In my last blog, Adaptive Lessons (Part 1), I shared that the benefits of music lessons include improving fine motor skills, social skills, cognition, and auditory discrimination. My professional practice has given me the opportunity to create a variety of interventions used in these lessons. One example is facilitating exercises on the piano with a client that has suffered a stroke to address hand-eye coordination, number and letter recognition, and to improve fine motor skills. I have also used vocal performance warm ups and exercises with a client that has limited breath support and lung capacity due to complications from a heart condition. In addition to vocal exercises, I also incorporate exercises on the ukulele to improve their finger strength, dexterity, and fine motor skills due to physical limitations from their heart condition.
Other therapeutic benefits of adaptive lessons:
-Introduces pre-reading and literacy skills: When learning to read music, the student first learns to recognize the first seven letters of the alphabet, as well as, numbers one through ten. Depending on your teacher and the materials they use, when learning to play the piano, ukulele, or guitar it is important that the individual is able to recognize numbers and letters that are paired with each finger as they correspond to each key, fret, or string depending on the instrument they are learning to play. Although this may seem like a complex task, music therapists are trained to set their students up for success by first teaching them to match numbers and letters or through games that increase the student’s ability to recognize numbers and letters.
-Improving hand-eye coordination: Outside of the Suzuki method, whether a student uses traditional or adapted music, the student will need to be able to read and follow music as they play their instrument. This task utilizes hand-eye coordination as they pair a physical task with visual stimuli; much like typing on a keyboard. Although many of my students initially have difficulty executing this task it is pretty incredible to watch their progress as they master this skill and become a musician.
-Increase mastery of activities of daily living. As stated in the blog Adaptive Lessons (Part 1), learning to play an instrument can improve fine motor skills as well as cognition. Skills learned on instruments can be easily transferred to help individuals with special needs when engaging in fine motor skills, such as using the pincer grasp to hold a pencil, typing on a keyboard, and reading charts and graphs.
-Improves focus and discipline. Many individuals I work with have difficulty maintaining focus and have a limited attention span. Learning pieces of music that vary in length can help to address endurance with attention to task. A music therapist starts with a piece of music that is four measures or 8 notes long. Once the student can successfully play this short piece of music successfully, the therapist will gradually increase the length of music over time. Many of my students are continually increasing the length of pieces in which they can successfully play while maintaining focus.
As you can see, there are truly many benefits of learning to play an instrument. At Key Changes Therapy, we offer instruction for piano, voice, guitar, ukulele, mandolin, and clarinet. Interested in signing up for adaptive lessons? Contact us here!