Apple's iOS devices are designed to sync with a single library on a specific Mac or PC. This is inconvenient if you just want the odd new song on your device, without going through a lengthy sync, or if you've got a device that was previously synced with another computer (and therefore an iTunes library) you no longer have access to.

Trying to sync a device with a new library on a computer that has a fresh install of iTunes may wipe the iOS device. At best, you'll be able to transfer across your iTunes purchases, but not any other music you've loaded on your iPhone or iPad. This tutorial is therefore about workarounds - how to get new music on your device, or old music off it, without going anywhere near an iTunes sync.

How to add or delete music on iPhone or iPad without using iTunes

Use iTunes in the cloud

Content you've bought in the Music app on your device or in iTunes on your Mac can be accessed when you're online. Fire up Music and you should see albums you've bought; select one and you'll see the familiar cloud icon. Tap this to download the album to your device. (If you're an iTunes Match subscriber, you'll be able to download albums and tracks in the same manner.)

If an album or track you've bought isn't showing in Music, open the iTunes Store app and navigate to More > Purchased > Music. You may find it lurking in the Recent Purchases section.

How to add or delete music on iPhone or iPad without using iTunes: iTunes in the cloud

iTunes alternatives: apps and services

It's also possible to get music on to your device using alternative cloud-oriented services that have apps with their own players. For example, if you upload an MP3 to Dropbox, you can play it inside that app and store it locally by tapping the star button. However, you cannot transfer it to Apple's Music app's library.

How to add or delete music on iPhone or iPad without using iTunes: Alternative apps & services

There are lots of services and apps beyond Apple's own that can get music on to your device. Amazon Music loads your on-device tracks from Music and integrates them with content you've bought on the Amazon store (which, of late, may also include free rips of CDs you've previously purchased).

Elsewhere, streaming services such as Spotify provide access to a huge library of music, and if you pay the monthly fee you can save tracks for offline playback. Alternatively, StreamToMe will stream music from any Mac with the StreamToMe server installed, meaning you can access your iTunes library without iTunes Match or dealing with a sync.

Browse our guide to the best iTunes alternatives for more suggestions.

How to add or delete music on iPhone or iPad without using iTunes: StreamToMe app

Save your old songs

If you want to move to a new iTunes library but first need to save your old songs, download and install iExplorer on your Mac. Connect your device via USB and it will be shown in the iExplorer sidebar. Open Media Library and select Music and you'll see a list of all the tracks currently on your device.

How to get music on iPhone without iTunes: iExplorer

To transfer a selection of tracks elsewhere, select them in the central pane, click Transfer From Device, and choose whether you want them to be sent to iTunes or a folder. Alternatively, click Auto Transfer to begin the process of sending all of the music on your device to iTunes. The app will cross-reference your tracks with what's already in iTunes, and then copy across the songs and rebuild your playlists accordingly.

How to add or delete music on iPhone or iPad without using iTunes: AnyTrans

A similar app which we recommend is AnyTrans, which has a very easy-to-use interface and allows you to transfer content to and from your iOS device.