Skip to content

During the HMS Changing Tracks project various music services came together and contrributed to various resources that were used during the project and continue to be used.

We have gathered all the resources from the project into one, easy to find, place below.

How to set up an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) working group in your music service.

This checklist outlines the process by Hertfordshire Music Service (HMS) set up an EDI working group – and has been enhanced by conversations within the Changing Tracks ED&I bootcamps and project manager meetings. It is offered as shared learning, rather than to be prescriptive.

1. Decide how many people you want in your working group, and from where you will source them.

The HMS ED&I working group has eight participants, including representatives from HR, curriculum music practitioners, WCET instrumental tutors, Hertfordshire Music Education Hub Music Forum, and the local authority Diversity and Inclusion team.

2. Decide how often you will meet.

(The HMS group runs for two hours, once every half term.)

3. Allocate budget to be able to pay hourly-paid staff, so everyone is on an equal footing.

4. Contact people directly to invite expressions of interest from each cohort you’d like to be represented, indicating that you’re looking for representation from across all areas of the service.

Indicate that hourly-paid staff will be remunerated. Include a frame of reference for the group, expected time commitment, and invite a short description of why people may like to be involve

HMS wrote to all areas of the service, leadership+ management team, tutors, administration staff+ Music Forum and the HCC Diversity and Inclusion team.

5. Speak with all applicants to establish availability and why they’d like to be involved.

Be clear about selection criteria and have other opportunities available to offer if you are oversubscribed. If necessary, at second stage, ask people to write up to 500 words on why they would like to be involved.

6. At the first meeting, take time to set up a formal Terms of Reference document, agreeing how you will you work together.

The HMS group spoke about how we had learnt music, what was important about it, what we’d like to achieve with the group. We also took time to agree how we would work, and to adopt Chatham house rules, to encourage open dialogue.

7. If not already in place, use  the Youth Music ED&I self-assessment tool in the next session – and begin to create actions on the action planning template.

8. When ready, publish the ED&I action plan on your staff intranet, along with biogs, pictures and contact details for working group members, so colleagues know the group and can make contact.

9. Create minutes and an action tracker for each meeting, to ensure sessions feed into actions, collated on the EDI action plan template.

10. Consider embedding the EDI action plan within their business plans for ACE.

How to use Youth Music’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion tool for action planning – a view from Hertfordshire Music Service

Step 1: Find out how you’re doing

a) Start by gathering your policy documents and your offer brochures together.

b) Work through each statement in Youth Music’s EDI tool, and give yourself a score for each one. Youth Music’s Checklist is set out as an Excel spreadsheet so it’s easy to use and rates you as you go along with totals on a separate sheet.

It covers 3 areas:

  • Embedding inclusion
  • Your policies
  • Programming

c) Add up your scores to find out your overall score-this is your baseline measurement. You can repeat the exercise in a year’s time and find out if things have changed.

Step 2: Get team members’ input

a) Ask your team members to complete the spreadsheet, giving their own ratings to ‘self-assess’ the service on each area of EDI. Ask them where possible to include comments and examples. Make follow up calls/meetings to explore areas in more depth.

b) Consider who needs to be involved and how they should be involved (try to consult staff at all levels and all areas).

c) Prepare you consultation carefully, you want to avoid ‘everything is awful’ responses just as much as ‘everything is fine-we don’t need to do anything’ because both are de-motivating. Keep it active and engaging.

d) Include young people in your consultation.

Step 3: Agree priorities

Collate the responses and circulate and present them at a senior leadership team meeting where you can discuss the results, and agree priorities for the next 12 months/longer. 

We identified priorities for an action plan, tasked two of the team to draft it, and within a month we had our first EDI action plan. This then formed the basis of the 10-year vision that we’ve been developing, which informs our business planning going forwards.

Step 4: Create your plan

a) Your checklist will have identified areas where you are doing well and only small tweaks are required. These can be entered into your plan.

b) There may be areas where you haven’t done any work or don’t know how to start. It is ok to plan research or to bring in an expert organisation to help you kick start the changes you want to make.

c) Remember this is your plan, focussed on your area and the young people you work with or would like to work with. You need to plan realistically for the capacity you have and the resources you hold. Your changes and your timescales should be just challenging enough-not so big that you are tempted to give up. And make sure you are capturing the musical impact of the plan.

d) When your plan is written up, a further stage of consolidation is required. Who will be responsible for implementing the plan? How does it interact with your business plan? Do you need to raise some money to enact part or all of it? How will you sustain changes long term?

e) Senior management should sign off the plan and the service’s intention to enact its plan should be communicated to its staff.

Step 5: Update progress during the year

No EDI Plan will be perfect, that’s why you should build in regular reviews of the plan to ensure that it is still relevant and challenging.

We’re now on version two of ours, and it’s monitored closely and at senior level. Responsibility for its progress rests with our new HR director and an EDI steering group of staff who meet monthly and have responsibilities to deliver on it. Progress is discussed at weekly music service exec meetings, and the HR director formally shares progress to our main leadership team at monthly meetings.

Step 5: Rewrite annually to reflect new content or progress

Because our EDI plan is central to our business plan, it will be updated on an annual basis. We can already see that we’ll be updating it quite significantly next time.

It will have KPIs linked to more areas of work, and will be event more robust around the role of inclusion in CPD, performance management, recruitment and retention. Importantly, we’ll be making the link between inclusion and our strategic vision even more strongly because as an organisation, we are now planning for growth, and inclusion is driving that too.

A note for small music services

We understand that capacity is an issue for small services but we heard a great example recently in which the Head of Service asked their entire staff from tutors to finance officer, to think of one small step they could take today, this week, to make the service more inclusive. The Head of Service was overwhelmed by the response of his staff who really rose to the challenge. Don’t assume there is nothing you can do until the funding arrives!

Inclusive instrumental music tutor job description

This inclusive instrumental music tutor job description document was co-created by 11 music service representatives from across England in May/June 2021, in response as part of a ‘Task and Finish’ group within the Changing Tracks music services inclusion programme.

It is intended to be a helpful resource that can be used and adapted by other music services. 

About the process

The process began with the HMS EDI working group revising our instrumental tutor job description, as part of a review of recruitment process. In March 2021, the National Music Services Working Group on Inclusion workshopped a new job description to support recruiting inclusive instrumental teachers, rather than a specialist ‘inclusion tutor’.

We then invited participation from colleagues nationally, with the intention of publishing a draft inclusive instrumental job description, as part of a suite of inclusive recruitment resources that we are developing on this website.

The process of creating this document gave us a chance to reflect on our own organisations’ different approaches to recruitment, the sort of instrumental teachers we want to attract, and why. We’ve edited our various contributions down to one document but are conscious some was left out, and that there will be more to add.

We see this as an ‘open’ document rather than a definitive version, which colleagues may adapt for their own service, and/or make suggestions for improvements to us (email

Next steps

Beyond the job description, we also began talking about how diversifying recruitment raises wider questions about workforce development that we can develop through our EDI action planning. For instance, how and where we advertise, how we shortlist for and score interviews, how induction and CPD can develop people who have clear potential but little experience.

Most importantly, we spoke about the ‘chicken and egg nature’ of having tutors who can work on targeted inclusion projects, and resourcing sufficient work to retain them.

With thanks to HMS EDI group, Changing Tracks NWGI, and the colleagues from Surrey Music Service, Dorset Music Service, Merton Music Foundation, Waltham Forest Music Service, Lambeth Music Service, Southampton Music Service, Solihull Music Service, Northumberland Music Service, Services for Education-Birmingham who formed the Task and Finish group.

Further resources

    1. Use of clear and simple language
    2. Inclusion of photo on the first page to give a sense of the work / the type of person who might work at Youth Music
    3. Use of in-built functions in Word to support accessibility (e.g. headings to help people using screen-readers, alt-text on images, using the ‘check accessibility’ function before publishing)
    4. Flexible essential ‘experience’ requirements – with no requirements for formal qualifications
    5. Guaranteed interview for Disabled candidates who meet the minimum criteria for the post
    6. Option for part-time to attract candidates who may not be able to do full-time hours

Reaching a wider range of applicants for instrumental/vocal teacher roles

Where can you promote your instrumental/vocal teacher vacancies to attract a more diverse range of applicants? Here is a list of ideas from Hertfordshire Music Service: 

Before you begin work on recruitment, do read our Inclusive Music Teacher Job Description, developed by 11 music services.

1. Hub partners are an obvious group, and you may also want to go beyond current partners to look at who else may be employing or working with musicians in your local area. That might include venues, music studios, community radio stations and individual music producers/musicians/promoters. For our Rapactiv8r project, it helped that we filmed a recruitment video featuring the main workshop leader/mentor who is from the global majority.

2. Departments in your local authority will have useful communications channels and networks, perhaps even social media groups (eg Yammer). This might include youth workers or children and young people workforce, groups for people with disabilities.

3. Community musicians and informal music teachers network and/or subscribe to information in a number of places. Examples include: Sound Sense, UK association for community music, which has a website and weekly enews; Facebook groups such as Community Music ActivityInclusive Music Teachers, and Changing Tracks’ own UK music services instrumental and vocal teachers.

4. Local FE and HE colleges with music and other courses such as popular music, music production may be willing to help – and even better if any of your former music service students attend there, and are willing to also spread the word or give you contacts.

5. Your team’s own personal networks are invaluable. We shared with our own networks, who passed it on to people they knew, friends and family. As one of our colleagues said: “this is the kind of oblique advertising you need. Some of our best inclusive music teachers came to us through personal contacts, but they wouldn’t see or engage formal music education adverts.”

6. Finally, make sure that your website is accessible, appealing, and includes information to instill confidence in the sort of organisation you are: for example, what reasonable adjustments you’ll make in the process for disabled or neurodivergent people. Publishing your ED&I action plan will also be useful but most candidates won’t want to read through a large document – your values should ideally come across throughout the whole of your website, and recruitment process materials.

Welcoming new instrumental/vocal tutors: ideas for music service induction days

This resource was developed by representatives from twelve music services to help you to run successful, inclusive, induction processes.

It is the result of two online Task and Finish peer groups which met to share ideas and draw together resources to embed inclusion into music service quality systems, and further discussion and research from the Changing Tracks team.

Read the blog below and download the detailed summary. As with all of our resources, we will develop them further based on feedback so please contact us if you have anything to add or share.

Download the Music Services Welcome Induction Day Resource

Your staff induction day

Your staff induction day is critical in helping staff to feel connected to your organisation and its values and to understand what is expected of them, and what they can expect of you. It’s a starting point for growing a sense of belonging and improving staff retention. It’s also the first step in creating champions for your music service and for music education.

What are the aims of an induction day?  

Tip: consider what you want people to leave the induction day thinking, feeling, understanding  and doing? We think it may be …

  • Thinking – this is a great organisation to work for, it is making a difference to children and young people, I can grow my career here, I’m an important part of its future
  • Feeling – a sense of belonging, that they can contribute and grow their career here, proud to work for the organisation and motivated to read induction materials
  • Understanding – the organisation’s vision, mission and values, and their place in contributing to this, what they need to do to grow their skills in high quality, inclusive, music teaching

Example induction day/sessions  

This is a set of session ideas which you may choose to use, or which may inspire your own ideas

Getting to know you – icebreaker – whole group

Purpose: Help people feel comfortable and able to talk to each other, share experiences, ask questions

Musical identities – discussion activity – pairs

Purpose: Help people begin to discuss music education in a natural, non-judgemental way. People often feel more

comfortable in pairs to begin with.

About us – listen and ask questions – whole group

Purpose: To provide a short overview of the organisation, its mission, vision and values and the purpose of the instrumental/vocal teaching role. You may want to include:

  • Areas of operation, settings you work in
  • Groups of students you work with
  • Other professionals who are key to your role

How do you get the best out of your pupils? Pairs/small groups
Purpose: To share and grow understanding of the purpose of instrumental/vocal teaching and the skills and behaviours that are needed. Ie – helping pupils to achieve what they want to through music, including social and personal development, not just developing the ‘most talented’.

What are the range of pupils you might be teaching, how might you adapt your practice for them? Pairs/small groups

Purpose: To share and grow understanding of the purpose of instrumental/vocal teaching (social and personal as well as musical outcomes, and the role of youth voice). To consider the skills and behaviours that are needed. 

What makes for a great instrumental/vocal teacher? Whole group

Purpose: To share understanding of good practice, debunk any myths, answer any questions and be clear about the expectations of the music service as employer.

Use Mentimetre/equivalent online quiz and video for facilitated conversation.

Music activity

Purpose: To remind teachers what it feels like to be a pupil; to learn a different way of approaching First Access/WCET; to learn about the lesson observation process

What help and professional development will you get through x music service?

Purpose: To help teachers understand what is expected of them, how they will be encouraged to develop and supported to do so

Signposting and progression pathways

Purpose: To help teachers consider the range of progression opportunities that’ll be helpful for pupils, how to find out about them.

Ending activity: Where will you find the resources you need as an instrumental tutor for x service?

  • Provide staff handbook / teacher guide including schemes of work, lesson observation template, pupil report form, or signpost to online versions
  • Provide handout with key messages and key information – ie links to website, social media, County Council resources if relevant (eg safeguarding training, ED&I)
  • Other helpful documents eg The Common Approach
  • Other helpful websites (Changing Tracks music tutors section, Merton Music Foundation The Inclusive Music Lesson a Pocket Guide, Music Mark, ISM, MU)
  • Ask for feedback/input eg how would you like to continue to have conversations and learning like this?
  • Feedback/evaluation activity – eg Mentimetre online quiz

What skills and qualities are helpful for working with vulnerable young people?

The music tutors who discussed this work with our creative music nurture groups come from a range of backgrounds. Some are instrumental tutors from the music service, some have community music backgrounds. The aim of the nurture groups is to prevent school exclusion by providing a welcoming, child-led space in school where pupils come together to make music in small groups.

Good communication with the school

Dialogue, checking student learning needs with the SENCO at the start of a project, and reporting back successes/challenges. Ensuring staff supporting the session understand your approach.

Positive relationships with pupils

Facilitation, asking pupils what they’d like to do, rather than telling them.

Collaboration, negotiating a contract with the group about behaviour.

Negotiation, negotiating aims of the group, rather than telling.

Asking, asking pupils what they want to do, and how they feel after they’ve done it.

Flexible, sensitive approach/style

Patience, taking your time to explain things differently to respond to different learning styles and needs.

Differentiation, helping provide an appropriate level of challenge to each pupil.

Flexibility, adapting approach and material as needed, and modelling how to react to difficulties/challenges positively and flexibility.

Recognition, identifying and rewarding when pupils make a good contribution.

Leaving Space, allowing pupils to join in when they feel ready, rather than requiring all to be playing at the same time.

Humour, using humour to create an equal space.

Creative, varied, young people-led session content

Creativity, teaching pupils how to improvise and create music, together, and individually.

Lyric-writing, having strategies for facilitating lyric writing.

Movement, allowing/encouraging pupils to move/dance in response to the music, as appropriate to the space available.

Musical Skills basic skills on a variety of instruments.

Using music-technology, Keysi, Madpad, Garageband, Soundtrap.

Performance, working towards performances, and recordings. Reviewing these afterwards.

Regular reflection and learning

Reflection, encouraging pupils to reflect on their music choices and feelings about playing music.

Critical reflection, evaluating andreflecting on sessions afterwards, and adapting as needed.

Dialogue, talking with music tutor colleagues regularly to share successes and challenges, compare approaches, find new ones.

Evaluation writing case studies to capture personal and social outcomes for each student.

How to write a CV for a Music Education Hub teaching post

Music Services are keen to recruit a diverse workforce of peripatetic tutors with a wide range of musical and life experiences so that they can offer musical education that meets the needs and interests of all children and young people.

Applying to be a peripatetic tutor with a Music Education Hub is no different from applying for any other job – your CV and the accompanying covering letter are your advertisement for your skills and attributes and how they match the job you are applying for.

Hubs are interested in people who can demonstrate passion for working with children and young people and are able to build a rapport with them. They are also looking for people who are committed to continuously developing and improving their teaching practice. So even if you don’t have any formal teaching qualifications or experience, you may be able to demonstrate your suitability for the role through other things that you have done.

Here we identify some of the common problems that put talented and creative musicians off applying for teaching posts within Music Education Hubs and suggest some solutions that may help you to make your application successful.

What should be in a CV and a covering letter?

Your CV is a chronological list of your working life and education

A covering letter (or application form-if used) expands on your CV and explains how your experience is relevant to the job on offer. In your covering letter should focus on your experience of teaching and working with young people.

Most advice about writing a CV will suggest that you list all your previous positions and education without gaps. The National Careers Service advice identifies the CV as a way of selling yourself and your achievements. It also recommends tailoring each CV to the job for which you are applying.

The Guardian also has some good articles on writing CVs 

Problem 1 – I haven’t had a job I’ve been gigging…

Music Education Hubs are run by musicians so they will understand the way in which musicians are contracted. So, identify the period when you have been working as a freelance musician i.e. between October 2014 and July 2015, then detail your main contract(s) or type of work ‘tour of UK and Europe with XXX band’, or ‘playing UK festivals’ ‘writing a musical for XXX’.

If you can, give a little information about what you did and if you took on any of the admin work that comes with being on tour eg. ‘bass player and booked all the dates on the tour’.

Working musicians are authentic and bring experience with them that young people really appreciate but don’t forget about detailing your teaching experience as well.

Problem 2 – I have no teaching experience

You may not have been teaching in an official capacity but think about the work you have been doing and the transferable skills you may have developed. For example, a tour guide is not a teacher but must organise information, enthuse and engage their audience, be calm and patient in dealing with a variety of people and unexpected situations, answer questions and be flexible depending on the interest of their group. They need to be confident speaking in front of large groups of people and may need to alter their delivery if the group they are talking to does not speak English or has specific needs. These are all skills that are also useful in teaching.

Music Education Hubs develop their tutors through training and professional development but they do want applicants who can demonstrate the skills surrounding teaching and enabling young people to make progress in music.

Think about other musical activities you might have done which didn’t directly involve teaching children but may have helped you develop some relevant skills:

  • Have you run music workshops in the past – even if this was for adults?
  • Did you run practical music-based activity for others on a music course you were taking?
  • Have you taught songs or simple instruments to individuals and groups? Have you been a musical director for a show?
  • Have you taught or trained others in another subject? An example might be ‘First Aid’ or ‘how to sell broadband contracts’ – how could you use some of the skills you learned to help someone learn music?

Ideally you should be able to demonstrate that you have some relevant experience in teaching both individuals and groups

Don’t forget your experience as a learner – what inspired you? And what made you want to give up?

Problem 3 – do I need to have experience working with young people?

Music Education Hubs provide music education for young people between 5 and 19. They are the focus of everything the hub provides, so yes you must be able to show that you are committed to working with young people.

Ideally you should be able to show that you have some recent experience working with young people, it doesn’t have to be in a school or a musical activity, helping at your local youth club or coaching a youth football team are also activities which will help you to understand the concerns and interests of children and young people.

It would also be helpful to be aware of basic information around child protection, although you would receive training if appointed. Have a look at the NSPCC website

Consider if there is something special you could bring to the Hub? Do you have experience with working with young people with a disability or with mental health problems, for example, or have you got experience of using music to deal with the social problems that young people face for example, using rap to talk about bullying.

Problem 4 – I don’t have any qualifications

This may not be a barrier to developing a career in teaching if you can show that you have skill as a musician (through a live audition) and that you have the relevant skills and aptitudes that a Hub is looking for in a tutor as discussed above. If you have proven ability to ‘get alongside’ young people, to inspire them and support them in their ambitions in music then these are the attributes which Hubs will be interested in.

However, you should expect to be organised, complete reports and paperwork, to create and implement lesson plans and to be observed in and receive feedback on your teaching – wherever you start on your teaching journey.


Be honest – if you haven’t got the experience Hubs would prefer you to say that you are keen to learn. Even if you aren’t offered a job straight away, the Hub may be able to support you with further training or shadowing.

Check your application for mistakes and spelling, or even better get a friend to check for you!

Make it easy to read – covering letters should be no more than one side of A4 and CV's no more than two sides of A4.

How to run a song-writer day workshop

Here is an outline of what our typical day songwriter workshop looks like in Hertfordshire.


If possible it is advisable to look through the register of participants and identify any students that may require extra support or additional learning materials. You can also make a loose plan as to which participants may work well together. It also gives you a chance to look at the median age of the group, which may have an impact on the activities you choose.  

Set the room up in a circle for the start of the session. 


At the start of the session introduce yourself and talk really briefly about your songwriting/music experience.  Go round the circle and ask students to say their name and talk a little bit about what instrument they play/songwriting experience/favorite genres or artists etc.  

Make a note of this on the register as this may help you decide who may work well together. 

Ice Breaker  

Once all of the students have arrived start the session with an icebreaker. The following works particularly well with large groups and helps you and the students to learn each other’s names. 

Stand up in the circle. Each person must create an action to accompany their name. Go round the circle and allow each student to demonstrate their action and say their name.  

Choose a student, say their name and do their action. The chosen student must then pick someone else in the circle say their name and do their action and so on until everyone has been picked. This tends to generate a bit of laughter and allows everyone to relax. 

What is a song?  

In small groups ask the students to discuss everything they know about songwriting and songs.  

Ask them to think about some of the following 

  • What is a song? Can you name any of the key elements?  
  • Can you think of any common structures? Does a song have to have a chorus?  
  • Does a song have to have lyrics? 
  • Does a song have to have a melody? What about rap music?  
  • What are songs about? Themes?  
  • Purpose of songs? Protest songs, dance music, national anthem etc.  
  • Themes, metaphor, ambiguity, imagery etc. 

Ask each group to feedback and encourage discussion around the points above.  


Ask students if they would like to work alone or in groups and divide the students up accordingly. It can be useful for new songwriters or younger participants to decide on a theme before they go into their songwriting space. It can also be good to set a challenge for the more advanced songwriters or those who attend the sessions regularly.  

For example  

  • Focus on imagery  
  • A story with a character  
  • A song that expresses one particular emotion, how can the music, melody and lyrics help with this  
  • A song with a specific purpose – protest song, theme tune etc.  

Once everyone is settled and had a little bit of time to get started go around and make sure that no one is struggling. It can be useful to encourage students to create spider diagrams with their theme or idea in the middle. Ask them to write any word, feeling, emotion, sentence or phrases that pop into their head. This will help with lyrics writing.  

Ask students who have come with a melody, bassline or riff wo have a think about how the sounds make them feel.  


Before or just after lunch ask the songwriters to share what they have and encourage constructive criticism.  

For each song ask each student to write down  

  • Something to keep 
  • Something to change 
  • Something to work on  

Remind the students it’s not about how polished the song is at this stage.  

Questions to encourage good feedback might be 

  • Is the chorus catchy? 
  • Does the melody change between each section? Does it need to?  
  • Did you understand what the song was about?  
  • Can you remember any really strong lyrics? 
  • Does the accompaniment fit? 

Song Analysis  

Choose an interesting song, maybe something you don’t think the students would have heard before. Listen to the song and ask the students to think some of the following  

  • Structure  
  • Lyrics  
  • Melody  
  • Instrumentation  
  • Dynamics  
  • Repetition 
  • Purpose  
  • Themes  
  • Tempo  

Did they like the song? How did it make them feel? 

Encourage students to follow opinions with explanation. Why did/didn’t they like? Try and get the students to look beyond genre. Can a song still be good even if we don’t like the style or the singer? Can we find something good in a song even if we don’t like it overall?  

How can this have an impact on our own songwriting? Is there anything that we are going to take away from this activity? 

Songwriting time  

Students now have time to finish off their songs. 

Sound check  

Before soundcheck talk as a group a group about what makes a good performer. Can we think of any of our favourite performers or performances? Why are they so good? How can we engage with our audience? Why is this important?  

Stage fright/anxiety can often come up especially with those who haven’t had much experience performing. Talk about it as a group. Why do we get nervous? Is it always a bad thing? What can we do to combat our nerves?  


Parents/carers are invited to watch the young people perform. Ask the young people to complete a short evaluation form too.

How to write a song with young people

How we wrote ‘Make it on my own’.

‘Make it on my own’ was written at one of the first song-writing workshops HMS ran in June 2003. This took place at Broxbourne Music Centre, which was then based at council offices in Cheshunt. The workshop was attended by an entire GCSE music class from Sheredes school, Hoddesdon ( now Robert Barclay Academy) 

You can hear the track at 

The group 

The 13 young people were divided into groups to work with tutors in different rooms around the centre. 

The group I worked with was formed of young people of wide range of instruments and abilities, aged 14-15. A keyboard player who just played simple melodies, a grade 3- ish flute player, and a singer. 

We began working in one room at a piano, starting by finding common musical reference points. The singer new some Motown tracks through here parents which offered a start. 


We taught the keyboard player chords, beginning by getting him to play a C major scale, and showing how to form a C chord, with the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes in the scale. 

We encouraged him to play it with syncopation to make it more interesting, and to play a low C in his left hand 

Next, we invited him to change the low C to Am on the syncopated note, retaining the C major chord to make an Am7, and to cycle between this and C. 

Next, we showed him how to play an F chord with his right hand with the same rhythm as before, and to use D and G for the bass notes.  

This gave us our C Am7, Dm7 and F/G chord sequence that would form the basis of the song.  

Melody and Lyrics 

We encouraged the singer to improvise with stepwise notes over the chord pattern, and to start ahead of the beat to create momentum.  Using rising and descending notes helped her create a question and answer structure in the verse melody.  

As well as an upbeat, and syncopated backbeat and altered chords. The Motown common ground had suggested an assertive lyric, so I started singing ‘Make it on my own’ as a chorus. 

The words suggested a different syncopation to the verse, and the singer said she liked this and quickly joined in. 

We found that varying the start note and syncopation from the verse meant we could use the same backing chords and rhythm as the verse, and still have enough variety. 

Slowly she began adding words to fit the mood of the verse melody, everyone started to chip into this to create lyrics for two verses. 

Middle Eight, and Intro 

For variety we encouraged the keyboard player to form Fmajor7, Em7 and Dm7 and to use them to form a descending syncopated run. We decided to make this an instrumental break to feature the flute player, who improvised a simple line. This section then doubled as an introduction to the whole song. 


At the end of the day all the groups gathered together in the hall to share what each other, teachers and parents what each had written. I and the other workshop leaders ( a bass player and a drummer) played along to scaffold the performance. 


On reflection we could have developed a more varied flute part, to create more interest, and challenge for the player, but I was pleased how far we progressed the pupils in a day, and that we managed to get a good quality song , performance and recording from a mixed ability group. The day got highly positive feedback from the school teacher, which delighted the head of service, John Witchell.  

We went on to use ‘Make it on my own’ to demonstrate Song-writing practice, both when training other teachers, and as part of the songwriting element of Musical Futures, when it ran in Hertfordshire. Encouraging pupils to suggest their own listening as an intitial reference point would better enable pupil voice, and would be more practical now, with easier pupil access to the internet via mobile technology. 

Recording on a mini disc player produced an over-compressed sound. Better access to technology now would enable close mic-ing an multi-tracking, for later production and mixing. 

How to teach song-writing

Michael Davidson shares his ‘rules of songwriting’ when working with young people.

Last September, I ran a workshop for teachers on how to write songs with young people. It was based around 5 rules which I think are key to getting the best out of young people with little previous experience of songwriting.

1. Keep it simple – Many great songs make the most of a few ideas that people with basic technique can play. For example, ‘Wild Thing’ by The Troggs and ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley and The Wailers.

2. Don’t start at ‘home’ – Starting away from key chords, or key notes and ahead of the beat can build momentum. For example, ‘Waterloo Sunset’ by The Kinks, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ by The Beatles and ‘Trap Queen’ by Fetty Wap.

3. Get everyone involved – Any member of a band can write lyrics, and writing interlocking lines can create a great groove. A sense of social question and answer help build riffs and melody. For example, ‘Twist and Shout’ by The Beatles, ‘One Nation Under a Groove’ by Funkadelic, ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye or ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ by The Clash.

4. Go with first ideas, have fun, then edit later – All ideas are good ideas. First ideas in lyrics or music are often the best and having fun with them can help get over blocks. For example, just say the first thing that comes into your head – allegedly ‘Yesterday’ by The Beatles began as ‘Scrambled Eggs’. It fits – try and see!

5. Play lots and listen to each other – Sometimes, students need reminding that playing a simple idea for a long time develops a groove, whilst complicating things disrupts this. The tutor or band members can act as producers by reinforcing strong ideas they have heard people play. Recording and reviewing sessions also helps this. And as rules are there to be broken here’s rule number 6… Break the rules! Think Punk, Motown, Grime.

6. Stuck for lyrics? Writer’s block happens to the best of us. If your young songwriters are really struggling to come up with a subject for their song, find an old newspaper, cut out words from headlines and have fun putting the words together to form the lyrics.

Listen to some of our performances at Soundcloud.

Critical reflection diary template – a resource for music service tutors

Hertfordshire Music Service (HMS), the lead organisation in Changing Tracks, has  created a critical reflection diary for music tutors to use to help with  their reflective practice. 

Tutors talking about the benefits of critical reflection

In this video, three music tutors from Hertfordshire Music Service discuss how reflective practice helps them improve the inclusive quality of their teaching practice.

They explain what it is, how and why it benefits young people, music tutors and organisations, and how a music service can introduce it.


Music tutors Victoria, Ije and Ross have diverse teaching backgrounds; from teaching guitar, drums and voice in schools, to working in youth clubs and PRUs. They are part of an action research project through Changing Tracks, the national inclusion support programme for music services, and also performing/recording musicians.

In a nutshell, reflective practice is when you ‘do, review and improve’ and is an effective tool in recording your student’s outcomes and progress. It’s also helpful in:

  • helping others in your organisation and beyond to understand – and value – what happens in sessions
  • collating evidence for evaluation for funders 
  • and to capture youth voice. 

Our critical reflection diary enables you to jot down your thoughts in a quick, easy way – either electronically or on paper. It asks you key questions that you can answer during, or come back to at the end of, your sessions.  

These questions are:

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn’t?
  3. What signs of musical progress or understanding did you notice?
  4. Did some young people engage differently or to a lesser degree?
  5. What could you do differently next time?
  6. What signs of personal and social outcomes did you notice?
  7. What did the young people say about the session?

We encourage HMS tutors to refer to the relevant parts of our outcomes framework when reflecting, and you may wish to do the same. We’ve also provided our outcomes framework as part of this download, but you can remove it.

We hope that our critical reflection diary will help you capture your thoughts easily and quickly after each session (or where you see fit).

You can download it here: Critical reflection diary for music tutors