Using the Nashville Number System to Create Bands

Skip instrument “lessons” and get participants to play in bands from day #1

Give your participants the ultimate musical experience by getting them to play their favorite songs in a band on the very first day. Youth participants are empowered by choosing their instrument, song, bandmates and stage name. Your role is to simplify the chord progressions or drum beats (ie. root notes) and get the band to play along with the recording while performing on stage. Instead of weekly “lessons,” participants attend a regular band rehearsal with the goal of performing at a showcase performance each month. Help participants feel like a “star” in front of their peers while motivating them to improve on their skills. 

Read More

How to… 

Before participants arrive 

  • Prepare an approved Song List on a white board (ie. popular songs for participants to choose from) 
    • Limited song options from a common playlist gives participants a sense “guided choice” 
    • Allows the staff to prepare learning materials for a realistic amount of songs, including, tempo/key signature, progression shorthand (ie. Nashville # system), and song form
    • Add individual progressions for Verse, Chorus, Pre-Chorus, Bridge, etc. 
    • Print lyric sheets (if needed) 
      • Create a playlist on Spotify or Apple Music for quick access
  • Tape and label instruments
Use white Gaffers tape to label frets with chord function. Move tape for each songParticipants play root notes using one finger on one stringLabel keys with chord function using tape or dry erase markersParticipants play root notes using one finger 
Page 1 of 3

To download a full, editable version

Explore similar resources in Instrument Workshops

Studio to Stage

To download a ZIP file Bundle – Click Here:

Here are ways that Music Impact Network members plan music production projects and work towards an end of semester performance.

Step #1 – Start with the basics and include all skill levels 

Demystify complicated gear – make beats right away
Tips to get everyone contributing on a track

Tip – keep working on projects until you have enough original songs to fill an EP

Step #2 – Create weekly milestones for participants to achieve 

A weekly Remix Contest helps build production skills
Get creative juices flowing with Loops and Samples

Tip – Make it “real” – have participants book studio time (don’t just have weekly beat making classes)

Step #3 – Help participants “level up” and finalize projects

Participants earn studio privileges while improving their production skills
Help up-and-coming artists develop and complete an original album

Tip – Mentor, coach and help remove roadblocks but let the participants be the creative force

Step #4 – Roll out the red carpet and give your participants a special night

Help participants feel comfortable on stage
Throw an unforgettable Album release party!

Tip – Make it memorable – rent a red carpet, stage and lights and invite EVERYONE

To download a ZIP file Bundle – Click Here:

Bonus: Here are some Helpful tools you might need along the way





Back to School “Backpack”

To download the full, Back to School “Backpack” – Click here:

Or… Download by individual links or categories below:


Hi! My Name Is… – Name game icebreaker using rap
Lyric Love – Test your knowledge of commonly used lyrics in love songs
Top 10 Debate Club – Debate and defend your favorite top 10 songs
Question Mingle Icebreaker – Big group icebreaker where music is the common language
Be one of the “Cool kids” – download all of the Icebreakers – Click Here:

New Participant Orientation 

New Participant Orientation Process – Welcome new participants and get them making music right away!
Equipment Orientation Worksheets – Quick start worksheets for beginners
Welcome your new participants – download all the New Studio Orientation tools – Click Here:

Programs, Projects and Performances

“Karate Belt” Reward System – Help your participants earn a musical “black belt”
VIP Band ProgramVery Important Participants become Virtuoso Instrument Players!
Music Producer Reward System – Participants earn studio privileges while improving their studio skills!
How to Address Inappropriate Language – Five ways to clean up inappropriate language that you’ll swear by!
Lip Sync battle – Channel your inner “Milli Vanilli” while learning stage presence
Cover Song Challenge – Healthy competition that encourages collaboration, talent and self-esteem
Be Prepared – Pack your bag with the latest program ideas – Click Here:

Essential Supplies

Dropmix – Music Mixing Game – Part game, part DJ mixer, part ear-trainer… ALL fun!
Rhythm Roulette (Using Splice) – Random samples equals endless beat making creativity
Logic Remote as a Midi Control Surface – An iPad works as a control surface to make beats like a pro
Back to school shopping time – download all Essential Supplies – Click Here:

It’s not cheating… Go ahead, just download the whole thing – Click here:

Logic Remote as a Midi Control Surface

Turn an iPad into a digital control surface and make beats like a pro

Some participants can be intimidated by the recording studio equipment and process.  Empower them by using a tool they are comfortable – iPads and Logic Remote can be used as a control surface to make beats and help participants take control of the recording process.  Whether they’re using the transport to record themselves from within the vocal booth, using the iPad as a “second screen” to multitrack mix in the control room, or using the iPad to program drum beats and chord progressions, Logic Remote is a versatile way to make the recording process more accessible to everyone!

Read More

How to… 

  • Download Logic Remote on iTunes App store (this is a Free App) 
  • Launch your Logic Session and pair Logic Remote to your computer (must be on the same network) 
    • FYI: Logic Remote also works with Garageband 
  • Use your iPad as a “second screen” or a “midi” control surface for your session using these helpful features (and more): 
    • Beat making/songwriting: 
      • Drum Pads – digital trigger pads are a tactile way for participants to program in their kick and snare tracks. It also has a “Kits” view which is more visual drum set
      • Note Repeat – perfect for creating authentic sounding trap music “sprinkler hi hats”
      • Chord Strips – Similar to “Smart Chords” in Garageband, this is an easy way to write chord progressions.  Participant can focus on quickly getting their ideas fleshed out without having to worrying about music theory 
      • Keyboard – copying the root motion of the Smart Chords progression, participants can easily add a bass line or synth layers. It also has “Fretboard” features if you prefer
    • Navigation and Mixing:
      • Key Commands – Frequently used recording functions like: Recording Transport, Save, New Track, Automation, etc
      • Mixer – great way to add a “second screen” that gives participants a tactile way to move digital faders during mixing/mastering
Page 1 of 1

To download a full, editable version

Explore similar resources in Music Production

Cover Song Challenge

Healthy competition that encourages collaboration, talent, and self-esteem 

It’s impossible to please all of your participants with song choice, especially when they’re at different skill levels and have different musical tastes. So, how do you keep everyone engaged? A Cover Song Challenge is a great way to increase participants’ motivation, give them a sense of choice/independence, and recognize their efforts. Active participants, beginners, and members who wouldn’t usually get involved all have the opportunity to try new things, collaborate, and showcase their skills.  

Participants will experience… 

  • Motivation – performers get out of their comfort zone, sing in a band/group, perform in front of others, and improve their skills
  • Choice/independence – allows singers, instrumentalists, and staff a common playlist of popular song options (that they can choose from) to learn and play together
  • Recognition – singers learn about finding their unique voice and talents as an artists and are recognized and mentored through the competition

Read More

How to… 

  • Plan a Master Schedule for the semester for the Cover Song Challenge 
    • For example, the typical after-school music program runs 8-12 weeks during the Fall and Spring, and 8-10 weeks during the Summer.  
    • Plan an entire semester’s worth of weekly “Cover Song Challenge” themes. Try to create categories that can be achievable at any skill level (beginner – advanced). See “Sample Cover Song Challenge themes” below: 
  • Create a “Cover Song Challenge” approved Song List 
    • Choose a diverse set of popular songs with participants’ musical tastes in mind. Also be mindful of the level of difficulty and have song materials ready and adapted for various skill levels. 
    • FYI: By limiting song options from a common playlist, you give participants a sense “guided choice.” They are in control of what song they choose (even if it’s from a list of popular and current songs that most participants will like). This also allows the staff to focus on and prepare learning materials (i.e. tablature, sheet music, song form, lyric sheets, and lesson materials) for a realistic amount of songs.  
  • Each week, post a new cover song challenge in a prominent location (like on a bulletin board, etc.)
  • Participants work with staff and their peers to prepare their cover song, including: 
    • Selecting a song from the approved Song List 
    • Learning, practicing, and rehearsing individually or with a group 
    • Receiving feedback from vocal instructors/staff 
    • Setting up a recording session or performance (for their submission) 
    • Submitting their Cover Song Challenge 
  • By end-of-day Thursday, participants must submit their cover song
    • Encourage participants to submit their entries using: 
      • Cell phone audio or video
      • iPad audio or video
      • A multi-tracked session in the studio 
  • On Friday, as a group, listen to each cover song and choose a winner for the week 
Page 1 of 2

To download a full, editable version

Explore similar resources in Performances

Lip Sync Battle

Help participants channel their inner Milli Vanilli while learning stage presence

A Lip Sync Battle is a fun and silly “performance” that gets participants to know each other and conquer their stage fright.  Vocal performers lip sync on stage in front of their peers while instrumentalist “air” play (guitar, bass, drums, keys, etc). This helps eliminate the need for knowing how to play while allowing inexperienced performance start to think about stage presence and getting comfortable in front of a crowd. 

In Addition… 

Read More

How to… 

  • Divide participants into teams (teams of 4-5 participants is ideal) 
  • Team decide on a popular song that they would like to perform
  • Give teams about 10 minutes to practice the song and designate different roles, like: 
    • Vocalist
    • Rapper/s
    • Drummer
    • Guitar/bass
    • Keys 
    • Choreography/Dancers
    • Etc. 
  • Each team “performs” for one another while the song is played over a PA System… (no participants actually play instruments or sing)
  • Crown a winner by letting judges/staff decide, audience “applause ‘O meter”, or schedule during pickup and let parents decide
  • Variations: 
    • Have individuals compete instead of teams 
    • Have theme Lip Sync Battles (ie. Rap, Pop, Country, 80’s music, etc…) 
    • Shoot a Lip Sync Battle music video 
    • Bring in costumes – have participants dress the part or have some props/costumes for participants to use 
    • Flash mob a different department/room – take a portable PA system to the teen center, games room, lobby or admin offices and put on an impromptu show
Page 1 of 1

To download a full, editable version

Explore similar resources in Performances

Advice on Retaining Summer Participants

So your participants had a great summer experience… now what?! 

Does this sound like your typical summer experience? You spent countless hours forming relationships with camp members teaching them to play instruments, record songs, perform on stage and more. The summer ends and you never see those participants again… it’s frustrating! Below are some strategies that have worked for seasoned Youth Development professionals to help retain summer participants in the new school year.  

Read More

Example #1 – Create hype with parents

“We’ve been hyping up school year programming with members and their parents – some just need to be aware that the fun doesn’t stop after summer. ”
 – Submitted by Nick Tetrault, West End House Boys & Girls Club
  • Parents are the biggest asset for ensuring consistent attendance 
    • Invite as many parents into your program as possible during the summer. Invite them to performances, recording sessions and community events
    • Send a letter home to advertise your programs – Highlight the wording “Invitation to enroll” 
    • Host a parent info-session before the summer ends
      • Have google forms ready for enrollment in particular programs. This helps gather data on what resources are needed to prep for the Fall semester (ie. what instruments are popular, how many sessions of a program are needed, etc.) 
      • Create a program brochure to hand out to parents – Design it with lots of pictures, describe core schedule, be sure to include contact information and print it at Staples

Example #2 – Have an exciting and fun summer camp!

“The goal is to create enough excitement during the summer so that they’ll want to come back in the Fall.”
Submitted by Mike Joyce, Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester
  • Extend membership periods (ie. allow parents to register for the Fall programming during the summer) 
  • Conduct outreach during the summer ie. social media, local papers, website. 
  • Conduct “inreach” – make sure other staff members are aware of your programming in the Fall – they can help spread the word too! 
  • Schedule orientation sessions and tours for families 
Page 1 of 2

To download a full, editable version

Rhythm Roulette (Using Splice)

Introducing three random samples equals endless beat making creativity for your participants

Rhythm Roulette is a great way to get participants experimenting with making electronic music by getting over the initial hump that’s always the most challenging… “where do I start?!” Getting a project off the ground is always difficult, but being forced to build around a particular sample or sound can be a great springboard for creativity. There are lots of different ways to use the idea of a “Rhythm Roulette” in the studio, and they can be tailored to different ages and experience levels – below are just a few examples.  

In Addition… 

  • This program is based off of the Rhythm Roulette | Mass Appeal Youtube series. To understand how this program works, you have to first understand the rules of the Rhythm Roulette: #1 – Find a record store, #2 – Blind-fold producer, #3 – Pick 3 random records, #4 – Make a beat by sampling 

Read More

How to… 

  • The basic concept is… Grab random samples or loops from sound libraries (like Splice or Apple loops) and help participants make a beat using all three samples. FYI: This is a great way to introduce and utilize a Splice Sounds account
  • For beginners: 
    • Grab a 4 bar instrumental loop (or chord progression) 
    • Each participant (and instructor/s) creates their own drum beat to go with the loop/progression 
      • Don’t let participants listen to each others tracks while they’re making them
      • Keep the activity short and sweet – have participants only build a 4 bar drum track
      • Encourage participants to experiment with elements such as: Drum kit libraries, Tempo/BPM, Dynamics, Mute/unmute, Panning, Effects, Layering, Etc. 
    • Everyone plays their track (over a PA speaker), listens and compares what they came up with
    • Discuss how different grooves and feels can make the same sample sound completely different.
      • For example: A loop with a 4-on-the-floor feel vs. a trap feel
  • For more advanced participants: 
    • Choose three random loops and/or samples (Splice or Apple Loops) 
    • Challenge participants to make a beat (in 30-60 minutes) that includes ALL three loops/samples
    • Introduce more advanced concepts like: 
      • Matching key signatures (Ie. show how some samples won’t work well together because they are in different keys or tonalities)
      • Tempo and beat matching 
      • Groove and feel (ie. Swing vs. straight) 
      • Dynamics
      • Effects and filters 
      • Classic drum sounds (ie. Acoustic, electronic, 808’s, lo-fi, etc) 
      • Etc. 
  • Variation for teens: 
    • For teens, before we make any beats, I show them the “I played a show using only the 1991 Casio Rapman” video from Adam Neely’s YouTube channel. This video introduces a topic that is relevant to the activity ie. how limitations can sometimes inspire creativity
Page 1 of 1

To download a full, editable version

Hi! My Name Is…

My name is rap… and I’m a fun game… that helps your kids… see that they’re the same!

New participants still getting to know one another? Everyone into hip-hop and rap? What better way to break the ice than to have them write and perform an original rap about themselves?! “Hi! My Name is…” is a classic name game icebreaker that helps participants express who they are and get to know one another all while learning rhythm/flow, lyric writing and the self-confidence to perform in front of each other.  

Read More

How to… 

  • Participants have to come up with a rap that describes who they are, what they like, etc. 
  • Music program staff decide on the number of bars participants have to write (ie. 4, 8 or 12) depending on how much time you have
  • Participants individually spend 3-5 minutes writing or thinking of their lyrics
  • At the end of the designated lyric writing time, each participant performs their rap in front of the group


My name is Anne and I’m the Director
Of New City Kids, yeah all 3 centers
I love to sing, I love to play
You can see me do both, any day  

  • Optional elements to incorporate 
    • Each participant chooses their own beat/instrumental online 
    • Each participant creates one from scratch (using loops or beat making software) 
    • Staff choose one backing track/beat for the whole group – see if everyone can perform their rap one right after another without missing a beat
    • Have participants also create choreography 
    • Other creative elements could include: 
      • Rap alias nicknames
      • Costumes
      • Lyric themes
      • Performing through a PA system on stage
      • Recording each rap in the studio 
      • Create a music video
  • Alternative: 
    • Have participants split up into pairs 
    • Participants tell each other about their likes and interests 
    • Each pair must write a rap about their partner based on the discussion 
    • Participants perform for one another


Her name is Anne and she’s the Director
Of New City Kids, yeah all 3 centers
She loves to sing, She loves to play
You can see her do both, any day 

To download a full, editable version

Practical Tips on How to Address Inappropriate Language

Five ways to clean up inappropriate language that you’ll swear by!

It’s natural for participants to want to imitate the music they listen to when they first start out recording or performing. In the context of a youth development music program however, the language and content of these songs aren’t always appropriate.  This resource provides several approaches to encourage participants to expand their vocabulary and develop opportunities for growth and maturity including knowing your audience, assigning professional studio roles, rewriting lyrics, “three strikes” rule.  

Read More

Example #1 – Know Your Audience

“I talk to my students about knowing your audience and the value you get for being flexible. Most times my rappers just want to swear for shock value and because it’s easier than writing how you feel. I just take the time to have a conversation with them and explain the most versatile artists get more gigs, radio play, opportunities and at the end of the day… more dollars!” – Submitted by Corey DePina, Zumix
  • Ask participants – “How many cuss words can you think of using when you’re angry?” 
  • Then open and look up and explore the word “Angry” 
  • It might also be helpful to also show participants or other rhyming dictionaries 
  • Help participants understand the limits of using typical cuss words versus other words that may expand their vocabulary, set them apart, and better explain their emotions 

Example #2 – Assigning Professional Studio Roles 

“Younger participants sit-in on sessions with my older teens who are assigned traditional studio roles to make our studio feel more professional. They’re responsible, trusted and naturally influence younger participants and teach them our rules and if not, I can always step in when there’s inappropriate content. I use this as a  teachable moment to have open conversations and help create mindfulness.”   Submitted by Javier Lozada, Malden YMCA
  • Assign professional Studio Roles
    • Artist – Typically a vocalist (singer or rapper) recording over a pre-recorded track 
    • Producer – Participants who are interested in using technology to create beats using virtual instruments
    • Engineer – Participants who are more interested in the “behind the scenes” technical aspect of recording like setting up sessions, microphones, mixing, and using effects
  • Clearly establish the rules of the studio including language expectations 
  • Help older teen participants mentor younger participants on studio rules and expectations 
Page 1 of 3

To download a full, editable version