Favorite iPad Apps for Music Lab

This post highlights a few of my go-to iPad apps for Music Lab time that my students enjoy: Rhythm Cat HD, Rhythm Lab, and Staff Wars.


Rhythm Cat HD

Rhythm Cat HD is a rhythm app available on iOS. If you would like to try it out, check out the free version, Rhythm Cat Lite HD.

The paid version, Rhythm Cat HD (currently $4.99), currently includes six stages, each with ten levels. If you are looking to use this as a lab for your students, then you will need the full paid version.

Please note that this app does not have a way for the student to hear the rhythm in playback. They tap the rhythm along to an accompaniment track. Often the accompaniment does not include the rhythm in any way, so students must have a solid sense of beat. If they miss just one note, they will receive two, not three stars.

Stages and levels can only be unlocked by successful completion. So, you cannot assign stage 4 to a student until someone has successfully mastered and unlocked stages 1, 2, and 3.


Corresponding Music Lab Sheet

Students cannot “sign-in” to this app to track their progress, so I like to assign stages and track progress by having them fill out this music lab sheet.

It is recommended not to assign a stage until the student is proficient at the rhythms included.

For example, even though level one only uses whole, half, and quarter notes, some of the exercises must be executed at fast tempos.

This download includes two pages covering all six stages and ten levels.

Add this lab to your cart now, or find it (along with other music labs in the shop)

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Two High-Quality iPad Theory Apps

This post highlights two of my current favorite apps that teach music theory (at various levels). I’m sure there will be more to come in the future but for now, let’s have a look at the Waay app and The Royal Conservatory’s Theory apps.



Waay is an app available on iOS that teaches music theory via two courses: melodies (free), and chords ($4.99). Each course is comprised of 8 videos and interactive practice exercises. Even more specifically, the app states that its intention is to teach “songwriting.”

My recommendation is that this app is best suited for high school or adult students. While the app states that it is great for beginners, the videos and concepts move very, very quickly. Students will do best if they’re already familiar with the concepts presented in the app.


Corresponding Music Lab Sheet

This app does not allow students to log in to track progress, so I have students use a music lab sheet.

The way the courses are set up, it works well to assign an entire course rather than individual videos and exercises. To assign a course, simply place a checkmark in the box next to “assigned.”

This download is two pages long – one page for each course.

Add this lab to your cart now, or find it (along with other music labs in the shop).

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Finally! A Music Lab/Assignment Sheet for Piano Explorer Magazine

For years, I’ve seen teachers in Facebook groups asking for some kind of assignment sheet to accompany Piano Explorer Magazine published by The Instrumentalist.

Well, today I am posting my version as part of the Music Lab Series on Piano Pantry!


What’s Piano Explorer Magazine?

Published once a month, this fun student-focused magazine covers topics such as composers, technique, practicing, instruments, and more. There are also puzzles, quizzes, student compositions, and the 100-day Practice Challenge!

At the time of this post, teachers can purchase a single subscription for the studio ($12), or a group subscription of five or more copies ($6 each). (Keep in mind that a group subscription would be mailed to one address.)

If teachers wanted to have students receive a copy of the magazine in the mail at home, you would have to purchase multiple individual subscriptions and set them up to mail to separate addresses. Kids get “real” mail so infrequently, it could be a fun addition to your studio for students to receive these!

For the purposes of using this as a music lab, it would be possible to use only one copy of the magazine for all students at your studio. That being said, the benefit to each student having their own copy is not only that they could take it home after completing the lab, but that they could actually complete the written puzzles and/or activities in the magazine.  (If students have their own copy of the magazine, they could complete it as an assignment at home as well!)

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More Than 100 Videos for Your Music Lab

For years, I’ve been collecting videos from all over the internet for my student’s music lab time.

This has resulted in two major sets of videos:

Music Theory Videos

Fun Music Videos

Access to both of these video series is FREE for Piano Pantry readers!

In order for students to easily access the videos, I would suggest you bookmark the link in your web browser or as an icon on your tablet.

It is important to note that since these are YouTube videos, individual videos may come unavailable at any time. It may be available one day and it gone the next. These types of things are completely outside of my control.

While I always found it nice for my students to have these videos, I needed a way to remember which ones they had watched from week to week, month to month, and even year to year!

Thus was born the corresponding Music Lab sheets!

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My Favorite Computer-Based Program for Music Lab Time

In the post Music Labs in the Independent Studio: A Brief History, I mentioned that when I first started to include music lab time in my piano studio,  I didn’t have an iPad so I started with computer-based programs such as Music Ace MaestroAlfred’s Interactive Musician, and Essentials of Music Theory, along with a subscription to the online Music Learning Community.

Of those programs, there’s only one that I’m currently still using and that’s Essentials of Music Theory published by Alfred. You can purchase it on their website or on Amazon.

Because it is an older program, you don’t download it directly from the internet, you have to purchase the CD-ROM and upload it to your computer. While this feels antiquated, I still find the program a valuable addition to my music labs as it is one of the most complete and comprehensive theory lesson programs out there.

The program comes in either a Student Version (single use), Educator Version (multiple students on one device), or Network Version (multiple computers).

There are 3 Volumes available that could be purchased separately or as one program called Essentials of Music Theory Complete.

If you are using the program in an independent studio setting for music lab time, then you will need to purchase the Educator Version – Complete. While it is one of the more expensive music theory programs to include in a music lab, it’s also one of the most thorough and comprehensive.

The program includes 18 units. Each of those units comprises four to five lessons, ear training, and a review test for a total of 75 lessons within the 18 units. For a detailed list of what’s included in each unit/lesson, visit this link.

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Shop is Open – Check Out the New Music Lab Series!

Drumroll, please…

After two years and five months of this blog, Piano Pantry now has a SHOP! (I’ve been waiting so long to say that!!)

You can find it in the top menu bar.

While this is quite an exciting announcement, there’s an even better one…

What’s the first product, you ask?

It’s a Music Lab Series!



For a brief history of music labs and how I came to where I am today, read “Music Labs in the Independent Studio: A Brief History”.

As I mention in that post, when I first started including a music lab eight years ago, there was really only one “curriculum” product out there. It just wasn’t working for me, so I began creating my own music lab assignment sheets.

Only one other music lab curriculum/program has emerged since that time (that I know of), but I’ve continued to stick with my lab own series since it was working well for me.  Over the past seven years, it has morphed and changed quite a bit as I’m sure it will continue to do.

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Friday Finds #142

Oh my goodness, here it is 10:26pm and I suddenly realized it’s Friday! I was so caught up in today’s task of priming six doors and their trim in our basement that it completely slipped my mind!

Or…maybe it’s the fact that I’m not in a normal routine…

Or…maybe it’s that I’m turning 39 in two weeks and things like that just start to happen as you get older. I HAVE been noticing changes since I hit my late 30’s… (I’ll just leave it at that. 🙂 )


The photo you see here is at Joy Morin’s Retreat at Piano Manor that was held last week. As always, it was a lot of fun feeding and getting to know all these beautiful ladies.

Everyone is always asking for the recipes I use, so I put a list together for attendees. I thought you might also enjoy getting the links as well so let’s kick off this week’s finds with some winning recipes!



This isn’t a list of everything we ate, but just those that I used a recipe for. 🙂

Honey Vanilla Yogurt

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

Whole 30 Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Mexican Restaurant-Style Cauliflower Rice

Herbal Iced Tea

Easy Fruit Salad with Orange Poppy Seed Dressing

Milk Street’s Israeli Hummus

Gooey Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies [Chickpea Cookies-Gluten Free]

5-Ingredient Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies [These were from the 2018 Retreat. Several of the ladies who were there last year remembered these and were asking for the recipe. 🙂 ]


If you’d like to read more about the retreat, here is Joy’s recap post.



I really enjoyed reading this Day in the Life” photo journal post from an Ex-Pat living in Barcelona. At the end of the post she talks about upgrading her Kindle Paperwhite to the “All-New Kindle.

Does anyone have this and recommend the upgrade?



I need your vote…I try to avoid being a “gadget” person, but this Avocado Tool looks really cool. What do you think? Should I try it?

Do you happen to have one? If so, let me know what you think!



Drew Barrymore Just Launched the Cutest Food-Themed Art Prints for Kids (and We Secretly Want Them for Ourselves)



Did you see my announcement from earlier this week?

The goal is to open shop THIS WEEK. We’re also painting the new studio, getting carpet, and moving the studio.

So…if you could do me a BIG favor and send some extra energy my way so I can wrap this project up and get you some Music Lab materials, I appreciate it!


Talk soon! ~Amy


Music Labs in the Independent Studio: A Brief History

(and a big announcement!)

Do you remember when you first started hearing about the idea of including music labs as part of private music instruction in the independent studio? Is the idea something you’ve always been aware of or do you recall a certain point in time when you noticed the idea emerging?

Depending on how long you’ve been teaching, I’m sure each of us will have a different answer to this question.

From my own recollection, my piano lessons growing up were fairly traditional. When I first started teaching piano right out of high school (ca. 1998-2001; I can’t remember what year I took my first student! 🙁 ), I had never heard of music labs.

Since my first degree and career was in choral education, not piano pedagogy, I’m not aware of the exact point in history when music labs became popular to include in the independent music studio. I recall being vaguely aware that it was a “thing” around 2005.

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2019-2020 Birthday Postcards

I’ve shared here on Piano Pantry before how I send birthday postcards to all my students. If you’ve not caught that post, check it out here.

Each year I like to purchase a new set of postcards that are fun and unique and not just a boring “Happy Birthday” postcard.

Last year I shared a post full of several fun postcard choices (including last year’s) and today I wanted to share with you the ones I chose for this year.

The past two year’s I’ve purchased them from Etsy and have a feeling this may be my go-to place for several years to come.

As long as I get them for under $1 per postcard, I consider that worth it.

Aren’t they cool?

Find them at Brian Moss Art on Etsy.


Friday Finds #141

Happy Friday everyone!

If you didn’t already figure it out, today’s featured images is from last week’s National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy (NCKP). While waiting for a table at a restaurant one evening, we had had a little fun in front of a beautiful wooden door around the corner from the restaurant.

The conference was great fun as always with the best part always being the connections you make with your colleagues.

I hope your July held plenty of time for relaxation and that your August allows a little extra breathing time before you return to your regular teaching schedule.

Enjoy this week’s goodies!



I’ve been trying to catch up on some of Tim Topham’s podcasts recently. Here are some of my recent favorites:

CPTP161: Intelligent Music Teaching with Dr. Robert Duke

CPTP163: Christopher Oill Interviews Me

CPTP164: Meet My Student Tim and His Dad



My husband and I have been getting more into Bluegrass music over the past year. We’re talking about trying to make it to a Bluegrass Festival sometime. Here are 5 of the Best Bluegrass Festivals in the Country.



Why We Should Stop Segregating Children by Age: Part I. Children learn by playing in the zone of proximal development



Chicken thighs have always been popular in our household. So much more flavor and a lot less susceptible to drying out when you cook then. I almost never eat chicken breast at restaurants because 95% of the time they’re over cooked and dry.



Pivoting the Education Matrix by Seth Godin



How to Organize Your Kitchen Like a Pro

Do I admit I already do a lot of these? Go figure, right?! 😉



A few things I made this past week:

Cod Sautéed in Olive Oil with Fresh Tomatoes

Avocado White Bean Salad with Vinaigrette

Balsamic Beef Roast and Veggies


As we speak, I’m at Joy Morin’s Piano Teacher Retreat providing delicious food for all the lovely teachers here. Next week I’ll share some of the recipes I made for the retreat!

Talk soon!