Download instructions as a PDF


1. What do I need?

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. Won’t CDs do?

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, particularly the iPod, 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.

However, it does save money to import songs from CDs, if you already own them, rather than having to buy them all from iTunes.



3. Why an iPod?

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 copy CDs you already own on to your computer and then transfer them to the player, or you can download music on to it from websites such as iTunes and Amazon.



4. How much storage do I need?

A 1GB iPod can hold about 1,000 minutes of music, which works out at around 15 CDs worth. We suggest that the minimum storage size of your chosen mp3 player should be 2GB.



5. Which iPod?

There is a big range of iPods 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.  For instance, the 4th generation iPod Shuffle allows you to make useful sub-lists within your playlist, which earlier models do not.

Below are the two basic models 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 either of these?

iPod ShuffleThere are many used iPods 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 (around £40 new)

Docking LeadThe current model of iPod Shuffle is the 4th Generation.  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. Now costing around £39, this is the cheapest iPod ever.

The 4th Generation model has 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.

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. The Apple iPod Nano (around £100 new)

iPod Nano

The current model of iPod Nano is the 7th Generation.  It has 16GB of storage capacity – around 4000 songs.  However the Nano 6th Generation is still available.

The iPod Nano is the world’s most popular music player.

The Nano has a 2.5 inch touchscreen display that is bright and easy to use. This enables you to search your playlist visually to find a particular song you wish to hear next. The Nano also has Apple’s ‘VoiceOver function,’ which tells you the name of the artist and song being played.

The Nano also enables you to store audiobooks and photographs and videos to view with your family also. These can be added via your iTunes account.

The iPod Nano 7th Generation costs around £100 and the 6th Generation is a little cheaper.



9. Battery

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



10. Headphones or Speakers?

HeadphonesTo 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. (See Listen together below.)



11. 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.

iPods 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.



12. Listen together Splitter

A headphone splitter cable enables you to listen to the playlist with another person at the same time. This costs under £10. 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. ( image: 3.5mmm headphone splitter cable )



13. 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 iPod to a docking station. Make sure you buy one that fits your own player.

Costs vary, but a basic docking station with external speakers can be purchased for under £30. (image:A docking station with external speakers)



14. How do I get my playlist on to the iPod?

First you 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. Most songs cost less than £1 each.

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).



15. Spotify

iTunes and Amazon allow you to preview a song before buying, to make sure it’s the right one, but you might also find it helpful to use the streaming service Spotify and listen to a piece of music right through. You can try as many songs as you like for nothing, as long as you have a broadband signal and don’t mind being interrupted by adverts.

An Unlimited Spotify account (£4.99 a month) enables you to listen on laptop or desktop with no adverts. A Premium account (£9.99 a month) enables you to listen on all devices (phone, tablet, laptop and desktop) with no adverts.



16. 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.


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

  • 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.



18. How do I add songs from my own CDs to the playlist?

To add a piece of music from a CD to an existing playlist, insert the CD into your computer. When the CD content list appears on iTunes, click on, hold down and drag the song from the list of CD tracks to the chosen playlist. The song or tune is then imported into your library and added to the playlist.

To add a song from a CD to a new playlist, drag the song from the CD to the white area below the items in the Source List. The song is imported into your library and added to a new playlist.



19. Paying for the music on iTunes

In order to download music from 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 prefer to pay for the downloads via donated iTunes Vouchers (something that a care home making multiple playlists for residents might find more convenient than submitting card details), then you should:

  • 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.



20. 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.

Download instructions as a PDF