How To: Run a Music Session

Our simple and straightforward ‘How To’ series with Robyn Taylor continues with ideas and top tips for running your own simple music session. If you’re missing your regular entertainer at the moment, this article is for you…

Music is a fundamental part of life. It lifts your mood, prompts memories, and encourages social engagement. Many care homes book people in to deliver music sessions, but you can save money by doing this yourself. You do not need to be a brilliant singer – all you need is confidence! And, the best way to run music sessions in the home is to add variety to it.

YOU WILL NEED

  • A good selection of music
  • An iPad and speakers
  • Lyrics
  • Musical instruments (ukuleles, triangles, bells, cymbals, maracas, wood blocks, tambourines, handbells etc)
  • Props (hats, scarves, umbrellas, pom-poms, balloons, balls etc)

Many of these items you can collect over time. Look in charity shops, speak to local schools to ask for donations, and put what you need in your newsletter as families can be very generous. Alternatively, you may be able to source items from the internet with the activity budget or fundraising money.

RUNNING A SESSION

Set up chairs in a large circle, so you can stand in the middle and everyone can see you. Ask staff members to help bring the residents to the session, and welcome each one when they come into the room.

Choose a welcome song to engage everyone in the room, and say hello to everyone who is there. A favourite is the simple Hello song: “Hello Betty, hello Fred, hello Patricia, hello everyone. Hello Albert, hello Alan, hello Joan, hello everyone,” etc. Keep lively and upbeat throughout the session and give as much interaction as possible.

Start by handing lyrics out and having a short singalong following the lyrics on the paper. Ask the residents to pass the song sheets around the room, this gets them interacting with each other. Reading the song lyrics is good for mental stimulation. After several songs, collect them back up. Pick a resident who could do this for you.

Then play a song and urge everyone to get up and dance – or deliver chair-based exercise (see a guide here). It can be a routine, or it can be whatever move the residents feel like doing.

Have a song list prepared in advance. Knowing your song list will make the session flow more smoothly, but you can also ask residents which song they would like to listen to – give them an option of a couple of songs to stop any awkwardness about not having the song they ask for. And always keep a note of any tunes they request, so you can get the song for next time.

Ask if anyone would like to sing a solo or a duet together, or choose a song and split it into two parts. One side of the room sing the tune and the other side sing the lyrics.

Hand out musical instruments for a few songs, then collect them up and hand out other props – feather boas, balloons and so on.

Always praise throughout, whether that be praising the group or individuals. “Did you hear Keith hit that high note? Amazing! Brilliant! You need to teach me how to sing!” Keep the activity flowing and allow lots of movement and variety to keep everyone entertained. You may want to change the session as you go and use your own creativity to adapt it. There is no correct way to do this – just have fun and don’t be afraid to laugh and embarrass yourself.

Everyone likes to end the session with a drink and a biscuit, so while they’re chatting, and before everyone leaves the room, make sure you thank them for all their efforts and end the activity with a goodbye song.

And finally, some good songs to use with props…

  • ‘I’m Singing in the Rain’ – twizzle umbrellas round and round.
  • ‘Three Lions’ – lift footballs up and down.
  • ‘Eye of the Tiger’ – wear gloves and box the air.
  • ‘Wish me Good Luck as you Wave me Goodbye’ – wave flags or scarves.
  • ‘Rock Around the Clock’ – pass a clock from person to person.
  • ‘Tutti Frutti’ – have a blow-up fruit toy or some large real fruit to pass around the room (melon, pineapple etc).