One thing I see over and over again with music therapists (both students and board certified clinicians) who work with teens,  is the use of songs and activities that are geared toward children.

And let me tell you – I get it.

I talk in the Tune In Teens E-Course and the Tuneful Teens E-Books about how the first time I led a session with teens (after several years working solely with children), I was terrified. I knew I had brought in children’s songs and it was not going to fly with the crowd I was working with.

Over the years though, I’ve come to learn many techniques for keeping things age appropriate, cool, and engaging for my teen clients and students.

Last week I came up with a brand new idea, as I was leading a game of Name That Tune by playing the instrumental tracks of popular songs.

“Take You Dancing” by Jason Derulo was one of the songs I included. As I listened to the instrumental track, I thought – “I can totally use this during other musical experiences the same way I use my rap tracks (looped hip hop beats that I create in GarageBand) – as back tracks for instrument playing songs, movement experiences, and of course rapping.”

These rap tracks/hip hop beats automatically up the cool factor of a musical experience.

Instrumental back tracks of popular songs take it a step further, in that you can incorporate your clients’ and students’ favorite music.


I recently used a Drake back track for a rap writing experience, and the look on the faces of the middle school boys was absolutely priceless.

I’ve used the back track for “Good Day” by Nappy Roots and I notice much more engagement than when I sing and accompany myself on guitar.

These back tracks can be used during movement experiences, dancing songs, instrumental playing activities, themed rhythmic combos, and in countless other ways. The only limit is your creativity!

If this idea sparked your creativity like it did mine, I’ve got more ideas and resources to share with you. Check this out –