Instrument Ideas

                             The Therapeutic Arts Program performs “Mockingbird Hill”.

When designing Suzuki tone chime sessions for my Therapeutic Arts Program, I am always looking for different ways to use the tone chimes to focus on specific group and individual skills. For some songs, players will follow a powerpoint on the TV, for other songs players will read a specialized notation of the song in their tone chime book.  Other songs might be strictly improvisatory.  Each method addresses different skills as it is implemented.  I decided I wanted to design a tone chime method for my group that:

  • addressed the needs of a group with a mix of abilities
  • worked with a small group of 7-12 players
  • incorporated social skills and a focused on the awareness of others
  • did not require a lot of time to prepare visuals
  • easy to use with a variety songs in different keys
  • effective with both basic and extended chords

I decided to map out a system where pointing to one person would trigger other people to play, thereby forming basic chords.  This way the player would not only ring when directly pointed to, but would also ring if a player on either side of them was pointed to. (I felt pointing to one person is less confusing then trying cue a group of people to play together.)  I designed a chord system for ringing and gave each player a number assignment.

The video example above shows the group playing through “Mockingbird Hill”.  They just learned the song and only practiced it twice before videotaping!  There are a few extra support staff assisting players, and I simply double the assigned part.

*Become a Song Shop member and download the complete explaination of the Partner Play method, complete with visual examples, example Bell Assignment Sheets, and a blank Bell Assignment Sheet for you to use with your group!


African Beats for Modern Music

by admin on April 17, 2012

Recently I hosted a workshop at Blue Ridge Music Therapy Center for teachers and counselors from a local school district.  They were educators I had worked with before, and they had requested a session on learning simple but sophisticated drum patterns that they could present to some of their students in a music appreciation festival.  I felt that it would be helpful to create a specific list of songs that they could experience and have a specific pattern attached to each song.  It was so much fun to see their expressions when first hearing each song and making comments like: “I know that singer!”, “I just listened to that on the radio”, “That songs is so beautiful”.  I provided most participants with a djembe, and a few with a tubano or conga drum.  After some warm-up exercises, we were ready to learn a few basic African rhythms using BASS and TONE sounds.  Here is a list of the first five songs I used in the workshop:

  • I’ll Stand by You by Carrie Underwood
  • Mercy by Duffy
  • Rumour Has It by Adele
  • Heart of the Matter by India.Arie
  • Firework by Boyce Avenue

*Become a Song Shop member and download a PDF of the African rhythms used for each song.


Instrument Ideas: Composing and Improvising Within a Summer Pentatonic Scale

August 29, 2011

I love composing songs that incorporate different scales and modes and I often use them with my adaptive lesson students. In this video Jacob is reading a song set in a pentatonic scale. The notes include A, B, C#, E, and G# and is sometimes called a “summer pentatonic scale”. The Zaphir windchime that Jacob […]

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Instrument Ideas Ep.2: Travis Picking Variation with a Song by Nickel Creek

February 27, 2010

In this episode of Instrument Ideas we use a variation of the Travis picking pattern featured in episode 1.  The variation is then used with the song “Out of the Woods” by Nickel Creek.  This is a great song for lyric analysis and discussion.  Here are a few thoughts about initiating a song discussion. 1. […]

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Instrument Ideas- Ep. 1: Introduction to Travis Picking on Guitar

February 15, 2010

It’s here!  Video blog episodes!  The first episode introduces the use of Travis picking to enhance your guitar playing.  This video clip goes through Travis picking with a D and A7 chord.  “Simple Gifts” is then played using the picking pattern. Recommend on Facebook Share with Stumblers Tweet about it Subscribe to the comments on […]

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