Posts Tagged "Music Classes for Fragile X syndrome"

Special Needs

While the title “Special Needs” does not begin to cover all the many different sorts of labels that currently exist for people, it is a very useful umbrella. Having a music therapy degree as well as thirty years of teaching experience, I have developed many ways to help these people engage in music-making that is deeply rewarding for them.

A major requirement is to suspend all the usual criteria for musical excellence, ie sings on the pitch, remembers the words and rhythm accurately, practices regularly, and is continually getting better.

I believe that we all love music, but many of us have lost that love along the way, often in very sad ways.  People who have “Special Needs” have a very strong and obvious love of music, and the challenge is to find ways in which they can learn to make music themselves.

While listening to music may be fun, it is the act of making music that is the most therapeutic and therefore meaningful. It becomes something that they can do, instead of the opposite. So Christmas day 2020 was profoundly highlighted for me by two of my long time students with Special Needs wanting their music lessons because Friday is one of the two days a week that they do music.

The basis of music learning is singing, moving, and playing the drums, so every music lesson I teach includes all three activities in different proportions. As the student progresses in all of these areas, other types of musical possibilities may open up ie playing the piano.

For students with Special Needs who are able to read, I have developed special song sheets that not only have the words of the song, but also the letter names of the pitches involved in the song over the correct words. This allows the student to learn how to co-ordinate the pitch with the words.

“… music empowers them in a way that nothing else can, because music has no boundaries, has no race, no creed, nothing.” Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Detroit News, Oct 19th, 2017

 

Sing-Play Music

This is an approach that has evolved over many years of teaching. I am always trying to improve how I teach and have tried many things. The obvious issue starts with music notation. Those fixed black things on a page that the jazz musicians call the dots, to try and demystify them.

The most basic impulse that we all have is to sing, this is totally different from having a trained voice. If you were given a baby or young child to hold who was crying you would naturally try to bring comfort to the child  by singing to it, and rocking it from side to side. You would not be concerned about getting the words right, or being in tune, your concern would be to sooth the child.

Sing-Play is an approach to music learning that develops the ear over the eye, so that the individual immediately can start converting what they hear into the instrument that they are learning ie a digital pattern. This starts from the simple songs that they learnt at kindergarten, to more complex songs, as they master the technical aspects of the specific instrument that they want to play.

My students are often surprised at how many songs they know, or instrumental fragments, (depending on what sort of music they listen to) and are thrilled to be able to Sing-Play.

I get all my students to sing while they play. They notice immediately that if they Sing-Play, their level of digital accuracy immediately improves. So if it is a song they want to play they will learn the words of the song. They will be also able to play the rhythm of the words on their instruments. This gives them the experience of making music from a deep instinctual part of themselves, as they are free from the tyranny of music notation, right notes, right rhythm, correct pitch and all the other rules and regulations. Learning to play all your favorite songs on your instrument means that you always want to play it because you are making music.