Friends, this is a crazy time.
The COVID-19 crisis has forced teachers of all kinds to think differently about how we engage in instruction. Namely: online.
Very few of us music teachers have a lot of experience in this area, but it’s been inspiring to see everyone pull together to help each other out.
Fortunately, I’ve had the pleasure of working and speaking with many online music resources. I’m here to help you out with my top 10 free resources for teaching music online.
The best resources for online music teaching have low pay-barriers (or an expansive free program), easy-to-use interfaces, and help in one or more of the following ways:
- Interactive music websites and lessons
- A platform for teaching and assigning
- Provides a way for students to create music online
- Helps teachers connect with students
- Provide engaging videos for learning and experience
Look ahead for our picks and brief descriptions of how they will fit into your online teaching repertoire.
Note: All of these are helpful resources in their own way. The order presented doesn’t indicate how much or less useful they are compared to one another.
Check them all out and find what works for you and your students.
It’s no surprise that Solfeg.io is on the list for free online music resources.
Solfeg.io is an online learning platform designed to help anyone break down different songs. The program comes with practice tools, quality listening tracks, and learning lessons for piano, guitar, and ukulele.
Solfeg.io has a free and paid version, but they expanded the free version to include many more songs.
Solfeg.io recognizes the tough times and has created helpful guides and resources for using their program in an educational way.
Though not all students will have an instrument to practice with, there are many ways to use Solfeg.io online including through singing, music reading, and practical theory classes.
Solfeg.io has two main features your students may enjoy checking out:
The skill lessons are interactable mini-courses aimed at helping better play guitar, ukulele, or read music. The best part about these lessons is how they open up directly in songs you choose to learn.
Huge Song Repertoire/Practice Tools
Solfeg.io has a huge song list of pre-recorded music including many popular songs. They break the songs down into different tracks for you to isolate and learn through their practice tools.
With instruction from Google Classroom (and helpful videos by Solfeg.io or Loom), students will be able to press forward with self-directed instruction.
#2 Google Classroom
This is the hands-down, best platform for teaching music online. The crazy part is that Google Classroom doesn’t have anything to do specifically with music.
Students sign in with a simple code or email to your online classroom. You are able to assign online lessons with clear instructions and track all comments and collect assignments easily.
Most students will already be using Google Classroom in the general education classroom, so you don’t have to worry so much about teaching them how to use it for music.
You can structure the lessons into units and post links, files, and videos for students to watch and engage with.
It’s even possible to set up Google Meets for video and audio conferencing with your students.
Though Google Classroom isn’t music specific, most music programs either offer direct integration with Google Classroom or have specific instructions on how to use their program with the Google platform.
Sofleg.io has great and clear instructions in this you can borrow to give to your students with little to no work on your part.
Flat.io is a browser-based online notation program. This means you and students don’t have to have any programs downloaded on their desktops.
Many students learning from home now only have access to Chromebooks, tablets, and other similar devices. Some notation programs won’t work as well on these.
Flat is designed for this. They have their browser program as well as Apple and Google apps available.
I’ve used them for years myself and with my students, so I know how easy and intuitive the program is.
Best of all, Flat also has their education program for hosting online lessons. This is based on the Google Classroom model.
In fact, it integrates seamlessly with Google Classroom!
You can import students from Google Classroom into Flat for Education. When creating an assignment in Flat (where you also have the power to share scores directly into the assignment), this assignment will post directly into Google Classroom as well.
Students have the ability to even create scores in Flat and submit them as their assignment.
Flat has a 90-day full Flat for Education trial right now as a help during this time. The pricing is reasonable if you wanted to continue using this after the trial was over as well.
#4 Smart Music
Smart Music is a responsive music reading and accompaniment software. During the current crisis, they’re offering the program for free until June 30th.
Smart Music is one of the better music programs out there for older students, especially instrumental band and orchestra students.
It’s one of the best interactive music websites for middle school and high school.
Once the program is downloaded onto a student’s device, they can pull up a score they were assigned by the teacher.
Then, they can play along with the score and its accompaniment. Smart Music will wait for the student at key places and even highlight where mistakes were made.
Teachers can access the student’s playing and offer specific feedback as well.
Teachers have the ability to create scores and exercises for their students. But one great feature is how some method books are preloaded to the program.
Teachers won’t have to input everything; they just need to find it and select it.
#5 Music Play Online
Music Play Online is an interactive music website for elementary school. This program was created by Denise Gagne, an elementary music expert, and has a free trial available for teachers to use with students.
I enjoy this program a lot because it uses authentic and quality song materials. It’s also sequentially driven for optimal instruction.
My kids love it because it’s fun and has some online music games for kids. This is more useful as a resource to ask kids to check out rather than a platform for delivering instruction itself.
However, everything about this is engaging and intentional for music instruction.
#6 Chrome Music Lab
Chrome Music Lab is a browser-based sound program kids love to play with. It’s almost as if it’s an online music education game or something.
Providing this resource to students will help them feel like they’re a music producer as they put loops and tracks together to create new sounds.
This is more explorative rather than direct instruction, but older students will be able to create really cool end-products with this easy-to-use program.
#7 Prodigies Music
Prodigies Music is an elementary (even Pre-K) based interactive music website. They have a ton of fun videos and resources for online learning to supplement your instruction.
Though the program is paid, they offer many of their video lessons online for free on their YouTube channel.
This is perfect for connecting your youngest learners with positive music experience without having a huge technology barrier.
Loom is a program designed to record videos, specifically while also capturing your computer screen.
Loom has free and paid versions, but teachers are able to upgrade for free during this time of crisis.
It works right from a Chrome extension or on their website. Click the record button, and it will take a video in one of three ways:
- Your screen with a video of you in a small circle
- Just your screen with you talking
- Just you, no screen
My favorite part about this program comes when you end your recording. The video is hosted on their website and is shareable via a link.
You don’t have to upload the video to YouTube or anything. It’s automatically up!
Just copy the link and send it to your students, and they can instantly watch your video.
I’ve used this already to create instructional videos for my students to log into other programs or to just post videos of me providing direct instruction.
#9 Carnegie Hall: Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra
This isn’t a learning platform, but Carnegie Hall’s Guide is an excellent video and interactive series of lessons on the different instrument families.
It’s based on the legendary and popular program of the same name.
I already use this in my classroom, but it works equally well with online learning.
Nearpod is a simpler version of Google Classroom that only handles assignments on a one-time basis.
It works with any device able to connect to the internet. I’ve used this a lot in my classroom for delivering assessments in an engaging way.
I’ve also used this to help students follow along and answer questions at key points during videos.
All you need to do is create a simple lesson or quiz on the website. Then, you open the lesson and share a code with your students.
From any device, they input the code and add their name. You’ll be able to see their progress and collect data.
Videos, files, images, and more can be uploaded on this program.
I hope you found this list of the best free resources for teaching music online helpful to you in this time of need.
I encourage you to explore each of these and see what fits best for your students and situation. For me, a combination of these methods is the best.
The bulk of my teaching online would be ideally done using Google Classroom to engage students, Loom to create instructional videos, Flat to deliver notation, and Solfeg.io to provide interactive and engaging music lessons.
Stay safe and keep the music going!
Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher at Bay City Public Schools and founder of Dynamic Music Room. He also serves as Past-President of Michigan Kodaly Educators and current Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association.