Tips & Tricks for Using Google Slides in Music

Google Slides remains to be one of my favorite of the G Suite tools. It is so versatile and can be used for a variety of purposes. This post continues my series on back-to-school tech tools.

Tips and Tricks for Using Google Slides

There are endless uses for Google Slides when teaching music! Many of them were discussed in my previous post, Google Slides in Music. As the teacher, you can use Slides to project and display the lesson or rehearsal plan for the day, or introduce new content through a slide show. Google Slides are also great for collaborative tasks, where small groups or the entire class contribute to one slide deck. You can even package entire lessons or units within Google Slides! This can be especially useful in virtual or hybrid learning experiences, when students are often working at their own pace.

Creating With Google Slides

With all the various uses for Google Slides, it’s good to know how to use them most effectively. There are several design tools that make the slides even easier and more attractive.

Change Page Size

The default Google Slides size is widescreen 16:9. This is optimal for most presentations and computer screens. However, it doesn’t work for everything. You can easily change the page size to any dimensions, including 8.5′ x 11″ (the same as a standard sheet of paper) or a square. From the File menu, select Page Setup to change the page size.

Themes and Templates

Google Slides has a selection of pre-made themes you can choose from when designing. However, there are several website that offer themes and templates you can use. Simply find the theme you are interested in, select “Use as a Google Slides Theme” and it will create a copy of that presentation theme for you. Some of my favorite sites for finding Google Slides themes are:

Be warned: it’s easy to get lost searching any of these sites! There are so many fun themes to choose from. Remember, the most important thing in your creation is the content, not the design. Also, be sure to always keep the copyright and attribution information, giving credit to the original creator of your theme. It’s the right thing to do and models good digital citizenship for your students.

Editing Master Slides

Once you have determined what theme to use, you can modify things within that theme. For example, changing the primary color or font. To do this, you will edit the Master Slides. From the View menu select “Master” and there you can make any desired changes. Any edits you make on the master slides will apply to the entire slide deck.

Editing master slides

Creating Background Images

If you are using Google Slides as an assignment that students will interact with (in edit mode), you may want elements on the slide that students can’t alter. Here, you will create a background image. After designing your slide, download it as a JPEG image – File, Download, JPEG image. That will save your current slide as an image file. Then go to the Background menu and select your image file. You can add that image to the theme which will add it to every slide in your deck. The background can be any image or color you like!

Inserting and Searching For Images

Any time you are inserting an image in Google Slides (even if it’s a background image) one option you will have is to do a Google Image search. This search will find images on the web labeled for fair use, and you don’t have to leave the slides! You can access this search from the Insert menu, then select Image, and Search the Web. You can also use the Explore function (lower right-hand corner) to search the web that way.

Other things to consider: the Unsplash and Noun Project add-ons are both great for finding additional images. Unsplash contains high-resolution images that are all royalty free. The Noun Project gives you access to thousands of icons. Learn more here: Four Easy Tools for Creating Digital Resources.

Cropping Images

You can crop images in Google Slides, not only as a square or rectangle, but into many other shapes as well! Use the down-arrow next to the crop tool and select from shapes, arrows, callouts, and equation symbols. You can alter images even more by using the Format Options menu. Recolor the image, adjust the contrasts, add a drop shadow, or a reflection!

Linking Slides

Sometimes when creating lesson experiences in Google Slides you don’t always want students to move sequentially through the slides. In this case you can link slides for students to navigate. To link slides, select the shape, image, or text that will act as the link. Click the link button, then select “Slides in this presentation.” The slides will either be named by slide number or the title of the slide. This can be useful any time you are offering choice within your Google Slides, such as in a choice board or choose your own adventure activity.

Download and Publish Options

With Google Slides, you have several download options. For example, you can download the entire slide deck as a PDF. You can also download individual slides as image files, JPEG or PNG. (Download options are found in the File menu.)

Another option for sharing Google Slides is to Publish to the Web. When you publish to the web, you are creating a website with its own URL for people to view your content. They will not have any editing abilities, regardless of the share settings. Additional options include having the slides auto-advance at various rates, having the slide show start right away, or having the slide show restart once complete. You can even embed a published slide deck on a website. This is a great way to share content you have created with others. The Publish to the Web options are also found in the File menu.

More Fun

There are several URL sharing tricks for Google Slides that give you a lot of options as the owner. This tricks include forcing someone to make a copy of your document, sharing a preview link, or sharing a PDF link. To learn more about these tricks, check out Google Document URL Tricks by Tony Vincent.

Google Slides, like most of the Google tools, can be customize with add-ons. There are several Google Slides add-ons that I use often.

  • Flat for Docs – insert music notation directly into your slides
  • Pear Deck – makes Google Slides presentations interactive
  • Unsplash – insert high-resolution images into Google Slides
  • The Noun Project – insert icons into Google Slides

For more details about these add-ons and how to use them, check out Seven Google Add-ons and Extensions for Music Teachers.


While there are many other features of Google Slides, hopefully this is a good start! If you are interested in seeing some of these tricks in context, check out my choice board, Menu – Dynamics in Music. In this slide deck, students are given a variety of ways to learn about, interact with, and experience dynamics in music.

For an example of Google Slides being used in a music class, check out this post by Kathryn Finch, Transform a Composition Project From Teacher-Led to Student-Led.

Leave a Reply