• Sheikh, Rattle & Roll

Best Free iPad Apps of 2018

Currently I'm working with a Surface Pro at work (which I enjoy a lot), but will be moving into an iPad school in the coming academic year. So when TechRadar's Best Free iPad Apps of 2018 came out I was interested in what they recommended. Recommended, good, free apps are always useful because, obviously, they are free(!) but also because getting permission download paid apps on student iPads can be difficult (depending on the school). So, here's my own highlights from their list of apps with a particular focus on what could benefit a music teacher (without the really obvious EverNote or Garageband-type apps):


Instapaper acts as a time-shifting service for the web. You can send pages to it from any browser (PC, Mac or mobile), whereupon Instapaper strips away everything bar the content. When you open the app, it’ll quickly sync your article collection. You can then read anything you’ve stored in a mobile-optimized layout that’s entirely free from cruft.

Why is it on this list? I'd love this app as a deposit for articles that I've read online and want to keep without doing an ugly Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V then deleting the content myself!


On analyzing your photo or screen grab for changes in hues, saturation and brightness, a music loop is generated. You can adjust the playback speed, instrument and visual effect (which starts off as a lazily scrolling piano roll), along with setting a timer.

Why is it on this list? Honestly I'm not sure - maybe a bit of a curious element within me thinks that it could be useful? Even if just to analyse how the music fits the picture and how we could improve on it through our own compositions?


The idea behind Canva is to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to creating great-looking layouts based on your photos. Select a layout type (presentation, blog graphic, invitation, and so on) and the app serves up templates to work with.

These are mostly very smart indeed, but the smartest thing about Canva is that these starting points can all be edited: swap out images for your own photos, adjust text boxes, and add new elements or even entire pages.

Why is it on this list? I've used this app before to create little icons for my GCSE Memrise cards and loved it. Canva could also be very useful for creating beautiful posters for the music room. I came across this Van Gogh quote the other day and thought it could be applied to music, and I'm doubly sure it would look better having been processed through Canva:

If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.


Pixabay does away with such concerns [of copyright] through its images being released under Creative Commons CC0. In plain English: you can do whatever you like with them.

Why is it on this list? Working in the arts, we should be passionate about protecting intellectual rights and so I find this site (and others too) invaluable. Link this with Canva and you could get some nice (legal!) posters created!


One of the great things about the app revolution is how these bits of software can help you experience creative fare that would have previously been inaccessible, unless you were armed with tons of cash and loads of time. Folioscope is a case in point, providing the basics for crafting your own animations.

The friendly nature of the app makes it accessible to anyone, and there’s no limit on export – projects can be shared as GIFs or movies, or uploaded to the Folioscope community, should you create an account.

Why is it on this list? This could be used as a simple student-created stimulus to a composition or be a creative response to another composition. Maybe useless in the end, but interesting nonetheless!


Yousician bridges the divide, flipping a kind of Guitar Hero interface 90 degrees and using its visual and timing devices to get you playing chords and notes.

This proves remarkably effective, and your iPad merrily keeps track of your skills (or lack thereof) through its internal mic. The difficulty curve is slight, but the app enables you to skip ahead if you're bored, through periodic 'test' rounds. Most surprisingly, for free you get access to everything, only your daily lesson time is limited.

Why is it on this list? Although not suggesting this app could be used with full classes, it is an interesting one to keep in mind for individuals. A colleague tried this out a year back on piano and loved it. It's not going to make you the most musical person ever but it could be a start for someone...

White Noise+

There are quite a few apps for creating ambient background noise, helping you to focus, relax, and even sleep. White Noise+ is perhaps the best we’ve seen – a really smartly designed mix of sound and interface design that is extremely intuitive yet thoroughly modern.

Why is it on this list? There are a multitude of uses for ambient music from calming down a class which has just come in from PE through to compositional activities. This app looks particularly useful in this regard.

Auxy Music Studio

The thinking behind Auxy Music Studio is that music-making - both in the real world and software - has become too complicated. This app therefore strives to combine the immediacy of something like Novation Launchpad's loop triggers with a basic piano roll editor.

For those who want to go a bit further, the app includes arrangement functionality (for composing entire songs), along with Ableton Link and MIDI export support. Auxy's therefore worth a look for relative newcomers to making music and also pros after a no-nonsense scratchpad.


This is where Figure comes in. Within seconds, you can craft thumping dance loops, comprising drum, bass and lead parts. The sounds are great, being based on developer Propellerhead Software's much-loved Reason. They can be manipulated, too, so your exported loops sound truly unique.


Groovebox is a really clever app for anyone interested in making electronic music. The smartest bit is in the app being approachable for newcomers, yet offering power and features for seasoned noise makers.

Why are these three apps on this list? Apps like these are useful to keep in the back of your mind for creating music with younger learners. The use of these apps needs to be thought through very well before using it - why am I using it? How is it supporting other learning? They shouldn't be used simply because the students can make music easily without thinking about individual notes, etc. They could be used to think about the larger structure in music or for a small part of a soundscape composition, etc.


GarageBand offers a loop player, but Novation Launchpad was doing this kind of thing years before, and in a manner that's so intuitive and simple that even a toddler could record a track.

Why is it on this list? The same warnings apply to this app as to the other music making apps above but what I particularly like about Launchpad is that (with the paid version) students can import their own loops thus making it more compositionally attractive.


Seaquence also enables you to edit. Add a new creature and it’ll instantly change the track. Tap a creature and you can delve into a scale editor, sound designer, and a sequencer for adjusting the notes of the current loop.

Why is it on this list? This looks bizarre. However, I like the fact that the 'inner workings' are editable which, like Launchpad, make it more attractive for actually composing something more original.

Music Memos

It’s fair to say that Music Memos is primarily designed for the iPhone, enabling musicians to quickly capture a song idea, which can later be expanded on. But if you’re in a studio – home or otherwise – strumming away on a guitar, and with an iPad nearby, the app can help you compose your next chart-troubler on a much more user-friendly screen size.

You kick things off by tapping a circle in the middle of the screen, whereupon Music Memos starts recording. Tap again to stop. The app then attempts – with some degree of success – to transcribe the chords played, and enables you to overlay automated bass and drums.

Why is it on this list? This could be a really useful app to those students who like to begin their compositions using a chord progression. Although the app could not support the whole process it seems a very useful way of capturing the beginning of a composition.

Adobe Scan

Why is it on this list? A very useful scanner app which allows words to be recongnised once imported into Abobe Acrobat.

Bear & Paper

A halfway house between full-fledged writing tool and capable note-taker, Bear provides a beautiful environment for tapping out words on an iPad.

For a long while, Paper was a freemium iPad take on Moleskine sketchbooks. You made little doodles and then flipped virtual pages to browse them. At some point, it went free, but now it's been transformed into something different and better.

Why are these on this list? Again, useful apps which can be used for note taking both for students and teachers. Paper allows musical notes to be taken too in the form of doodles.


There are loads of iPad apps for reading and annotating PDFs, but LiquidText is different. Rather than purely aping paper, the developers have thought about the advantages of working with virtual documents.

Why is it on this list? Could this be a useful app when editing and marking a student's essay when at A-level or doing the IB? Possibly.


Between quickly trimming a video in Photos and immersing yourself in the likes of iMovie sits Splice. This is a free video editor that on the surface looks accessible - even simplistic - but that offers surprising depth for those who need it.

Why is it on this list? I'm often editing videos for classroom use and always revert to iMovie on my MacBook. Whilst this is a great programme I don't always need all of its functionality and could do with a more immediate option rather than having to send the video to a different computer, etc. This could be a very useful little app

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