I’ve taken my young daughters to mommy-and-me music classes and gotten them countless “musical” toys (a.k.a. “headache toys”), but it wasn’t until my kids tuned into music-based apps that I really saw their creativity spark. From online instruments, to coloring with music, here are five websites and apps that can foster your tiny musician’s talent at any age.
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Toca Band: This was one of my older daughter’s first iPad games. With a cast of colorful characters who play everything from the drums to balloons, Toca Band helped her explore the making her own sounds from age two. Ditto this online drum kit, which saved my neighbors’ ears until my daughter decided she needed the real thing.
Scape: At first glance, Scape ($12) looks like an art app, with a blank palette where kids ages four and up can mix textures, shapes and colors. But far from being static, each of those elements has its own musical personality that plays and changes as they interact with each other. The result is a soundscape that directly relates to the scene your visual composer creates. Kids can save a gallery of their work and share it via email, so you can properly preserve their sonic genius. And by the way, this app was created in part by musician and composer Brian Eno. The calming ambient sound creations your children produce can be enjoyed by grown-ups, too.
UJAM: Whether your child is on his third year of violin or just the sing-in-the-shower type, UJAM takes a recording of an instrument or a voice and creates matching playback that syncs with any genre you choose. Want your piano freestyling to sound like Hip Hop or Jazz? This site can do that. The online software lives in the cloud for a free, no-download experience. Using the site, kids can listen to popular UJAM songs or upload their own creations for the community to hear.
Noteflight: This site makes it easy to craft and share sheet music. With a free account, kids can use up to 15 virtual instruments and play with adjusting tempo, time signature, and key signature to create up to 10 songs. For $8/month they can write unlimited scores with an orchestra of 50 instruments. Plus, Noteflight makes it easy to print or digitally share sheet music, so you can celebrate your little Beethoven in style with a family concert of her making.
Music Maker Jam: Music Maker Jam is a free app that offers over 100 music styles and an eight-channel mixer for maximum manipulation possibilities. Kids can just straight-up play on this creative app, which comes with loops for hip hop, dance, electric jazz, and rock ballads (additional loop styles are available for purchase). There are endless ways for them to put together musical tracks and add their own vocals on top. The best part? To remix what you’ve made, you just shake your device.
Stagelight by Open Labs: For $10 Stagelight helps kids create music in a way that’s perfect for beginners, with room to grow. So when they’re teenagers, they won’t sneer at this starter program and they will work up to its more complex features. In-app lessons teach the fundamentals of music creation while showing off Stagelight’s best features, like a drum machine, voice presets, and the ability to record your own samples and import them into music loops. A “Key Lock” feature means kids will avoid hitting wrong notes as they invent new tunes, which is a plus for your ears.
Melissa Walker is a mom of two, a magazine writer, and the author of 9 novels for young adults and pre-teen readers. She grew up in NC and now lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family.
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