5 Fun Ways to Explore Music’s Role in Situations or Settings

Have you ever heard music that you felt fit a particular situation or place perfectly? Or vice versa, have you ever been in a particular setting and felt that the music just ruined it? People make deliberate choices about music to go along with or affect their moods in different settings or situations. For example, the wonderful book Music in Everday Life, by Tia DeNora details how people use music throughout their lives, often in ways that improve their health and wellness!

Getting young people to think about how music can enhance or take away from a particular place or situation is a great opportunity to think about the role of music in society and to think musically. Continue reading below for 5 fun musical activities about settings or situations to try with young people: 

5 Fun Ways to Explore Music's Role in Situations or Settings

Choosing music that fits a particular situation or setting and discussing those choices can include aspects of tempo (speed of the music), timbre (types of instruments or sounds), lyrics (the message of the music), form (such as the amount of repetition or variation) etc.

Here are 5 fun musical activities about settings or situations to try with young people: 

1) Have kids design several restaurants that differ from one another in style or cuisine. Then have them think about what music would fit best in that restaurant to provide a great setting for visitors. Engage in some research together about the music and food of different cultures to inform the restaurant design. Then have children create a sample playlist using a service such as apple music or Spotify that could give a sense of the music that would be played at the restaurant. Ask them about their choices and how they might add or take away from the “ambiance” of the restaurant. Did you know there are actually businesses that help restaurants choose music that will help them create ambiance and keep people wanting to return?

2) Have kids design different themed parties. Ask them the ways they want people to feel at the parties and what types of things their friends would do at the parties. Then, with your help, have them create a playlist using a service such as Apple music or Spotify.

Photo by Daniel Mee
Photo by Daniel Mee

3) Have kids brainstorm different careers. The more differentiated the better. Let them imagine what goes on in those jobs and whether or not people might listen to music in those jobs. Ask them about what music best fits certain situations “on the job” and why.

4) Have children brainstorm as many different situations they can imagine when people come together for a particular reason. For instance, birthday parties (mentioned above) might be one situation whereas a sports event or dance recital are completely different situations. For each situation, have children describe the type of mood and what people do in this situation. Then have children discuss what type of music matches these moods and might support what people do in the situations. This is also a great chance to explore different traditions and cultures from around the world. For instance, you can research and explore the different type of music played at weddings around the world!

Photo by Andy Eick
Photo by Andy Eick

5) Have kids brainstorm as many different types of things people do during a typical day. For instance waking up, walking to the bus stop, exercising, going to sleep. Ask them about the type of mood or energy needed for these different situations. Have them choose music that goes along with each situation. For instance, have them point out how “waking up music” might be different than “going to sleep” music.

The more you can get children to name specific songs and ask them about their choices the better. This can be as playful as you and they like while also including critical and creative thinking!

Photo by SparkCBC
Photo by SparkCBC

Extending the Activity: How DJs Are Experts at Choosing Music for Settings and Situations

Great DJs have excellent skills in knowing how to set and modify the mood of a particular setting with music. Let children or students learn more about the role of DJs (this might require some research of your own). The book Turntable Timmy is a great introduction and just a fabulous children’s book. The book When the Beat Was Born traces the history of DJ Kool Herc, who many say is one of the originators of Hip Hop music.

For more specific writing on how to DJ, take a look at How to DJ Right: The Art and Science of Playing Records.  The Scratch DJ Academy has its own book titled On the Record: The Scratch DJ Academy Guide. And there’s always DJing for Dummies.

There are also a number of fantastic DJ apps we’ve detailed before in our post on 6 Steps for Kids to Start Creating Rap Music (in the Be a DJ section).