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.
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 string
Label keys with chord function using tape or dry erase markersParticipants play root notes using one finger
Help break the ice and welcome new participants so they can make music right away!
For participants new to your music program, stepping into a recording studio or picking up an instrument for the first time can be intimidating. Some beginners are so excited to get started that they can hardly stand it! One way to help newbies feel welcome is to use this THREE STEP orientation process which includes:
Reviewing House Rules (a sample is provided as a guide)
Get participants comfortable by using Orientation Worksheets to explain the basics for Recording Studio, Guitar, Bass, Drums, Piano, and more…
Creating personal folders for each participant
In addition, help new participants:
Feel welcome and comfortable with how to get involved
Understand how to treat all equipment with care and respect
Set a foundation for success by completing orientations on each instrument or music technology
Step 1: House Rules
Develop a set of House Rules for your program, ideally with input/buy-in from your youth participants.
The rules set expectations for general behavior and for how they handle musical equipment.
Creates a sense of pride in the music program
Makes it less likely that equipment becomes damaged or broken
Avoids dangerous or disruptive sound levels
The first worksheet in the orientation process should be YOUR House Rules. Each new participant should review these rules and keep a copy in their folder.
Got a big group for your studio – why not have them all contribute on a track?!
Sometimes you end up with 15 beginner participants in your studio and they all want to make a beat right now! Music Production for Large Groups gives you some tips on how to create a “patchwork quilt” music production project. This allows many different participants with different tastes, preferences, ideas and skills all to contribute to one big tapestry… your final track!
In addition participants:
Learn basic music production and songwriting techniques
Learn collaboration while working towards an end goal
Are inspired to work on solo music production projects
Produce enough tracks to release an album
End goal/s (i.e. “Album Release” party and/or performance at end of the semester)
Session days and times. Meet with the group on a regular basis.
Participants who are interested in contributing (include as many as possible)
Themes or topics, decided upon as a group and influenced by the music mentors/staff
Participants collaboratively produce style/genre, samples, sounds, and beats
Break down the beat into smaller sections or individual elements for participants to perform/record
For example, to produce the drum track:
Participant “A” performs bass drum pattern on trigger pad
Participant “B” performs snare drum pattern
Participant “C” performs hi-hat pattern
Participant “D, E and F” record claps on 2 & 4
Repeat this process for bass and chords
Participants layer single notes on guitar, bass, and/or piano
Involve different participants for each Verse, Chorus, and Bridge. Mentors continually keep the momentum going.
Add lyrics once beat is finalized
Download a rhyming dictionary App on iPads
Each participant writes lyrics to contribute to the project (i.e. 1 or 2 bars worth of lyrics)
Each participant performs their lyrics in the isolation booth right away. This gets them hooked, motivated, and involved.
Mix and finalize the track
Participants who don’t want to sing/perform can help with the final mix by editing and adding effects.
Participants can also get involved in creating album art, photo/video, etc., to help support the album’s creation.
Repeat this process until participants have produced several tracks
Rehearse and prepare for an album release party, and have all participants perform their original songs
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.
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
Motivate your Very Important Participants to become Virtuoso Instrument Players!
Avoid the musical progress plateau with your participants by motivating and challenging them with an exclusive VIP Band program opportunity (for those who want it). Each week, Junior band participants (age 10-13) and Senior band participants (age 14-18) participate in exclusive workshops and programs that help build mastery in their chosen instrument. Participants receive weekly instrument workshops, theory courses, music technology experiences and build strong bonds with their peers in an ensemble. VIP Band ensembles are also given higher stakes performance opportunities in your organization or in the community, giving them a sense of pride in their hard work and dedication.
Participation in the VIP Band Program is divided into two groups and is typically limited to no more than 15-20 participants for each band:
Junior Band: ages 10-13
Senior Band: ages 14-18
Each week, VIP Band participants commit to participating core music program elements, which may include:
Instrument Workshop (of their choice)
Take at least one instrument workshop per semester taught by Music Program staff
Track weekly attendance (communicated with parents)
Apply rhythm and notation basics to their chosen instrument
Compose an original 16-32 bar song by the end of each semester
Participate in a weekly Music Technology activity such as: “Sound alike” projects, iPad beat making, Recording Studio sessions
Record an original song with distinct “A” and “B” sections by the end of each semester
Apply musical knowledge in a band
Learn rehearsal and performance techniques
Perform in one Open Mic night by the end of the semester
Tracking VIP participants’ progress:
Create a poster board tracking sheet (see example below)
Participants get a stamp in the category activity they’ve completed each week. Visually displaying progress is motivational to the participants.
VIP’s must have 3 stamps at the end of each week, 12 stamps at the end of each month
Sample VIP Band Incentives:
First to know about concert tickets, field trips
Prioritized Recording Session time
High profile performance opportunities (galas, fundraisers, community events, etc.
Opportunities for music video shoot
Monthly rewards, raffles, prizes
Music books, lyric books, pick necklaces, VIP-only party (ice cream, movie night)
Raffle: Big prize could be Guitar Center gift card or iTunes gift card