Low Budget Music Applications for the Classroom

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David B. Williams, Illinois State University Emeritus (david.williams@fastmail.us)

Below is a selected list of low-budget music teaching and creation resources. More and more options appearing everyday. Feel free to send me feedback especially if you find something unsuitable for music education or if you find something new to add to the list. Note: all pricing approximate and rounded off, typically education pricing if available. Pricing is a guessimate snapshot at anyone time so anticipate that things will change. Updated February 2013.


Attached is a link to the DuPage County music In-service workshop handout for which this list was compiled (March 1, 2013)


When a smartphone or tablet music application won't do! When you need:

  • Pro-level music software
  • Classroom management of instruction or creative work
  • Processing power, lots of RAM and harddrive or SSD storage
  • Multiple USB, Firewire, or Thunderbolt ports for music peripherals
  • Larger screen display area
  • Standard work area with keyboard & mouse


  1. NoteFlight 3.0 Preview (Web HTML5) Free; $49/yr Crescendo version; $95 to $295/yr for classroom versions
  2. Finale NotePad (Mac/Win) Free
  3. Sibelius First (Mac/Win) $99 or $239/5-pak
  4. MakeMusic PrintMusic $90 or $215/5-pak
  5. SmartMusic for Students $39/yr; Educators $140/yr
  6. Chromatik (store, record & share scores online) Free along with iPad app

Elementary/General Music

  1. Free or membership-based websites like PBS Music Games, Quincy Jones Playground Sessions, NY Phil Digital Archives, and the Smithsonian Folkways Music collection (see more at http://coach4technology.net/webmusic.html)
  2. Music Ace Maestro $99 or $300/5-pak
  3. Naxos $20/yr; Spotify free or $10/mo
  4. FocusOnSound Classroom (Web) $199/yr
  5. InteractiveNow Music Modules for Smartboards $25/ea

Ear Training and Theory

  1. Ricci Adams' Musictheory.net (one of the most comprehensive set of theory training online materials) (Web/iPad) Free or $2 iPad
  2. Teoria: Music Theory Web (another long-standing, comprehensive set of online materials) (Web/iPad) Free or $4 iPad
  3. Sibelius Auralia Student (Mac/Win)
  4. Sibelius Musition Student (Mac/Win) $25
  5. MDecks Mapping Tonal Harmony (Mac/Win) $10

Sequencing and Looping

  1. Cubase Elements (Mac/Win/iPad) $99 or $50 iPad
  2. GarageBand (Mac/iPad) $15 or Free
  3. Mixcraft Home Studio (Win) $50
  4. Abelton Live Intro (Mac/Win) $50
  5. AIR Ignite for M-Audio keyboards (Mac/Win) Free

Audio Editing and Recording

  1. Audacity (Mac/Win) Free
  2. Soundation DAW: Comprehensive online digital audio editor (Web) Free or $99/year for more loops, sounds and storage; MusicFirst.com custom education version $199/yr
  3. SoundCloud: Upload sound files or record directly online to share recordings in a social-network-based online file sharing community. Very popular. Free 120 minutes of recording; pay for more time.(Web/iPhone/iPad/Android) Free

Pro Level Music Software

  1. Abelton Live $400
  2. AVID ProTools $300
  3. Sibelius 7 $260
  4. MakeMusic Finale 2012 $350

What's New at NAMM 2013 and Elsewhere!

  1. HTML5 replacing Java and Flash-based interactive web apps (See Noteflight 3.0)
  2. Cloud-based: MusicFirst.com music software delivery; BandLab and Xonami collaborative multitrack apps using SoundCloud
  3. More mainstream music software going to tablets: Cubase ($50), FL Studio Mobile ($20), Notion ($15), Traktor DJ ($20) at less cost
  4. New Gadgets : Castiv Drum & Guitar Sidekick, JamHub, AirTurn pedals, Stylophone 2
  5. More incredible AI stuff like Melodyne (e.g., Zynaptiq's PITCHMAP)
  6. MIDI lives on celebrating 30 years: Numark Orbit Wireless MIDI, Artiphon's Instrument 1

MusicFirst.com (cloud-based licensing of standard music education apps; price covers all students, home or school with more apps coming). Note: this is a new commercial project so anticipate that product options and pricing my change.

  1. Naxos Classroom $225/yr
  2. Soundation for Education Classroom $199/yr
  3. Musition & Auralia Bundle $49/yr per set home or class (cloud version in the works)
  4. NoteFlight Classroom $195/yr
  5. Focus on Sound Classroom $199/yr
Music Educator's Websites
  1. Music Tech Teacher (Karen Garrett is instrumental music teacher in Birmingham AL and TI:ME Teacher of the Year Award winner)
  2. MusicEd Tech (Barbara Freedman's site, music teacher at Greenwich H.S. in Connecticut)
  3. LeadingNotes.org (online music education magazine; a creative blog maintained by Nick Jaworski and Justine Dolorfino)
  4. MusicTech.net (a comprehensive website in support of music education and technology maintained by Joe Pisano)
  5. MusicEdMajor.net (Andy Ritenour and others share insights and materials on their blog from technology to the music classroom as music majors in music education)
  6. Tech4Music.net (Dave Williams' online music technology resources)
  7. MusicCreativity.org (Dave Williams and Rick Dammers website for "The Other 80%." Reaching students through technology based creativity classes and activities)
  8. Teachmusictech.com (Dave Williams and Peter Webster's website) and EMTBook.net (Dave and Peter's Experiencing Music Technology textbook home page)
Other Music Tech Sites
  1. MusicTech Magazine (issues plus articles plus MusicTech Focus specials in depth on music software)
  2. TI:ME (Technology Institute for Music Education) organization website with many, many resources. Join and get full access to the website and more.

See my other helpful websites for smartphone and tablet music and web-based music applications for music education.


Website content Copyright © 2008-2021 by David Brian Williams