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
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

ive 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. 

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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
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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Dropmix – Music Mixing Game

Dropmix – part game, part DJ mixer, part ear-trainer… ALL fun! 

Dropmix is a new game from Harmonix (the makers of “Rock Band” video game) that lets participants create unique mixes of popular songs by using playing cards connected to an iPad or iPhone.  Because it’s a fun game, music programs quickly realize that it’s a great way to engage participants but others have found other creative ways to use Dropmix to teach their participants core musical concepts.  Below is some feedback from program directors using Dropmix and the clever ways they incorporate it into their programs.  

Learn more here:

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Example #1 – Engage participants on the “fringe”

– “Dropmix has been engaging participants who were typically on the fringe (ie. not very active). They had a lot of fun once they tried it and now I have participants coming to my program just to play!” – Eddie Salas,  Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County
“Dropmix is a good quick way to get participants in the room and engage them. It really helps me to transition them to other activities once they are here.” – Dustin Cicero, A. Worley Brown Boys & Girls Club
“It has been great for getting more kids involved that would normally just “hang out”. The game makes interacting with music a fun and non-intimidating activity. It’s also perfect for getting brand new participants involved, excited, and having fun as soon as they walk in.” – Alex Delorey, Methuen YMCA 
– “I was skeptical at first but it has been helpful with programming because it has been a draw for some kids who wouldn’t traditionally come into the music room. It feels less intimidating to play a game than learning an instrument.” – Chris Knox, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County

Example #2 – Bracket Competition 

“I have the kids listen when they play a card and try to explain what they hear changing in the music before they play a new card.”  Submitted by Chris Knox, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County 
  • Friday bracket competition
    • Play every Friday and be sure to plug the game into large speakers!
    • Set up a simple/traditional bracket system to play multiple games/rounds
    • The total number of participants who want to play will determine if the bracket will be made up of solo players or you need to create groups/teams of participants.  
    • Whether individuals or groups – the standard rules apply 
    • Each week the winner (or group) gets a small prize 
  • Engage large groups
    • Assign one or two responsible group leaders who will hold all of the cards. 
    • The group leaders prompt participants with questions like “what type of beat should come next?” or “how can we completely change the vibe of the song?”
    • Group leaders get the group to discuss what they are hearing and collaboratively agree on which card to play next.  
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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! ...
Establishing House Rules

Establishing House Rules

Set expectations and ensure proper use of the equipment and facilities. Your Music Studio likely ...
Equipment Orientation Worksheets

Equipment Orientation Worksheets

Focus on helping participants MAKE MUSIC right away by conducting short equipment orientations to get ...
Musical Poster Boards

Musical Poster Boards

Large posters you can print and hang in your music room to help remind participants ...

New Participant Orientation Process

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

For participants new to your Music Studio, 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! Others may feel intimidated, nervous, or shy.  One way to help new participants feel welcome is to implement an Equipment Orientation Process.

Equipment orientations are for first time users of music technology or instruments. The goal is to show new participants the basics of the equipment and get them playing as soon as possible. 

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How to…

Orientations are a great way for the staff to get to know the participants on a personal level and a great way to start building trust.  Keep the orientations low key and low stress.  The primary goal is to make a new participant comfortable and to demystify instruments or production technology.  

Step One:

  • Orientations can be one-on-one or in a group setting.
  • Explain equipment rules and expectations to help prevent damage
  • Encourage participants to treat instruments and gear with respect

Step Two:

  • For instrumentalists
    • Explain the working parts of the instrument and how to hold it
    • Have them chose a simple popular song and teach them to play it right away
  • For producers
    • Have them produce a “demo”
    • The total project should be at least 32 bars long
    • Distinct “A” and “B” sections
    • Minimum of 5 tracks (At least one track performed live by the participant then quantized)     
  • Conduct a simple verbal “Quiz” to reinforce knowledge of the basics

Some helpful hints:

  • Avoid long lectures – Keep the orientation to 10-15 minutes max
  • Encourage participants to choose the equipment they want to try out, at their own pace 
  • Start with only “need-to-know” information to get some quick success
  • Help participants make music right away – keep it short and simple!

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You may also want to download… 

Download editable Sample House Rules 
Download the bundle of all Orientation Worksheets

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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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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?


  • 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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VIP Band Program

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. Each week, Junior band participants (age 13-15) and Senior band participants (age 16-18) participate in exclusive Workshops and programs that help build skills in their chosen instrument. Participants in this program are expected to attend weekly instrument and/or studio Workshops to develop their musical knowledge and music technology expertise. They will work closely with their bandmates to build strong bonds with their peers. VIP Band participants have opportunities to play at  higher stakes performance opportunities in the community, developing a sense of pride in their hard work and dedication. 

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How to… 

Participants in the VIP Band Program are divided into two bands.  Each group is typically limited to no more than 10-12 participants: 

  • Junior Band: ages 13-15
  • Senior Band: ages 16-18 

Each week, VIP Band members commit to: 

  • Participating in their choice of Instrument Workshop/s 
    • Attend a at least one weekly Workshop series such as guitar, bass, drums, piano, vocals, lyric writing, music production or music business
    • Each participant is encouraged to stick to their chosen instrument for the entire semester but can change their instrument choice at the start of a new semester
  • Expanding their Musical Knowledge 
  • Learn and apply the basics of music (like rhythm, harmony, melody and notation basics) on their chosen instrument
  • Project – Compose an original 16-32 bar song by the end of each semester
  • Participating in Music Production projects
    • Such as “Sound-alike” projects, iPad beat making, Recording Studio sessions
    • Project suggestion – Record an original song with distinct “A” and “B” sections by the end of each semester
  • Joining a band
    • Learn rehearsal and performance techniques 
    • Project suggestion – Perform in one Open Mic night by the end of the semester

Tracking VIP participants’ progress: 

  • Create a poster board tracking sheet
  • 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 a music video shoot
  • Monthly rewards, raffles, prizes
  • Music books, lyric books, pick necklaces, VIP-only party (ice cream, movie night)
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