Illustration by Ramóna Udvardi

Everyone wants his or her child to be a musician, or at least an appreciator of the beautiful and bonding qualities that music offers. Hence my regular playing of Tori Amos during tummy time. Sorry kid.


Parents strive to treat their families to amazing experiences. Catapult, in partnership with Intel, is the field guide for the modern mom, offering tech-based at-home activities that will build lasting memories.


But not everyone can afford or fit a piano in their apartment, and besides, what kids really want to do is to play with our computers! Fortunately, there are dozens of sites, apps and built-in programs that can help turn your laptop into a musical instrument and encourage your kids to appreciate different musical styles and techniques.

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For all of these projects you will need a computer with a powerful processor that makes editing music and uploading songs super fast, like the 8th Gen Intel® Core™ processor inside the Lenovo Yoga 920 laptop. It can handle multitasking and complicated audio mixing, so your mini Mozart can rock out to their heart’s content.

The younger kids can do this for basic jamming and learning their do re mes or just experimenting. For a budding rockstar or DJ who is a bit more sophisticated, you can use your computer to produce and record songs with multiple instruments.

And of course, if your little diva just wants to sing or rap, an inexpensive external microphone and a recording and editing app like Audacity will do the trick. Real-time recording isn’t easy on a processor, and Audacity needs a fast processor with a good amount of memory to run. Consider a computer with the speed and power of an Intel® Core™ i7 processor. You can also have a lot of fun using YouTube and basic apps to run your own family karaoke night. But whether you end up with a tricked-out home recording studio or just futzing around, you’ll make gorgeous memories. Just don’t try to beatbox, Dad.

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One of the coolest and most absorbing ways to get started using your laptop to explore music with kids of all ages is a website and app called Patatap.com. It’s a musical site created by Jono Brandel that plays different beats, notes, and sounds, in addition to flashing colors and animations on the screen when you tap the keys. As Brandel explains on his website, “The motivation behind Patatap is to introduce the medium of Visual Music to a broad audience. Artists working in this field vary in discipline but many aim to express the broader condition of Synesthesia, in which stimulation of one sensory input leads to automatic experiences in another,” he writes. “Hearing smells or seeing sounds are examples of possible synesthesia. In the case of Patatap, sounds trigger colorful visual animations.” Basically, it’s the kind of trippy thing that kids will go crazy for.

Brandel is fascinated by the connection of different sensory experiences. Consequently, he has created another site called Typatone that allows your kids to make music while they write. On Typatone, each letter corresponds to a musical note. So if you’re having trouble motivating an older kid to write an essay, this site could be a great way to encourage them to turn those five paragraph essays into a symphony.

If you’re looking for something more traditional, there are several sites that essentially load a piano keyboard onto your computer screen, and allow you to play around with your keyboard and mouse — clicking and learning the nature of notes. Two examples of these are virtualpiano.net and piano-player.info. I can personally attest to how this works: I sat down and played “Heart and Soul” in the former using my QWERTY keyboard (and then got sad that after several years of childhood piano lessons, that is the only song I remember). And you can bet this would be even more fun on a touch keyboard with kids.

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Anyway, if you’re ready for something more sophisticated that allows you and your kids to really create a fully-realized song, you’re looking for music-making software. Your older kid will likely want to explore Stagelight, which is only $9.99. Designed for PCs, Stagelight is the perfect music-making program, and works for musicians of all levels. Mixing, editing, selecting effects, and sharing music on Stagelight work best on a faster processor, and require PCs with Windows 7/8 64Bit, a minimum of 2 GB of RAM, and at least an Intel Core i3 processor. Stagelight is also pre-loaded on selected Lenovo PCs.

Whether you end up with a little Timbaland making music with an on-computer studio, an Adele who croons ballads into the laptop, or just an enthusiastic little person banging around on the keys, your computer can be a source of joyful sounds, from your happy kid and the music they make.

Sarah Seltzer is a writer and editor in NYC.

This post is a sponsored collaboration between Intel and Studio@Gizmodo.

Intel, Intel Core and the Intel logo are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the U.S. and/or other countries.