If you have someone in mind to create a playlist for, here are five simple steps to get you started.

  1. Create a long list of potential songs.

    You are looking for music that is meaningful to the person you are making a playlist for. You can ask the person or their family members about favourite tunes or you can start looking for clues. How old is the person? Where did they come from? Where did they live? What was their job? Did they have children? Is there music associated with any of the things you know about the person? Our Get Started leaflet may give you other ideas of questions to ask. Add any ideas to your long list of songs. 
  2. Look more widely for clues.

    Are there old photos showing the person at a musical event or triggering any ideas about music e.g. on the football terraces or at a Sunday School picnic? Does the person have a record or CD collection at home or hidden in the attic? Are there any programmes or ticket stubs in a special drawer? 
  3. Track down fragments of songs.

    There are lots of great apps and websites to help you identify songs that you can't remember the name of e.g. Midomi.com, Musipedia and FindMusicByLyrics. You can also type any lyrics you remember directly into Google, or other search engines, using quotation marks around your search term e.g. "Ziggy played guitar"
  4. Test your long list with the person.

    Make sure the room is calm and comfortable. You will need to have access to the internet to play the music on your phone or laptop to the person you are making the playlist for. You may wish to use our journal to help you record what happens. As each song plays, take time to really focus on them and look for any reaction or response. This might be eyes opening or moving around, fingers or toes tapping, a change in facial expression. They might become more alert or speak. They might become more relaxed or more responsive. Put any song the person responds to onto the playlist. 

  5. Watch out for red flag songs.

    Music is powerful. It can transport people to another time or place. That is a great gift, but you do not want to take someone back to a bad place. Tears are not always negative, but if someone becomes very agitated or distressed in response to a certain song, you should stop the session and discard that music. Remember to keep a note of red flag songs so that they are not played again. 

Find out what a music detective is  Button: Learn how to put your playlist on an mp3 

Button: using music safely