Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday five: songs for positive thinking

I have many songs to share! Today, 5 songs on the topic of positive thinking:

1) "Blue Skies" by Ella Fitzgerald
2) "Drift Away" by Dobie Gray
3) "Happy" by Natasha Beddingfield
4) "My Wish" by Rascal Flatts
5) "Strength, Courage, and Wisdom" by India.Arie

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A therapeutic guitar lesson

Today, with just one patient on the children's unit at the BHC, I had the opportunity to lead a one-to-one session. If your patient has an interest (like mine did) in learning the guitar, this can turn into an awesome session with a focus on cognitive stimulation.

Tape strips of paper to the neck of the guitar that number each fret (the paper should sit just above the fret, not under the strings).

Create flash cards of the chord fingerings you want to teach, (use a different color of construction paper for each chord). I chose to teach C, D, em, G, A, and A7.

Tape three strips of paper on the fret board; place one in the 1st fret, one in the 2nd fret, and one in the 3rd fret.

Color dots where fingers should be placed for each of the chords you chose. Correspond the color of that dot with the color of the flashcard. To color, pull the strings away carefully to get access to the paper taped onto the fret board.

Guitar with paper labels of frets/chord fingerings
Chord flashcards (with finger numbers)
Sheet music

Task analysis:
1) Teach the patient finger numbers (1=index, 2=middle, 3=ring, 4=little). Quiz patient on finger numbers by calling out numbers and having them wiggle that finger.

2) Teach fret numbers. Quiz: e.g. "Put your 3rd finger anywhere on the 2nd fret."

3) Teach string numbers. Quiz: e.g. "Put your 1st finger on the 5th string on the 3rd fret."

4) Explain to the patient how colors of the dots on the guitar correspond with the chords on the flashcard. Teach them how to finger their first chord (mine was D). Quiz: e.g. "Take fingers off the guitar. Finger the D chord again." Repeat, repeat.

5) If they do really well with all these tasks, allow them to try to figure out the next chord (A) on their own. Quiz as you did in step 4, but then ask them to finger the switch between fingering the first chord and fingering the second.

6) At this point, the patient may play a I-V-I song.

7) Teach another chord (G) and the patient is ready for a I-IV-V-I song! The songs I used for this step were "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and "This Little Light Of Mine."

8) If you have time to advance, teach more chords (C and Em). A great song that utilizes only the chords mentioned in these steps is "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Mozart Effect debunked?

When I think about the Mozart Effect, I have flashbacks to my years in elementary school. In the third grade I was sitting at my classroom desk with classical music playing from the cassette player. This was only a couple years after a scientific study came out that reported that listening to classical music will make a person smarter. I look back now and realize that my teacher's motivation for playing classical music likely came from that research publication.

In recent years, I have been skeptical of this claim. Perhaps it is because of the research I've seen relating to music therapy. I know that there is a great amount of evidence out there that shows that music actively applied to a therapeutic session has significant effects. I also know that playing an instrument requires a lot of activity from different parts of the brain. But simply turning on a classical piece? I've seen little evidence of this making anyone smarter.

This article reports a new study that tested this theory on nearly 3,000 subjects. The study claims the the Mozart Effect is a myth. Psychologist Jakob Pietschnig states, "I recommend listening to Mozart to everyone, but it will not meet expectations of boosting cognitive abilities."

Though I have been skeptical of the Mozart Effect myself, it is a little disheartening to find that my skepticism may have been with reason. I understand that these studies could knock the profession of music therapy down a hit. I wish that the article would have said more about music applied to therapeutic goals. I am happy to report that it did give a little shout out to MTs: "Today music therapy does wonders."

Sadly, I know that few readers will see that line and research music therapy. It also reminds me of all the stuff out there on the internet (especially in blogs) that incorrectly defines music therapy, giving false claims. I think that, as music therapists, we will always be fighting a war of skepticism. I think it is important to be knowledgeable in the facts and report them to any listening ear. I hope to see a day where music therapy is unanimously accepted and respected.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Playing for change

Speaking of music videos, I want to share a couple that are very popular at the BHC. The two songs I am posting below come from a group called Playing For Change. The group began in 2005 to bring "peace through music." They have traveled to many places in the world to record musicians playing songs like "One Love" and "Stand By Me."

The result is a music video that overlaps all these musicians to make one song. As you watch these, you'll count dozens of different locations. Musicians from the U.S., Africa, Europe, and Asia play with their native styles, instruments, and languages.

One Love

Stand By Me