Orff with Technology


Although we as music educators and musicians struggle to compete with and overcome the influence of popular culture and the media on our students by striving to maintain the integrity of authentic music as it should be played by trained musicians, with original instruments, we cannot ignore the truths of the technological world into which our students were born. In order for our students to survive, we must evolve by learning and teaching new technologies and new ways to sing, play, compose, notate, record, edit, perform, and present music. Unfortunately for die-hard authentic musicians, much presentation and performance of music is now done using virtual instruments. In other words, electronic devices designed to look and/or sound like an original instrument, are but facsimiles of the original instruments. These instruments are not as beautiful to the eye in their craftsmanship, nor are they capable of producing the subtle nuances of beauty that a handmade musical instrument can produce, but they can be useful tools for learning basic music concepts, technological and mechanical skills of a different sort, and the creation, production, presentation, and performance of music in new ways. These virtual instruments can serve as substitutes for original instruments in schools whose administrators and budgets are allocated for core academics and technology, but do not allow for the purchase of musical instruments. These instruments can also be rather easily attained by individual students and teachers, since technological devices such as computers, iPhones, iPods, and iPads, etc., are a way of life in most households. Therefore, it is necessary to incorporate these virtual instruments into our music classrooms.

ARTICLES ON ORFF-SCHULWERK & TECHNOLOGY (abstracts & full articles retrieved from JSTOR & IIMP (International Index of Music Periodicals) via student permission through Duquesne University. Individual access may require registration and/or purchase of research membership on JSTOR & IIMP websites). The original articles are entries from periodicals including but not limited to: Teaching Music, Music Educators Journal, General Music Today, & The Orff Echo.

Orff + Technology = Composition for Kidsby Jim Vennemeyer
Citation: Vennemeyer, J. (1999). Orff + technology = composition for kids. Teaching Music , 6(6), pp. 36-38. Retrieved from http://gateway.proquest.com

Click this link for my lesson plan based on the article: Orff-Tech Lesson Plan

Orff-Schulwerk in the New Millenium-by Doug Goodkin
Citation: Goodkin, D. (2001). Orff-Schulwerk in the new millenium. Music Educators Journal , 88(3), pp. 17-23. Retrieved from RILM Abstracts of Music Literature database.


The following are innovative ideas for incorporating both Orff-Schulwerk and technology into the music classroom. The two approaches can be combined to facilitate music notation, improvisation, composition, music research, and other important components of music education. Combining these ideas can benefit music teachers with limited resources and budgets by, in essence, creating new instruments, sounds, and possibilities for all students to experience Orff-Schulwerk through increasingly more affordable technology.

  1. New and old desktop computers, laptops, and iPods can be used for Orff research and learning the history of the Orff approach.
  2. Desktop computers, laptops, iPods, and keyboards can be combined and used to imitate or substitute the use of non-pitched percussion instruments and sometimes pitched percussion instruments of the Orff ensemble, (depending on the soundbanks available on keyboard instruments). This would be useful for music teachers who do not have an adequate supply of Orff instruments.
  3. Desktop computers and laptops can be used for music learning, music notation, composition, and improvisation of Orff ostinatos, melodies, etc.
  4. Desktop computers, laptops, and iPod (Touch) can be used for games, quizzes, and group Orff trivia activities.
  5. Old and new keyboards with any percussion sounds can be combined to form a keyboard/music technology lab that could serve as a “Synthetic” or “Electronic Orff ensemble.” The keyboards can also be used for music notation, composition, and improvisation.
  6. Desktop computers, laptops, and keyboards can be used to provide dance rhythms, or practice accompaniment for the teacher and students to use while they learn movements and dances.


Attached is a general lesson plan for using technology in your music classroom. Located at the end of the lesson plan is a list of YouTube instructional videos for setting up & operating a projector and/or SmartBoard (there are many more videos!). A modern projector such as the Elmo (there are other comparable items available) or SmartBoard (or Mimeo-a smaller version) can be used to display any songs, lessons, worksheets, or other materials onto a whiteboard, screen, or white wall. This saves a tremendous amount of time and money as an alternative to purchasing or photocopying materials for each student (ink, paper, books, etc.). A projector alone costs only around $250-$300, and can easily be attached to a desktop computer or laptop. SmartBoards are quite a bit more expensive, but operate like a gigantic computer or TV that students can easily see & interact with. Students can take turns completing problems right on the screen, and the teacher can show any materials, PowerPoint presentations, or videos. One simply touches the screen to perform tasks exactly like a computer with a mouse.

SmartBoard Lesson Plan Attachment: SmartBoard or Projector Lesson w Orff


Interactive Now-by  Debbie Anderson & Phyllis Thomas-www.lorenz.com (See Review & information on Books/Resources & Free Materials page!):

Whiteboard Music Lessons-by The Fun Company (also listed on Books/Resources & Free Materials page)- http://funmusicco.com/

Whiteboard Music Lessons is a complete curriculum & interactive lessons for SmartBoard & other softwares, downloadable lesson plans, worksheets, theory workbooks, flashcards, & games. FREE SAMPLES OF LESSON PLANS, WORKSHEETS & GAMES plus excellent graphic preview online AND video previews of materials!

The following are some ideas for using virtual Orff instruments and ensembles in the classroom.

1. virtual instrument (iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch) ensemble (to learn skills on electronic instruments or as a substitute for authentic instruments not available)
2. virtual and authentic Orff instrument ensemble (iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch & authentic Orff instruments-to supplement authentic instruments)
3. composition with virtual instruments (iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch and/or instrument sounds within software such as Finale, Sibelius, or GarageBand)
4. composition with virtual instruments, computers, & notation software (iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch, & notation software such as Noteflight (FREE), or Finale or Sibelius)
5. recording and editing with virtual instruments (iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch and/or instrument sounds within recording software such as Garageband)
6. recording and editing with virtual instruments, & recording/editing/sequencing software (iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch & GarageBand)

TI:ME (Technology Institute for Music Education) LESSON IDEAS: The following are modified ideas taken from lesson plans on members portion of the TI:ME website: http://www.ti-me.org

1. Improvisation-for General Music 3-6

The teacher creates a melody in C Pentatonic on barred Orff instruments or iPod/iPhone/iPad & records it using GarageBand software, alternating accompaniment with a bordun. Students will play a Pentatonic scale on barred Orff instruments and/or iPod/iPhone/iPad, then improvise their own melody that will be recorded into GarageBand & accompanied by the bordun section.  The teacher will include the National Standards & a rubric for performance on Orff instruments.

2. Rhythmic Composition-for General Music grades 4-6

The teacher & students clap quarter & eighth note rhythmic patterns. The teacher will model/notate rhythmic patterns using notation software (Noteflight). Students will perform the patterns. The teacher will open an excerpt of empty measures & model how to enter notes, emphasizing 4/4 time signature, & correct note & rest values. Students will take turns entering portions of their own rhythms. The class will clap the rhythms, then perform them on non-pitched percussion instruments. This lesson can be expanded to include students improvising a melody using these rhythms on barred Orff instruments and/or notating them with the notation software. Other options include: Students working independently in a music/computer lab on notation software.


Below are FREE applications (& a personal rating of each) enabling the user to play a virtual Orff or percussion instrument on an iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch. (*Note: Apps for purchase are not listed-only upgrades for FREE versions).

Percussive-by Touch Media Productions (Copyright 2010 Touch Media Productions): Features: 1 virtual xylophone, pitched from C to G (1 octave plus 4th)-plus additional b/# bars, choice of soft/hard mallets, high/low pitches (sop/alto sound), link to other percussion instrument apps. Cons: Advertisement photo shows multiple instruments, but user can only play 1 with FREE version Upgrade: $1.99-Yields 4 more instruments

The Mallets Voice Lite-by Ars Et Media Srl: Features:Vibraphone & Keyboard sounds, anthology of hundreds of chords, voicings (maj/min/dom/dim, etc.) & harmonies. A”Mallet Coach” that tutors hand position, a MIDI sequencer, MIDI export, & a video gallery of exercises. Complete tutorial is helpful in developing harmonies. A 3-octave, 1/2 polyphonic keyboard with vibraphone & marimba. 4 keyboard skins Cons:More features available on purchased version: “The Mallet Voice”

iGlockenspiel HD-by On Beat Limited: Poor to Fair Features: Rainbow-colored virtual glockenspiel, user can record/play/email music &  link to other apps Cons: Does not sound like a glockenspiel, only 1 octave, pop-up ads

Xylophone-by www.mobileagency.com/au (Copyright 2011)-Matthew Worrall, developer: Rating-FAIR Features: Rainbow-colored, virtual xylophone Cons: Pop-up ads & no labeled bars, & no other features

Xylophones HD-by iMudra Apps: Fair Features: Xylophone (others-Glockenspiel, Marimba, & Vibraphone available through in-app purchase)-play in hard & soft mode-nice graphics-good audio Cons: Must purchase other instruments within app-price not listed on free app details page.

Easy Xylophone-by Skunk Brothers GmbH: Rating-FAIR Features: Rainbow-colored xylophone, letter-labeled bars (includes B-H), 1 octave + 3rd (C to F). Cons: Pop-up ads & rating box, & no other features Upgrade: $.99=no ads

Epic Xylophone:Rating-POOR Features: Rainbow-colored, playable xylophone Cons: Pop-up ads (cannot play entire xylophone due to ad obstructing instrument), no letter labels, only 1 octave, instrument is designed like a washboard-all bars are same size, so one cannot tell where low notes or high notes are located until playing. No other features.

Marimba: Rating-GOOD Features: User can choose Soprano, Alto, or Bass instrument, letter-labeled bars, 1 octave + 5th (C to A), help button shows controls diagram, separate controls for bass & soprano, record button (records alto only), play button (plays alto recording). Cons: Functions of bass & soprano control buttons are unclear.

Marimba Free-by Buzly Labs Ltd.: Fair Features: 1 Octave plus P4th, C Major Cons: No accidentals or chord capabilities & no other features

Bongos-by Skunk Brothers: Rating-POOR Features: Virtual, playable bongo drums, cowbell, & drum sticks Cons: Glitch in app-shows vertically with pop-up rating box obstructing instruments-does not fit the screen, so you cannot close out to play instruments

Bongo Beats-by Software-Kitchen-GOOD Features: Virtual playable bongo drums & extra instrument sound buttons in 4 corners-tambourine, shakers, rhythm sticks, & drums, Record, Play, Fast-Forward, & Rewind buttons Cons: Pop-up ads & clickable rating box button Upgrade: $.99-removes ads

Conga Drums: Rating: EXCELLENT Features: Settings for: drums volume, master volume, pitch, rolls-tempo & beats per min., animation, & drum names. Layout for 2, 3, or 4 drums: Conga/Quinto/Tumba/Super Tumba.iPod setting:can play conga drums while listening to music on iPad/iPod/iPhone.Recorder Button Cons: Cannot record multitrack of congas with song you are listening to (perhaps upgrade will allow?). Upgrade:enables multi-track recording, recording with metronome beats, & various metronome sounds, more drum types & combinations.

Congas-by Skunk Brothers: Rating-FAIR Features: instruments with sounds-2 congas, cowbell, & drum sticks Cons: Pop-up ads & clickable rating box button Upgrade: $.99-No ads

Hand Drum: EXCELLENT Features:9 hand drums, including bongos, congas, & many others, pitch control, pocket beats & loops, metronome, & ability to share & export recordings Cons: Must purchase upgrade to record multi-tracks & 11 more drums

Djembe! Free-by Cody Rotwein:EXCELLENT Features: 8 different sounds, 27 Pocket Beats & Loops, metronome, & play-along feature, 3-D effects, stereo sounds, slide & pitch control, & ability to share & export your recordings Cons: Must purchase upgrade to use multi-track recorder & some extra sounds/beats Upgrade: $.99

Djembe Free-by Mode of Expression, LLC: GOOD Features: 1 of 4 Djembe sets, dynamic variation, fast response time & good sound, pitch-bending & dualing djembe capabilities Cons: Must purchase upgrade to remove ads.

iTriangle Free-The Virtual Triangle-by Novasoft: FAIR Features: different color, tone, & timbre options Cons: No other features. Must purchase upgrade to remove ads.

Slit Drum-by DaabApps: FAIR Features: A simple tap-to play app with a nice sound. Cons: No other features.

Thum Drum-by www.LutherSoft.com: Rating-FAIR Features: play various types of virtual drums with fingers & thumbs simultaneously on iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch Edit Layout: User can drag drums to re-arrange them (can re-set them). They can be arranged to fit the size of the hand by placing all fingers on drums simultaneously.

Educational Orff Apps for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch:

FMEA: Florida Music Educators Association: Rating: EXCELLENT Features: Clickable Menu of links to Conference Schedule, Florida Music Director Journal (Free)-viewable in Safari or as touchable “iPad” page turn format, & FMEA website Cons: None!

Orff Music 2 for Kids Features: Menu buttons-Messenger, email, website link, theme song (plays to alert player to turn the page), scene selection, a music game-map similar to an adventure-style video game with bear characters, sheet music excerpts with key signature & tempo markings, handbell game & sounds, sound effects, clickable animals-(music plays to represent each). Cons: App is advertised in English, but once downloaded, is entirely in an Asian language!

Please feel free to share your own ideas in the comments section below or on the Online Community page.

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