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MM#50 – 5 Recommendations for Using Music with Greater Intention to Change Your Life

Our final musical motivator…# 50

Music is individual – Every person responds to music differently, and any one person may respond to music differently at various times throughout his or her life. Aside from some recent research on rhythm and movement, there are no peer-reviewed, published studies that show universal effects for any particular kind of music or harmony. An adolescent may show all the physiological signs of relaxation while listening to the loudest, most raucous music you can imagine. A child with a severe developmental disability may demonstrate her best responses to opera. Assessment is therefore, critical. If you want an assessment contact us 🙂

Use music with discretion – Do you hear your refrigerator buzzing? Most of us don’t — because we’ve gotten so used to it, we block it out. If music is an effective tool, use it when you need it most. Playing music all day won’t make children smarter; it will just teach them to tune it out.  Playing music at designated times can be an effective trigger into a desired emotional state.  Think of your favourite TV theme song…you hear it…you feel good…you get ready for what is next.  Where can you start putting in your own music triggers to get you ready for what’s next.

Silence is as important as sound – Once we know a piece of music, we notice when it is interrupted. You can use unexpected pauses in music to regain attention that has wandered. Once a person’s attention is refocused, you can resume exactly where you left off — like the pause button on a CD player. No verbal cues are necessary, just silence. This can be a relief for both the client/patient and the caregiver, who may both be tired of the same prompts. Silence is certainly one of life’s treasured commodities.  however, silence can also signify a greater issue in your life. Silence in my own life indicated postpartum depression.  Do you have too much silence?  What could that mean for you?

Instrument quality is better than quantity – Rather than buying a “bargain” box filled with instruments that have a bad sound quality as well as being breakable (or even dangerous), choose a few high-quality instruments (a group can share and take turns). The timbre “the tone” of the instrument is what

Consider live music when possible – Live music is, in most cases, much more effective than recorded music. If you sing songs live, you can change the tempo and volume according to the mood and behavior of your clients/students/patients; you can pause to allow time for responses or to cue attention and you can change the words to fit the immediate situation. In addition, if the person with whom your working says or does something that you can incorporate into music (like a new lyric, or new notes as you play the piano together), live music allows you to “go with the flow.”  This is what music as therapy is all about.


Jennifer Buchanan is the happy owner of JB Music Therapy, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2011. Our “Music Speaks” Blog: 50 Musical Motivators for 2011 (MMs) aims to Help you Relax, Reflect and Remember what you Value Most