Building a collection, part II

Posted: August 5, 2010 in Instruments

After compiling a list of essentials, I started thinking about nonessentials for the practicing music therapist – you know, stuff that’s awesome.  This list is comprised of items that should be useful, items that could be useful, and items that I think it would be really cool if I had.

A limberjack in action

Limberjack – I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of these guys, but essentially he’s a wooden puppet on a stick with movable limbs.  The way it works is that you take a plank and sit on it, so it sticks out between your legs.  Hold Jack so his legs are resting on the plank, then start hitting the plank in rhythm.  He walks/dances right along with you.  Add some music, and you’ve got yourself a hoedown.  It is really cool.  You can decorate him however you want, and you can get different styles – animals are pretty popular (horses, dogs, etc.)

Elvis plays the uke

Ukelele – Ukeleles are sold in souvenir shops as a novelty item, but they can be very useful in music therapy.  After all, it’s just a small guitar.  The tuning is different, but really, fingering is no different from the high strings on the guitar…transpose down a fourth, and you’ve got it.  It’s very easy to tune to a single chord for kids, and it’s one of those instruments that makes people smile.  OK, so it’s kind of small, and if you’re a big guy (like me), it looks kind of silly.  However, they’re pretty cool, and relatively inexpensive.  I wouldn’t suggest getting anything too cheap…they’re enough of  a pain to keep in tune as it is.

A theremin being played

Theremin – OK, stay with me on this one.  I realize this suggestion is not entirely practical, but I’m just thinking outside the box.  This is an electronic instrument that requires no touch at all.  You’ve heard it in sci-fi and horror B movies from the 50s, and the Beach Boys used it in Good Vibrations.  Your hands simply interrupt the electronic field, causing an eerie sound.  One hand controls pitch, while the other controls volume.  Now, for a minute, let’s think about applications for music therapy.  A person with limited hand usage could simply put their hand in the field and make sounds.  A person with tactile sensitivity could learn how to play music without touching anything at all.  And at the very least, you’ve got something really cool to pull out at Halloween parties.

Guitar Hero/Rock Band – I think this one will be an easier sell than the Theremin.  With Guitar Hero and Rock Band, we have a prepackaged program that screams music therapy.  There’s finger dexterity.  There’s social interaction.  There’s rhythm.  There’s eye-hand coordination.  There’s popular music.  There’s reinforcement.  There’s fun.  There’s a lot of potential there, and I think it would be great to build some music therapy practices around them.

Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia in Big

Floor piano – You’ve seen Big, right?  You know that scene where Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia play Heart and Soul and Chopsticks on the giant floor piano?  Wouldn’t that be fun to work into a music therapy session?  You could work on musicality and gross motor issues all at once.  Plus there’s the nostalgia for all of us who remember when Tom Hanks wasn’t such a serious actor – can you believe that movie came out in 1988?

Setting up for Stomp

Go green – Of course, there’s the possibility that you don’t need to spend anything.  Just go out to a junkyard and start picking up scrap metal, save your plastic bottles, create your own orchestra from recycled materials.  If you’ve never seen Stomp, I highly recommend that you do.  I’m not saying you’ll every be able to get as great of a collection as they have, but it will start the creative juices flowing.

And so on.  There are probably millions of items on music therapy wish lists, and it’s fun to think about them.  I had fun putting this particular list together, and I hope it sparked some ideas in your mind.  Thanks for reading!



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