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1. What do I need?

The most important thing is that you have your playlist with the songs you want to listen to. Ultimately you can listen to them in whatever way is easiest. You can even sing them. However, if you get music onto an mp3 or other digital device you’ll need access to a PC or laptop, access to the internet for downloading audio content, an iPod (or similar digital device) and a pair of headphones or iPod dock.



2. Can I just listen to CDs?

Of course. If you have a big CD collection you can do Playlist for Life by listening to the tracks that mean the most. It is cumbersome to deal with a CD player and masses of CDs on which you will struggle to locate the right track quickly.  You are also restricted to those you currently own or can borrow. The joy of mp3 players,  is that they allow you to create and store multiple playlists on one device, they hold hundreds of songs and they can be listened to anywhere at the click of a button. You can purchase singles and albums easily from iTunes and Amazon, and amend playlists, removing and adding new tracks with ease.




3. Do I have to use an iPod?

Not at all. You should use whatever equipment suits you best. iPods are not the cheapest of the digital music files known as mp3 players.  However experience both here and in the USA, where Music and Memory has been introducing personal playlists in care homes for some years, suggests that iPods are the easiest to use, store and synchronise. On some models you can also watch music videos and view album artwork.  You can download music on to it from websites such as iTunes and Amazon.



4. How much storage do I need?

The bigger the memory of your device, the more music it will hold. The size of a device’s memory is measured in gigabytes (GB). 1GB iPod can hold about 1,000 minutes of music. We suggest that the minimum storage size of your chosen mp3 player should be 2GB.



5. Which iPod or mp3 player?

There is a big range of iPods and mp3s with an equally large range of prices. The expensive ones are more versatile, as you would expect, but the cheaper ones serve perfectly well for what is needed here.  An older used one of these will also do the job, although they are not quite as functional as those currently on the market.  Later models of the iPod Shuffle allows you to make useful sub-lists within your playlist, which earlier models do not.

Below shows the basic model of iPod available from Apple, most good electrical stores and online stores like Amazon and eBay. The more expensive Nano has a screen which allows you to search your playlist easily for a particular song; this is a useful feature when you want to find a favourite in a long playlist. However the tiny Shuffle also delivers the playlist well, although it does involve some “shuffling” through tracks to find the right one.



6. What if I can’t afford an iPod or mp3 player?

iPod ShuffleThere are many used iPods, mobiles phones and mp3s lying around people’s homes.  Playlist for Life is collecting these and can arrange to get one to you, if we have enough. As they are older, these may not have all the useful features of newer models but they should certainly do the job. Details in HOW TO > Apply for a Used iPod.

For hygiene reasons we don’t recycle headphones.




7. The Apple iPod Shuffle 

Docking LeadPlaylist for Life does not endorse any particular brand. You should use whatever device works best for you. However, we know that many of the people we work find the iPod Shuffle works particularly well for them. It is small, can be clipped to clothes and is the cheapest Apple device on the market. It has 2GB of storage capacity, enough for about 500 songs. Tinier than a matchbox, it is the world’s smallest music player. It measures just 2.9 x 3.2cm and weighs only 12.5g. It comes with a clip for attaching it to clothes.

Later models have Apple’s ‘Voice Over’ function, which announces the track, artist and playlist names during playback. You can create sub-playlists within the main playlist. This means you can put all the soothing songs together in one list, the lively ones in another, the opera, the TV theme tunes and so on in another.

The drawback is that the Shuffle has no display, so you can’t select the song that you want to listen to.  Instead you ‘shuffle’ through your library. Having to shuffle through the playlist until you find a song you want to play can be frustrating, but if you and your loved one are content to listen to the playlist in any order, this model is fine. Other models of mp3 also allow you to create mini playlists to fit your mood and what you are doing.

The Shuffle has a socket for a headphone. If you want to connect it to external speakers or docking station, you will need an audio lead.




8. Battery

Whichever mp3 player you use, remember to charge the battery regularly after use or – amazingly! – it won’t work.



9. Headphones or Speakers?

HeadphonesYou should listen to your music in whatever way works for you. To listen to your iPod you will need either headphones or external speakers such as provided by a docking station. You can also buy cheaper speaker systems and there is also a wireless option. You may find it helpful to have both, for listening in different settings.  Key to the experience of sharing a playlist with a loved one who has dementia is that, as far as possible, you should be able to listen and enjoy together. And don’t be afraid of just starting to sing.. (See Listen together below.)



10. Headphones

Headphones can help a listener to fix their attention on their own playlist when they are in a public room surrounded by other people and competing sounds – or simply when they have difficulty in concentrating.

mp3s are usually sold with the ear-bud type of headphones. Not everyone we have developed playlists for is comfortable with this type of headphone, which can also fall out easily. We suggest you purchase a set of headphones that go over the ears and are lightweight and comfortable.

At different points people with dementia may find headphones irritating or they may find headphones are the only way they can concentrate on music. Be aware of that and don’t be afraid to move to speakers or try using headphones again.


11. Listen together Splitter

A headphone splitter cable enables you to listen to the playlist with another person at the same time.  You might wish to purchase another set of headphones for yourself (see VIDEOS/ Harry and Margaret) or use ear-buds, so that you can share the experience of listening to the playlist, even in a public space. For private listening, speakers are another option or you can simply sing together. ( image: 3.5mmm headphone splitter cable )



12. External speakers
Docking Station

Listening to a playlist in a bedroom or a living room at home, a docking station with external speakers is a good idea. If you want to listen to the playlist on external speakers, you can connect the mp3 to a docking station. Make sure you buy one that fits your own player.



13. How do I get my playlist on to the device?

If you are using an iPod you will need iTunes on your computer. For a simple explanation of how to download iTunes, go to the website This will enable you to buy any audio content available in the vast iTunes online store.

To identify the ones you want to buy, type the name in the Search Store field, which appears in the upper-right corner of iTunes. You can listen to a 30-second preview of all songs and music on the iTunes Store. To preview a song, select the item you want to preview then click the small Play button to its left.

You can purchase directly from this area by clicking the Buy button next to any item.

You’ll be prompted to enter your Apple ID and password to confirm any purchase (see Apple ID and password below).

If you are using another mp3 player there are a range of suppliers you may use such as Amazon Music or Napster.



14. Spotify

Spotify is not a shop like iTunes Amazon and Napster. Spotify lets you listen to a library of music by ‘streaming’ from the internet. This means you do not own the music but you can listen to it.

An Unlimited Spotify account enables you to listen on laptop or desktop with no adverts. A Premium account enables you to listen on all devices (phone, tablet, laptop and desktop) with no adverts and a Family account allows up to five accounts within the same family.



15. Stuck for the name of a song?

An increasing number of ‘apps’ are being developed for digital devices to help identify music.

Here are four of the top apps:

  • Shazam (Free on iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, Blackberry). Identifies songs quickly.
  • Soundhound (Free on iOS, Android) Helps you to identify a song just by humming the melody or singing a few lyrics. You have to be quite accurate with your humming for it to guess the song.
  • musiXmatch (Free on iOS, Android, Windows Phone) A lyric recognition app. It has a large catalogue of lyrics to find what you’re looking for, based on song lyrics.
  • Spotsearch (Free on Android) Heavily integrated with Spotify, hence the name. Type in any lyrics you know to a song you’re looking for, and Spotsearch will identify it and link you to it on Spotify. If you don’t have Spotify Premium (the only way to get on-demand playback with Spotify on a smartphone), it will link you to YouTube to listen there instead.


16. I’ve identified the right music – how do I create and edit my playlist?

If you are using iTunes follow the steps below.

  • To create a new playlist, log in to iTunes.
  • Click on Library (button on the right) and then Music (button on the left)
  • Click the + (Add) button at the bottom of your Music list on the left and select New Playlist.
  • Your empty list will slide to the right and a graphical view of your library, the tunes you have purchased (or perhaps downloaded from a CD), will appear on the left.
  • Use the buttons across the top to focus the view, and click, hold, drag and drop what you want into your playlist.
  • Enter a name for your list on the upper right (for example, David’s Morning Playlist) and click DONE.
  • If you want to edit a list you’ve already created, click the cog-shaped button to the right of the Add button and select Edit Playlist.

If you are using Amazon Music follow the steps below:

To create a playlist:

  • Go to My Playlists(Amazon Music for Web or PC/Mac) in the navigation sidebar or My Music (Amazon Music for Android/iOS) in the Amazon Music menu.
  • Select the “+” or + Create New Playlist
  • Enter a name for your playlist, and select Save.

Add Music to Your Playlists

To add songs and albums to your Amazon Music for Web or Desktop app playlists:

  • Open the More Optionsmenu (“three vertical dots” icon) next to a song or album.
  • Select the Add to playlist
  • Choose the playlist you’d like to add your selection to.

Tip: You’ll see a list of your Cloud playlists, as well as an option to Create New Playlist.

Sort Your Playlists

To sort your Amazon Music for Web or Desktop app playlists and change the playback order:

  • Go to My Playlistsin the Amazon Music menu.
  • Select the playlist to edit.
  • Drag and drop the songs in the desired order.

To sort your Amazon Music for iOS/Android app playlists and change the playback order:

  • Select My Music.
  • Select the playlist to edit.
  • Open the More Optionsmenu (“three vertical dots” icon) next to a song or album.
  • Drag and drop the songs in the desired order.


17. Paying for the music 

If you are using iTunes, you will be asked to sign in to the iTunes Store and create an Apple ID and password, and then to enter your credit or debit card details from which payment will be securely withdrawn.

If you making a playlist for someone else, you should think about using iTunes Vouchers. These can be bought in advance or be donated by supporters who want to help people use Playlist for Life. Staff and volunteers should never use their own or someone else’s credit/debit card or bank details.details.

To use vouchers:

  • Click on Create Apple ID.
  • Complete the details and follow through until the following payment window opens.

iTunes Payment

  • Under Provide a Payment Method click on the None icon.
  • Complete the Billing Address (your home or care home address is fine). This information is required, but no bill will be issued.
  • Then click on Create Apple ID and follow instructions from there.



18. How to redeem an iTunes Voucher after creating an Apple ID

  • Open iTunes.
  • In the Source list (on the left side of the iTunes window), click iTunes Store.
  • In the upper-right corner of the iTunes Store window, click the Sign In button. Sign in to the iTunes Store using your iTunes account information.
  • In the QUICK LINKS window in the right-hand column, click Redeem.
  • In the resulting screen, enter your 16-digit code, which starts with an “X”. (If you have an iTunes Gift Card, this is printed on the back of the card). Then, click Redeem.

iTunes Card

Once you’ve successfully redeemed your code, the credit amount will appear next to your account name in the upper-right corner. Each time you purchase items, iTunes will deduct funds from the credit until it’s depleted. If a pending purchase exceeds the credit amount, this purchase will cease until you top up with other iTunes. You do not need to re-enter your gift card number to make multiple purchases.

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