Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Five: Getting the early country sound

As music therapists, we know that patient preferred music yields the biggest results over time. Our work is based on what we know our clients enjoy. It engages them, encourages participation, and helps to cultivate a healthy therapeutic relationship.

When we prepare music for a client, we put so much time into learning the chords and learning the lyrics. Usually we'll go as far as to memorize a song, even for use in a one-time session. If we are working this hard to please our patients, shouldn't we take it one step further by making our voices sound just as authentic as our music?

When a music therapist has a great handle on sounding like an artist in both music and voice, it is most undeniably apparent in early country music. It is hard to imagine a performance of "Your Cheatin' Heart" or "Coal Miner's Daughter" without an exaggerated country twang. Below, I am listing five techniques for getting that true country sound. These were all things I learned in a guitar repertoire class.

1) Mouth and throat are relaxed.
2) The melody has lots of embellishments and slides between the notes.
3) Voice has a bright, nasally sound ("twang").
4) Guitar plays an alternating bass strum and dotted rhythms.
5) Guitar plays a "boom-chick" or down-down-up-down-up-down strum.

To practice, listen carefully to early country recordings. Record yourself to see how closely you can authenticate artists like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and Patsy Cline.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hospice v. palliative care

Music therapy is a valuable tool in hospice care and palliative care. These types of care focus on improving a person's quality of life by reducing pain and increasing comfort. However, it wasn't until my practicum that I realized that there was a difference between the two, let alone what that difference was. If you don't already know this information yourself, read below. You'll impress your practicum/internship supervisor when you can talk smart about these two methods of care.

1) Hospice patients are deemed terminally ill with an estimate of less than six months to live.
2) Generally, patients in hospice care have made the decision to end curative (life-prolonging) treatment.

1) Palliative care can be provided to a patient at any time during their illness.
2) Patients may continue to receive life-prolonging medicines and treatment while in palliative care.

Both hospice and palliative care can occur in hospice centers, patients' homes, nursing homes, and hospitals.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

If You Have An Instrument

Because many young children struggle with impulse control, music therapists often work to increase this skill. Any activity that requires a child to wait for cues or take turns playing will be valuable in addressing this area.

This activity is designed for all the little ones you might work with. Kids are asked to start and stop on a dime, but it becomes a game to them. It is a song I adapted from a friend, Amanda. And as I was writing it, I also had in mind a song that I learned in practicum at the hospital. I cannot take full credit for this.

A music-writing program is not readily available to me, so I will try to share this song with you as best as I can. I will post the song lyrics and chords, then include an mp3 recording of the song. I hope that it will be helpful in learning the melody. I would also suggest that you feel free to change the melody in whatever way you wish. If you think there is a better way that I can share future songs, please let me know by commenting on this post.

Song lyrics & chords

Various small percussion instruments

Task Analysis:
1. Teach clients that "rest position" means instruments are down and hands are in their lap.
2. Pass out the small percussion instruments to each child, reminding them to keep it in rest position.
3. Sing the song written above with guitar accompaniment, prompting children to start and stop as you say.
4. Take turns picking a child to lead the group. Sing the song again with guitar accompaniment, but let that child say "start" and "stop." Allow the child to lead a couple rounds of this.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 as needed. If your group is small enough, everyone may get a chance to lead.

Extensions & Adaptations
You may need to cue the student to say “start” or “stop” when it is their turn to lead. If a student is not quite giving clear directions, therapist can help reinforce the child for any approximating behavior. (For example, if the child starts playing without saying "start," shout it yourself and play with them.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Draw me a song

If you're stuck on ideas for a good activity for a large group, you may be closer than you think to the perfect session plan. It will require some creative thinking on your part, but consider adapting board games or party games to involve music. An example that I have used in my own practicum sessions is Music Pictionary.

Whiteboard or chalkboard
Dry erase markers or chalk
Strips of paper with songs written on them
iPod with all songs

Task Analysis:
1. Split group into two teams. Have each team come up with a name (you may choose to give them a category for their name, e.g. desserts).
2. Choose a team to go first, then ask that team for a player to draw first.
3. Have the player choose a song by picking a strip of paper at random. Make sure all the songs you write down are appropriate to the group.
4. The player will go to the board and begin drawing as the team guesses the song (no talking allowed from the person drawing!). If you choose, time the round at about 60 seconds.
5. If the player's team guesses the song within the time allotted, that team receives a point. If the player's team cannot guess correctly within that time, the opposing team will be allowed one guess at the song. If they guess correctly at this point, that teams wins the point.
6. Play the song by iPod as you continue the game.
7. Repeat steps 3 through 6, alternating between teams.

Extensions & adaptations:
a) The team that guesses the song can also receive a point for guessing the artist. You may also choose to give points if your clients will tell you one interesting fact about that song (for example, "Stairway to Heaven" was the theme of their high school prom).

b) If it is not appropriate to your group, do not worry about creating teams and keeping points.

c) Other games that may be adapted similarly include Charades, Cranium, and Catch Phrase. All of these have different rules and materials that you will have to look into if you want to incorporate them into your session.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Free sheet music @ Kididdles

For me, a perfect music therapy world would be one where all sheet music were available online for absolutely free. I would never again have to sort through so many versions of songs on for all the right chord progressions. I would no longer have to search Google Images for a fraction of a melody line beneath an enormous watermark. Playing melodies on instruments with clients would be a breeze if only I did not have to sit at the keyboard and plunk out all the melodies by ear.

Kiddiddles understands this. For absolutely free(!), users can create a username and password to gain access to dozens of children's songs in the form of song sheets (lyrics but no melodies) and music sheets (lyrics, melodies, and chords).

While I have yet to see a perfect-music-therapy-world-where-all-sheet-music-is-free, this is a step towards it. Yes, the melodies of children's songs may be easily learned by ear. But time saved preparing for a session? I'll take it!