A Music App for Teens that’s Waay Cool

No, I didn’t misspell the title of this blog post. (But I did initially “mispell” one of the words in the first sentence. Thank you, spell checker.)

Today’s post is about a music theory app and how I plan on using it in my upcoming Pizza & Theory teen group lesson. If you’re already familiar with the app, you can skip below to the group lesson plans.

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There are a lot of music theory apps out there
. Now, I’m not talking about the super fun apps like Flashnote Derby, Note Rush, or Rhythm Swing. Those are great apps, but they mostly appeal to my younger piano students.

I’m talking about serious music theory appsThe ones that you use for students who are exploring composition or prepping for college entrance exams.

One of the biggest weaknesses I’ve found with most “serious” theory apps is that… well, they’re boring. They also have a tendency to not be very interactive, they don’t track student progress, and worst of all… they teach theory out of context.

Teaching Theory Out of Context

(It’s just not worth it!)

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When we present a theory concept without a “tangible” musical context,  a student’s understanding of that theory concept is often vague. As teachers, it’s sometimes easy to forget this because we’re so accustomed to thinking in half-steps, minor 6ths, and augmented chords.

Our students need context to understand why theory works the way it does. That’s why I really like Waay. It teaches theory within the context of songwriting, which makes it easier for students to understand the ins and outs of those crazy music theory rules.


The courses walk through concepts such as intervals, scales, key signatures, chords, and chord progressions. Each topic is introduced by a cool video and then reinforced with exercises where a student must achieve one star to unlock the next section of the course.

(Then students are encouraged to get more practice by repeating the exercises to achieve all 3 stars.)

Here are a few screenshots of what the modules look like:

I really like the clean look of this app — it’s straight forward, but not boring looking, and the clear linear progression gives students a sense of direction and accomplishment. It’s the perfect balance of “cool” and “grown-up” for teen students.

Exciting news: They recently added a “teacher function,” so that you can unlock all of the sections for just $2.99. (Well worth it, in my opinion!)

Make it a Social Experience

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Having fun at a Halloween group lesson

I’ve got plans to introduce this app to my students next week during our “Pizza & Theory” group lesson for teens. It’s just one of the things on my agenda. Here’s my 1.5 hour lesson plan:

Pizza & Theory Group Lesson Plans:

  1. Pizza. Obviously. This is really important.
  2. Students perform their recital pieces for one another and learn how to give positive feedback and critiques. “My favorite part was when you had an amazing crescendo during the middle. I’d love to hear more dynamic contrast just like that!”
  3. Tech Time: We’ll use the Waay theory app as two groups. I’ll have half the students use it on my iPhone, and the other half use it on my iPad. We’ll introduce the concepts and then have them pass the app around to “play” the exercises. This is another lesson in encouragement and teamwork.
  4. Game Time: Interval building race using a giant Jenga blocks. Split the students into teams. Draw an interval card and have them stack jenga blocks for each half-step in the interval. (minor 3rd = 3 half-steps, perfect 5th = 7 half-steps.) The winner will be whichever team can build the highest tower without toppling!
  5. Social Media Challenge: Since most of my teens use Instagram, I’m going to challenge them with a “7 second performance” — over the remainder of the week, they are challenged to record a 7 second video of a piece they’re working on (their choice) and post it to Instagram. (And tag each other and the studio!)

Hope you enjoyed this post!

I’ll be giving away 5 codes for the Waay app this Friday to randomly drawn names from the teachers who are registering for webinars this week at Upbeat Piano Teachers!

Heads up: I’ll be doing some FB Live videos on Upbeat Piano Teachers this week about the resources in our new webinars. Make sure to subscribe to get notifications!

Interested in learning more about Upbeat? Click the image below to read our blog post about all the guest experts featured in our newest webinars.

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2 Comments

  • by Peggy Posted August 3, 2017 3:47 pm

    I love the wallpapers you gave away at the last webinar. they just make me happy! I really appreciated the webinar also. I am already doing lots of good things that were mentioned, but being more organized with business paperwork needs attention. Thanks for all you give us!

    • by Sara Campbell Posted August 8, 2017 2:11 pm

      Hi Peggy! I’m so glad you like the wallpapers 🙂 I really enjoy making them. Which webinar did you watch?

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