Favorite/Best Music Apps for iPad


I was recently asked to share some of my favorite music notation and theory apps for iPad that make use of Apple Pencil and shared the following response via email. I thought it might be valuable to share with others in our community and to spur some conversation regarding favorite music apps in general, not only specific to notation or theory.

Please join in, recommending apps that you and/or your students find valuable in teaching, learning, composing, creating, or performing music.

Here's my original reply slightly revised for this post...


It seems that if you’re looking at use of Apple Pencil for composition of music notation and the ability to add in vocals, StaffPad would likely be your best option. I have been using StaffPad for more than two years now and am thrilled with the quality of music that can be produced on iPad; in notation and in sound quality. It is my go-to for sketching and composing drafts because it is so powerful yet so convenient to have those tools in an iPad. 


StaffPad is an expensive app as iOS apps go with a price tag of $99. There are also sound libraries that can be downloaded to enhance the number of and quality of instruments that can be implemented into a work, ranging from $19 to $69. Therefore, a full investment in the software package could run close to $500 if the composer is seeking improved instrument sounds and a greater collection of instruments. My full orchestration class purchased StaffPad and used it last Spring semester for their projects. They were really happy with the app, especially after they became accustomed to the ways it prefers notation to be written. Lyrics can be typed in and have resulted in a clean, easy to read PDF documents. 

StaffPad typically goes on sale in late August/early September and in December, but I didn't see any sales yet this past holiday season. Those sales would bring the sales price closer to $50 with libraries around 30% off. Keep an eye out to see if those discounts will pop up in the near future. 


A cheaper app that I used to recommend to my students is SymphonyPro. I think the price is $14.99 for the app with an additional $14.99 if Apple Pencil input is desired. It works pretty well, but I have grown happy with the features and immediate integration of Apple Pencil and StaffPad, now my top recommendation.


Another great app that doesn’t feature the use of Apple Pencil is Dorico. I have the basic app on my iPad, but it can be upgraded via subscription or purchase for increased functionality. Although I don’t use Dorico much on iPad, it is my standard music notation application on Mac - extremely powerful and not too challenging to learn. Another benefit is that the interface is almost identical on MacOS. 

As we move the conversation to music theory, I’ll also share that I have used both StaffPad and Dorico for teaching purposes. Both work wonderfully, but I feel that - for me - StaffPad is easier to navigate. 

Tenuto App

When teaching music theory I always advocate that my students purchase the Tenuto app for supplemental knowledge and additional practice drills with iPad. There is an accompanying website that is nearly identical to the app: musictheory.net


This is the conclusion of my first installment of recommendations, these apps focusing on notation and theory. Let's continue the discussion, sharing any and all apps you and/or your students use.

Posted on January 11, 2024 in response to DSorah

Those are some great looking apps. I remember some of the early notation programs on computers and how "cumbersome" they were to use.

I was curious and looked up the cost on Apple School Manager:

StaffPad is $89.99 or 49.99 per copy if you order 20 or more

Symphony Pro is $19.99 or 9.99 per copy for 20 or more.

I'm really interested in trying out the Symphony Pro. StaffPad looks amazing, but I'm being on a budget I can justify the Symphony Pro.

Posted on January 11, 2024 in response to bwphillips70

Hey Brian -

Thanks for reading through and checking out these apps. I think you’ll really enjoy them. StaffPad is pretty amazing, even for the expense. It does take a bit to get to know how it wants you to write the music notation so that it can recognize and translate it, actually making my handwritten manuscript worse. 😆 Super powerful app though.

Early notation apps definitely were cumbersome, but it was worth the effort to see your music notated in a somewhat professional layout. Interfaces and workflow has come a long way!

I am not familiar with Apple School Manager. Maybe that’s because I’m not on the management side of our deployment? I’ll look into it. Thanks for sharing those prices. It might be something we can recommend/require of our freshmen music majors since we are a 1:1 iPad institution.

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