Get started with Spotify
Spotify is one tech tool that I use everyday without fail. If you don’t currently use a streaming music service, I can highly recommend Spotify. It’s permanently changed the way I access music.
To get started:
- Go to the Spotify website (or app) and set up a Spotify account
- Download the Spotify desktop app for your laptop and log into your account
- Download the Spotify mobile app for your phone if you’d like to listen while you’re on-the-go
- Plug your laptop (or phone or iPad) into speakers in your classroom so that the music can be heard clearly by students. You might like to use a bluetooth speaker for this purpose
Tips for using Spotify in your music lessons
Tip 1: Go Premium
You can use Spotify for free, but if your budget allows it’s absolutely worth upgrading to their premium service.
The main benefits of upgrading to Premium are:
- No adverts
- You can listen to any song, anytime and you can skip songs (the free version has limited access to songs and only allows shuffle play)
- You can listen to music offline, for those times you may not have an internet connection
Tip 2: View song lyrics and annotations
There are a couple of ways you can view lyrics and information about the song as you listen on Spotify on your mobile device. Genius Lyrics provides a built in Behind The Lyrics feature for many songs on Spotify. While you’re listening you can tap the cover art to view lyrics and also read interesting facts about the artist and the song.
If you’d prefer to see ONLY lyrics and view them karaoke-style (one line at a time) while the song is playing, you can download the Musixmatch app (iOS and Android) and connect your Spotify account. When you want to view song lyrics, open the Musixmatch app and play the song. The lyrics will scroll through in time to the song that’s playing.
Tip 3: Connect Shazam and Spotify on your Smartphone
Connect your Spotify account to Shazam so when you hear a new song you like you can identify it with Shazam and then play it in Spotify or add it to one of your playlists.
To connect the two apps:
- Open Shazam on your mobile device and go to My Shazam
- Tap on the gear icon to go to Settings
- Tap the option to connect to Spotify (you need to have a Spotify Premium account) and follow the steps to allow access to your Spotify account
- Now when you Shazam a song you will have the option to open it in Spotify or add it to a playlist. Shazam also automatically adds all your Shazam songs into a Spotify playlist called My Shazam Tracks
Tip 4: It’s all about Playlists, Playlists, Playlists!
Playlists are really the key to using Spotify productively. Set up playlists so you can find the music you need quickly and easily.
Here are just some of the Playlists you could create:
- Pop music that is G-rated and school-appropriate
- Peaceful background music for quiet work times in class
- Motivational songs
- Graduation songs
- Dance music for movement activities
- Music for a specific unit of work that you’ll be covering in class – blues, jazz, hip hop, film music, video game themes, classical music, songs that use samples
- Cover versions of songs, plus the original version so students can compare them
- Songs with a specific function or purpose – 3-chord songs, pentatonic melody songs, repeating (cyclical) chord progressions and so on
- Performances of set pieces for exams
Tip: 5: Look for existing playlists
If you want to take a little shortcut, you might like to search for Playlists that have been created by other teachers. I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to search on Google.
Try searching for terms like these:
- School appropriate Spotify playlists
- Playlists for the classroom
- School playlists Spotify
- Spotify playlist kids
Here are some useful teacher blog posts that share Spotify playlists and tips:
- Classroom Playlists from Maniacs in the Middle
- 10 Spotify Playlists That Every Classroom Needs from Saddle Up For Second Grade
- Music In The Classroom: Pump Up The Jams from The Starr Spangled Planner
- Music In The Classroom: Spotify from Sprout
- 7 Ways To Use Spotify In Your Classroom from Kim Maslin
Tip 6: Can’t find a song on Spotify? Import your own music
Can’t find a song in Spotify but you have it on your laptop? You can access it through Spotify, provided it’s from a legal source. This feature is also useful if you’d like to play audio files you’ve made yourself (recordings of students, rehearsal tracks, ear-training examples and so on).
To play an audio file that’s on your computer in Spotify (Spotify refers to these files as “local” files), you first need to give Spotify permission to access files stored on your computer:
- In Spotify on your desktop, click the downward arrow in the top right corner of the app (next to your profile picture) and choose Settings
- Scroll down to Local Files
- My Music or Downloads (locations on your computer) are automatically selected. This means that Spotify can access any audio files that live in those locations. You can turn off access if you prefer
- You can also click Add A Source and choose another folder on your computer to add it to Spotify
To play one of your Local Files:
- On desktop – click on Local Files in the menu on the left and the list of your local files will appear
- On mobile or tablet – the Local Files menu item is not available on mobile or tablet. You will need to go to the desktop Spotify app and add the track/s to a Playlist in order to play it from your phone or tablet device
Tip 7: Customize or reorder songs order in a playlist
By default, when you add a new song to a playlist it will go to the end of the list. However, you can choose to view the list by Title, by Artist, by Album, by Recently Added or your own Custom order (only available for a playlist you have created yourself). The good thing is that you can switch between each of these views whenever you like.
To Customise the order of songs, simply drag a song up or down in the list. If the playlist is long and you want to move lots of songs around it’s much easier to do it on the desktop Spotify app. If you make changes on the desktop app, your mobile app will update instantly (and vice versa).
To view the playlist by Recently Added, Title, Artist, or Album on desktop you can simply click on the headers at the top of the list:
On the Spotify mobile app, there’s a secret trick that one of my kids showed me (!). First open your playlist in your Spotify app, then swipe downwards until you can see the Filter search box and tap on the little “hamburger” menu on the right.
Then, choose Recently Added under the Sort By options:
Tip 8: Organise Playlists into folders
Once you discover how useful Playlists are, you might find that you end up with LOTS of them and it can get difficult to find the one you need. An excellent solution is to create Playlist folders to group similar playlists together.
You can only create a new folder and add Playlists to that folder while using the desktop app at this stage.
To create a new folder:
- Go to File > New Playlist Folder (or right-click in the Playlist menu area and choose Create Folder)
- Name the Playlist folder (bonus tip! I like to add a number to the beginning of the folder name to push it to the top of my playlist menu)
- Click on the Playlist/s you want to add and drag them into the folder
Tip 9: Pay it forward and share your Playlists with others
You can choose to make your Playlists public so that they can be shared with others. This can be useful if you’d like to share a playlist with students, with parents or with your colleagues. You can even make a Playlist collaborative if you’d like other Spotify users to contribute songs to the list.
There are a few ways you can share a Playlist:
- Send someone the Playlist link (it will open in their web browser)
- Send someone the Spotify URI (a special Spotify link that a user can paste into their Spotify search bar to locate a Playlist within the Spotify app)
- Embed the Playlist on a website so that visitors can interact with the Playlist right there on the webpage
- Send the Playlist via a social media app (Messenger, Twitter, Skype, Facebook etc)
To share your Playlists:
- Make sure playlist is set to public (once it is public, that text in the menu will change to “Make Secret”)
- Click/tap on the menu button with 3 dots (see 1 below), go to the Share menu and select your sharing method
Tip 10: Personalise your Playlist cover artwork
Spotify automatically generates a collage of album covers for your Playlist artwork. However, you can add a custom image if you prefer. The image can be a simple photo, or you can get creative and create an image like the example below by Spotify user missbensko (the author of the Maniacs In The Middle blog) .
To add your own Spotify cover art:
- On desktop, open your Playlist
- Hover your mouse over the current cover artwork
- Click on the Pencil icon
- In the window that opens, click on the Choose Image button, locate your new image. It needs to be a JPEG image and less than 4MB in size (you can also edit the Playlist title and add a description while you’re there!)
- Click Save
Tip 11: Listen to your music offline
One of the main reasons I upgraded to the Premium service was so that I could listen to my music without an internet connection (ideal for when I’m running in slightly remote areas, or on a plane flight!).
To download songs to your device
- First, add the songs to a Playlist
- While you’re still on WIFI, open the Playlist and turn on the Download button
- Spotify will download the songs to your device and you can then play them when offline
- You know that they are available offline because there will be a small green downward arrow next to the Playlist and also next to each song in the Playlist
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Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.
I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.
I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.
If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community. Learn more and take a sneak peek inside