How to Make an SHTF Music Box to Lift Your Spirits During Dark Times

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The importance of music has been clear in our culture for a very long time. Music has the following powers.

  • Improves mood
  • Boosts intelligence and improves concentration
  • Gives a sense of normality during an SHTF situation.

Musical memories

The inspiration for this articles comes from a section of Selco‘s book where he described the feeling he had listening to music for the first time after not hearing it for a very long time.

I started thinking about how to put together a music box for SHTF, so hopefully, I could hang on to some music through a major situation.

During SHTF or an extended emergency, music is going to be a major comfort.

This post is dedicated to Selco for telling it like it is so we can all learn and prepare for whatever the future holds. I have never been one to buy courses or go to prepper conferences, but I am glad that I chose to go through SHTF School and read Selco’s books. Sometimes you need to get outside your comfort zone and think beyond the typical prepping and survival topics.

People see my life now through my writing and say I am living the dream. They have no way of knowing that it was not always like that. I had a long and difficult road to get where I am today. I was alone with my thoughts and music a lot. Listening to music helped with writing which is something I have always done except for brief periods.  


My father, a single Vietnam War veteran with severe PTSD, raised me. The women around me were anything but good role models. They wanted me to be a model and marry a doctor. That was about all they wanted me to do. Music was a safe getaway, but I had to hide what I listened to from them. 

For many of those years, my mother’s brother lived with us as well. I had the opportunity to grow up hearing my Uncle and his friends playing the guitar. When I was 11 my favorite songs that they played were Nirvana “Come As You Are,” anything by Neal Young, and of course the songs they wrote. One was particularly beautiful, and about the feeling, they got out on the open highway on their motorcycles. I believe it was called “Into the Sun.” It made you want to hit the road and see the beauty of the world around you.  

Some fishing pics of me at 11 years old. The top pic is my dad and me and the bottom is my Uncle and my Dad.  Being raised in a home by two adult men taught me a lot. They took me fishing pretty often.

I remember my brother Fred coming over to visit my Dad and me, and he had a Discman with him. He saw me looking at the CDs and let me listen. The album was Stone Temple Pilots Core. After that, I was hooked on the band and quickly searched out the grunge bands from nearby Seattle.  

Music got me through my mother always suspecting the worst of me, telling me I was not going to college in North Carolina, and showing up screaming at my house. It made me able to dream of bigger and better things. I could put on some music and walk away one day. A week after I turned 16 I got on a Greyhound bus in Mount Vernon, Washington and moved with my Dad to NC without telling any of the rest of the family in Washington.

Music is part of your heritage no matter what your background.

Hearing the music of a different culture, region, etc, can help you understand more about them and it can lend a sense of togetherness and camaraderie during difficult times. It reminds you of who you are as a person.

I am from a very musical family but don’t play any musical instruments myself. The mountains of North Carolina are rich with bluegrass and Old Time and where I lived in Washington State had a lot of people from the South so while I grew up out in Washington, I had a big Southern influence due to being the first generation born outside of North Carolina.

When I was young, I heard family members talking about how the dancers in the family had danced for the Queen of England. I thought this was just one of those ridiculous family rumors, but then I found out it was true. Cloggers from Jackson County, NC, some of which were my family had indeed danced for the Queen who was rumored to have said: “you dance just like we do.” Not a big surprise with the amount of English and Scotch-Irish people in the mountains of North Carolina.

Music memories inspire me to do more.

I listened to a lot of heavy metal, classic rock, and grunge back in my teens. I always had varied musical interests though so sometimes I listened to Classical. I listen to a lot of different music now. I still listen to a lot of music from my youth, and it takes me back to a different time and inspires because it was what I was listening to when I made a lot of important life decisions.

Creating a music box for SHTF is inexpensive and can go a long way towards morale and a healthier mind.

Here is what you need:

An emergency radio, Mp3 player, and speakers

This box can be multi-purpose because your emergency radio can have shortwave and NOAA weather bands.

I have a Kaito KA900 that I was sent for review a short time ago. It has a few more features than you need in an emergency radio but I like it, and it is a battery bank and reading light. The included solar panel helps keep it charged up too.

There are some other Kaitos that seem to be made a bit more rugged.

The fact that it uses is Bluetooth can come in handy if you use some small devices with the technology. I use my cell phone sometimes to stream radio stations I liked when I was younger out in Washington State.

The KA700 is built more rugged than the Kaito model I have. I plan on getting this model or something similar as a second emergency radio when I can.

SD cards mean that you can store an enormous quantity of music in a small space. My radio takes up to a 32G Mini SD card. This will hold thousands of songs. If you find a good deal on smaller cards, using them for music may be a good idea. While 8GB is not much video, it is still a lot of music assuming a size of 3-5 MB per song.

Mp3 player

An mp3 player is excellent to have, and it may be able to handle your entire music collection. I am a bit paranoid about relying on a single thing to store music. I recommend having a combination of SD cards for storage of music and an MP3 player and an audio cable to plug into speakers or a radio.  If your Mp3 player busts or stops functioning during SHTF, you will have all those SD cards of your favorite music to listen to when you want.


I have a small waterproof and shockproof speaker that I bought for under $40. You can get them in all price ranges, and they have the advantage of being USB rechargeable meaning it is more likely that you will be able to keep them going and charged during SHTF.

A small solar power charger could keep you in music if you have an Mp3 player and speaker. Some emergency radios are battery banks too and will charge some small devices, but it may be a bit slow. On the other hand, my small speaker will play music for 24 hours on a single charge depending on the volume setting. I usually use Bluetooth with it, but it may burn less batter if a cable were used to input music. Wireless technology can be very power hungry.

USB and audio cables

It is easy to get too many cables, but in this case, you should have a few extras. There may be a time when they are a lot harder to find. If you want to be able to connect an mp3 player, you should have two cables for that in case one fails. Cables don’t take up much space.

Extra Batteries

If any of your music devices have replaceable batteries, it may be a good idea to have some extras. My Kaito radio takes a rechargeable lithium battery, but it is not a size I am going to find at any convenience store. I will be adding an extra to my preps. Since the radio is a battery bank, it makes even more sense to have an extra battery or two on hand since I could keep quite a bit of power stored.  

Free Music Download Sites and Apps

There are plenty of places where you can get free music. Bands and musicians sometimes allow a few songs to be downloaded for free in hopes that you will buy some of their other music and tell your friends about it.

This is an amazing app available on Google Play that will find legal to download music for you.

This app uses Jamendo and Free Music Archive to find free music you can download without worry of copyright infringement.

Time to get out those old CDs you have been hanging onto.

When I used to buy CDs, I would often rip them onto my computer, so I could have a backup copy and listen easily on my comp without changing CDs out. Some programs will allow you to do this. It is a bit time consuming but it is a way to get your legally purchased music into a reliable and easy to use format for SHTF.


When it comes to SD cards, you can organize your music however you like. You may want to create some cards that are a mix of music, or you may want to categorize it into rock, country, hip hop, metal, grunge, or whatever makes sense for you. You can use SD cards to make a modern version of a mixtape essentially. The radio I have will record music and programs off the radio and onto SD cards so you can save shows and broadcasts you like for listening later on.


Of course, there is no reason to not throw in a few audiobooks in there. Kids and adults alike will enjoy having some books they can listen to for entertainment.  

Buy used CDs an rip them to mp3. I would be careful about scratches and quality, but there is no reason not to buy some old CDs if you find them.

Buying music

Many of us are used to subscription music services and the luxury of being able to listen to whatever we want whenever we want. I advise considering what bands and songs you like a lot and listen to regularly and try to find a way to purchase their music inexpensively.

A lot of the time it is cheaper to buy the whole album from an artist than to buy 10 of the 12 songs on an album. I am not advising spending $400 to buy 500 songs, but I am encouraging you to consider if there is some music out there that you feel like you would benefit from during a major situation.  

For me, I like to keep Stone Temple Pilots, The Rolling Stones, Soundgarden, Old 97s, Nirvana, The Offspring, BB King, Devil Makes Three, and a variety of classical music, blues, bluegrass, and more. I like to have music for every mood. Punk rock is essential to me too, and it is very easy to find online.


Some SD cards come with storage holders that can help keep them organized and safe but others may not. You want to put them in something where they are not as likely to get jarred or scratched up. You can get a card case for under $10 on Amazon.

Don’t throw out the big SD card adaptors or at least not all of them!

I got a big SD card adaptor with each mini I purchased. Even if you cannot see yourself every using devices that take a large SD card, it is still a good idea to keep a few of them just in case. SHTF may last long enough that you find your needs have changed.

Musical instruments can expand your music box.

If you love music then why not consider some instruments?

While my music box is just for listening or recording, if you have space and know how to play a musical instrument then why not make that a part of your SHTF music plan?  

Kids may enjoy playing small handheld instruments like tambourines or little drums. This can help keep their minds strong and healthy during times of stress.

Some people have survived SHTF situations because they can play music and keep others entertained.  A single skill like this can make all the difference in an SHTF scenario.

A study done among veterans by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs showed that veterans suffering from PTSD showed a reduction in symptoms when given a guitar and regular lessons. The study subjects were all veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that exhibited significant signs of PTSD before the study.

Remember to include a wide range of music.

People have different musical tastes. My husband and I listen to a lot of the same types so making mixed SD cards is easy. If you have a family or group, you may want to think beyond your musical tastes so that everyone has something that is meaningful to them. Even if you love one type of music or band, chances are you are not going to want to listen to the same type of music all the time.

I am a little out of touch with what music is popular with generations younger than me. If you are like me then maybe you should ask the others in your household what they would like you to put back for them, older kids and teens can put together music on their SD cards and put them in the music box. Those with little ones in the home may want to put some nursery music or fun kids songs on an SD card. Doing this means everyone is included and has some music to help them have a healthy mindset or soothe them to sleep!

Keeping things charged

There are a lot of affordable power banks out there. If you have a little more to spend and want some backup power anyway, a small power center is an option.  A Jackery is the mid-sized 240 wh Explorer, and it weighs a mere 6.6 lbs. You do not need anything this big to keep some musical devices going. I show the Jackery because it is an example of a small power supply that can help out during a long emergency.

Even the smaller Jackery 160 will charge a cell phone 12 times. I have a 50-watt solar panel to keep the power center charged. If you plug it into a 110V power outlet in your home, you will at least have enough power to run a few things for days. You can always buy a power center and then add a solar panel later as your budget allows.

What are your music preps?

Do you have anything that you would put in a music box that I have not mentioned? Please share any sites that you know of that allow legal free downloads of music.

About Samantha

Samantha Biggers lives on a mountain in North Carolina with her husband in a house they built by hand. When not writing she is working in the vineyard, raising Shetland sheep and growing gourmet mushrooms. Her writing mostly appears on Backdoor Survival and Lew Rockwell. She can be reached at [email protected].

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Guest Contributor

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  • In a Grid Down/ SHTF scenario, you won’t always be able to play music out loud for security reasons. In that case, earphones might be a good addition to your plan. I use my Galaxy S4 (Android) phone as my MP3 music, MP4 music video, and JPG photo library. Plus I store all my PDF and Office documents on my phone as well. And of course I have all my contact information loaded up too.

    For health and security reasons, I’ve abandoned bluetooth devices, and go with wired headphones all the way. Here’s a good sounding unit on Amazon ($13) with a built in mic so you can us it for phone conversations as well:

    I went with the Galaxy S4 because it was the last phone in the series with a removable battery. I use the S4 on two of my cell phone lines, plus I have several old S4’s without a SIM card in them. One was a cracked screen, one was when I changed from Sprint to Verizon, and so on. But they all maintain a full music, video, pictures, and of course document libraries. I keep about a dozen spare batteries (about $9 on Amazon) plus the USB chargeable portable batteries, so I can easily go a month or more without needing to recharge.

    Some of the wizards in my family also have apps that run Ham Radio communications through their cell phones. They can talk and text and transmit pictures – to another phone or Ham Radio through the app. That’s pretty impressive!

    Finally, I just like being able to go mobile at any time, and have all my music and data on me.

  • I’m sure this is wonderful advise, but for the most part, I have no idea what you are talking about. MP3 ? Ripping? Apps? SDs? Guess I just crank up my old crank Victrola or pedal my old player piano. But thanks for trying. I agree, music means a lot.

  • micro sd’s are rewal cheap on ebay now, 16gb $6.25 32 gb 9$

    if you look you might find them cheaper
    download audiobooks and mucic video’s from youtoob and convert them to mp3
    so you can listen to them or just put them as on a smart phone and use the aud/vid player VLC.
    I have near 800gb of audiobooks I downloaded from youtoob.

  • Just wondering but if SHTF I don’t think Bluetooth will work…
    I may be wrong but I think an EMP or a CME will take out bluetooth…

    • If a device is protected enough during an EMP to remain functional after it’s over, and it was capable of Bluetooth, it will still be capable. It’s just a low frequency radio wave, and it’s not dependent on the cell networks because Bluetooth enabled devices have their own low powered transmitters. Devices that aren’t in motion and are powered down have at least a chance of surviving an EMP and of course you could always build a Faraday Cage or some such to protect things further.

      That said, I don’t have to do anything to prepare for SHTF in regards to music because everything’s already on SD cards and I don’t use music services.

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