists like KT Tunstall, Matisyahu, Lisa Loeb, and Dan Zanes, who knows a thing or 2 about the kind of music you and your kids can both enjoy.
Price Varies (iOS)