Instrument Loaner Program

Give your participants access to instruments while at home

Covid-19 has been disruptive to many after school programs and many participants can’t afford to have instruments at home.  Give your participants access to instruments and production equipment to help them continue to make music at home. The types of instruments have been specifically selected for at home use and can help music program staff implement virtual lessons and projects.

NOTE: Any featured products are based on the experience and opinions of Network members and Music & Youth. We do not receive any financial benefit from the vendors to promote their products. We just thought they were helpful and you might like ’em. 

Best Instruments for At-Home Use:

Music Production Package – $220
Focusrite Scarlett Solo Studio Recording Bundle
Singer/songwriter Package – $150
Shure MV5 Digital Condenser Microphone Bundle
Acoustic Guitar Package – $170
Yamaha JR1 (w/bag)($150/ea, Tuner – $10/ea, Picks – $3.50/pack, Strap $6/ea) 
Ukulele Package – $60 
Kala Ukulele Starter Kit
Drummer Package – $160
Pyle PTED06 Electronic Drum pad
or…
Drum pad/sticks Kit – $25 
Evans RealFeel Drum Pad and Drumsticks
Digital Piano Package – $120
Casio Casiotone CT-S200

Example Requirements – Below are some examples that other organizations have used – Customize the requirements to meet your needs: 

  • Permissions – Parent Permission and registration materials (see sample below) 
  • Participation – Participation in virtual workshops and performances and 150-word essay answering – “What are the musical goals you hope to accomplish?”
  • Equipment – Participants and parents assume responsibility of caring for instruments and damage (other than general wear and tear) and Prompt return at Loan Due Return Date

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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. 

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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
Guitar/bassPiano 
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 
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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

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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 
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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… 

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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
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“Karate Belt” Reward System

Want ninja level musicians?! Help your participants earn a musical “black belt.”  

A black belt in karate is a badge of honor representing the highest level of skill. The “Karate Belt” Reward System uses different color guitar picks (similar to “karate belts”) to reward participants’ progress and motivate them to achieve their goals on instruments or music technology.

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How to…

  • Determine what skills participants must demonstrate in order to “level up” on each instrument or music technology gear. Then print and display the “karate belt” requirements for each instrument.
    • The Sample “Karate Belt” Reward System Achievements chart below uses 5 colors, each representing different levels of achievement plus an exclusive club called “The Red-Hot Pick Society” for anyone earning a purple pick on 3 or more instruments
  • Create an incentive chart to visually track and help motivate participants’ achievements.
  • With help from instructors, participants work to earn each colored guitar pick to add to their necklace.
    • Note: If a participant earns their “Yellow” rank in more than one instrument, no need to give them another yellow guitar pick for their necklace. Instead, simply note their achievement on the incentive board.
  • Participants wear their multi-colored guitar pick necklace that proudly displays their rank.

The recommended equipment list below is an example that would serve approximately 30 participants. Your needs and quantities may vary (depending on # of participants).

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New Participant Orientation Tools

Expecting lots of new kids this semester? Set them up for success with these handy tools!

Download the bundle of ALL of the New Participant Orientation Tools

or choose an individual resource

New Participant Orientation Process

New Participant Orientation Process

Help break the ice and welcome new participants so they can make music right away! ...
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Sample House Rules

Sample House Rules

Help establish expectations for all participants and ensure proper use of the equipment and facilities.  ...
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Equipment Orientation Worksheets

Equipment Orientation Worksheets

These quick Equipment Orientation Worksheets are perfect for beginners on amp, bass, drums, guitar, mics, ...
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Musical Poster Boards

Musical Poster Boards

Large posters you can print and hang in your music room to help remind participants ...
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The Art of a Sound Check

Go beyond “check one, two!” Tips that help participants feel comfortable and sound their best

Many young musicians have never performed on stage in front of others and the experience can be overwhelming. Give you participants opportunities to discuss and practice seven tips to have an effective soundcheck. Topics include helping your participants understand the importance of being friendly, on time, prepared, aware, assertive, realistic, and respectful.  

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How to… 

Before a performance, schedule a soundcheck rehearsal to discuss and practice the seven tips below. Use your personal performance experience to discuss why these proper etiquette during a soundcheck is important and how it will ultimately benefit their performance and sound. After the discussion, run practice soundchecks to help participants understand what makes an effective soundcheck. Help reduce stress and make the process fun until everyone is comfortable with their sound.  

Seven Tips for an Effective Soundcheck: 

  • Be friendly: No egos. Everyone is learning, trying their best, and wants you to sound your best.
  • Be on time: Whether you’re part of a band or solo act, there may be others waiting for you to check. 
  • Be prepared: Do you have all your gear? Are you in tune? Are you mentally prepared?  
  • Be aware: Watch the front of house sound engineer for any instructions or questions.
  • Be assertive: Can hear yourself and others? Having other issues? Speak up (in a nice way). 
  • Be realistic: Don’t be shy! Perform like it’s the show – this helps engineer get accurate level settings. 
  • Be respectful: Don’t distract others while they are sound checking by talking or playing an instrument.

Specific soundcheck tips for the band: 

  • Singers: 
    • Want to sound your best? Sing an actual song (don’t just repeat, “check 1, 2…”)
    • Sing close to the mic (the sound engineer will turn your volume up or down when needed) 
    • Please DON’T tap the mic! 
    • Pointing the mic at monitors or speakers will cause feedback 
  • Instrumentalists: 
    • Set your stage level volume on your amp/instrument so that you can hear yourself
    • Please don’t adjust knobs or levels when you’re done checking (unless asked)
    • Sound engineers will make you louder/softer for the audience as needed
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“Sticky” Instrument Challenges

Want beginners to have instant success on instruments? Forget notation and pick up some tape or stickers!

“Sticky” Instrument Challenges are a great way to “gamify” your music program and expose participants to new things without having to learn music theory/notation first. At the start of each day, introduce several Instrument Challenges for participants to choose from (on different instruments). For example, participants have to complete a challenge in order to “unlock” privileges like using the recording studio, or instrument equipment, etc. “Sticky” Instrument Challenges help introduce basic concepts and gives participants success right away in hopes that they “stick” with it.

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How to…

  • Decide how often you’ll introduce the Instrument Challenges challenge. For example,
    • Every day – choose a specific time, etc. 
    • Each week (e.g. every Wednesday – or whatever day you choose) 
  • Decide on the format of the challenge – ie. everyone must complete or make it an optional challenge that helps participants earn extra privileges, etc.  
  • Make it easy for all skill levels to complete the challenges; examples include: 
    • Piano – use “Avery See-Through Removable Color Dots”, Post-it Page Markers (multi-color pack), Multi-colored dry erase markers 
    • Guitar/bass – use masking tape along the top of the neck/fretboard – label the fret number in sequence 
    • Drums – use an easy “play along” track, YouTube clip or take a video of an instructor playing a basic groove.  
  • Create fun challenges that participants must complete before participating in other programs/activities (displayed on a white board). Examples include: 
    • “Chord Buster” – Participants must play through a I-IV-V progression.  
      • Piano – Green dots = C Major chord, Red dots = F Major, Blue dots = G Major
      • Guitar/bass – #1 = Low E string, 8th fret (C); #2 = Low E string, 1st fret (F); #3 = Low E string, 3rd fret (G)
    • “Melody Mystery” – Place a sequence of colored dots or label fretboard that participants must “decode” in order to play a familiar melody.
    • “Octave Obsession” – Place colored dots or label fretboard on various octaves, and discuss the basic concept of what participants are playing.
    • “Scale Trail” – Place colored dots or label fretboard on various scales and discuss key signatures with participants.
    • “Intricate Intervals” – Place colored dots or label fretboard on basic scale intervals for a quick ear training exercise.
    • “Groove Master” – ask participants to recreate a drum groove on a video or recording
    • “Rhythm Xerox” – participants have to repeat a series of rhythms 
  • Optional – Use the same concepts for helping participants on music technology equipment 

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Signature Events

Create a performance that participants will remember for the rest of their lives!

Many participants in your music program probably won’t become professional musicians but why not give them a chance to feel like one while performing on stage?! Creating a Signature Event helps participants look forward to participating in an annual performance and gives them a goal to work towards while building their self-confidence and self-esteem. Whether its an Album Release Party, Awards Night, Talent Show, or Vocal Competition, help your participants dream big as they perform for their adoring fans! 

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How to… 

Create a Signature Event that involves your participants in something bigger than they ever thought possible. Here are some general tips for creating a memorable Signature Event: 

  • Go big!
    • Book a professional concert venue (e.g. House of Blues, Hard Rock or local college auditorium)   
    • Rent a red carpet, staging, sound system and lighting 
    • Secure corporate sponsors and special guest performers 
    • Document the special occasion by hiring professional photographers and videographers
    • Create awards and custom swag (e.g. t-shirts, posters, etc) 
    • Create a buzz promoting your event in the press and community
    • Invite other program departments to help – for example: 
      • Invite the Dance Team to choreograph a dance routine and perform on stage 
      • Have Visual Arts participants design a flyer or custom T-Shirts
      • Have Teen Center pass out invitations or help with setup/teardown of equipment 
  • Invite everyone! 
    • Plan for EVERYONE in your Youth Development Organization to attend 
      • Shutdown all other program areas – rent buses so all youth members at your organization can attend
      • Staff help chaperone participants in the audience 
      • Administrative staff and board members should also attend 
    • Parents and family members 
      • Pick a family friendly day/time 
      • Make sure the venue has parking or public transportation 
    • Donors, sponsors, foundations and program partners 
      • Highlight how their contributions and support made the night possible 
  • Prepare! In addition to the logistics discussed above, be sure to: 
    • Work with organizational staff to make sure you choose a date/time free of other program or event conflicts.  
    • Develop a rehearsal schedule so participants are confident on stage 
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Big Ears

Help participants develop their ear and the critical listening skills that are nearly impossible to notate

Critical listening skills like tone, intonation, and groove are universal and highly sought after by all musicians. These skills are also often overlooked or taken for granted in favor of traditional music education skills like music theory and reading skills. Help your participants become well rounded musicians by developing their ear, overall critical listening skills in their playing or music productions. Below are a few ideas on how to help your participants accurately identify and communicate music elements and use them in their own playing or songwriting.  

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How to… 

Be creative in how you communicate musical skills in instrument workshops, ensembles and/or music productions.  

Some ideas for Big Ears workshops include (but not limited to): 

Music Theory:

  • Find the Note: Play a note on piano and have other instrumentalists match the pitch on their instrument
  • Intervals: Give starting notes and find second note based on reference of sound. Limit options to Major, Minor 3rd, etc.
  • Identify Chords: Determine whether chords in root position are minor or major. Move chords around but don’t invert. Make it easy at first and build from there.
  • Transcribe: Figure out a guitar line/chords by ear.

Music Production/Engineering:

  • Listen as a Producer: Describe instrumentation and explain arrangement. How many hooks? Any interludes? Etc.
  • Mixing: Working through a mix and talking through the different instruments and how we handle certain frequency ranges
  • Physics of Sound: How does sound travel? What are frequencies, how are they measured, and what are the frequency ranges instruments play in?

Songwriting:

  • Rhyme Schemes: What type of rhyme schemes is the artist using? Slant rhymes, or perfect rhymes?
  • Lyrical Imagery: Is the artist using metaphor, simile, alliteration? What does it make you feel or visualize? 
  • Performance: What type of emotion is the artist using on the track? How does it support the lyrics? 
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