Repertoire Challenge 04: Songwriting

This fourth challenge concludes our first month of Repertoire Challenges. Today, or this week, or whenever you read this post, remember the many genres and populations you have memorized repertoire for. Think of the musical attributes, the lyrics, the clinical applications. For this final Challenge, have fun piggybacking a familiar song with new lyrics. Experiment with blues songwriting. Cut and paste quotes with song lyrics and compose a new poem to freestyle, improvise, or compose a song. Write an entirely original song. Facilitate a group chant, or go for an a cappela body music drum circle. The Challenge today is to consider the many different approaches to songwriting and the eclectic musical styles that can influence your product in order to plan out some new sessions that will be perfectly tailored to your unique clients.



Some students must be taught motivation, curiosity, or interest, that is, to establish their own goals. No thinking adult wastes time in idle pursuits that are difficult and meaningless. How can the teacher expect everyone automatically to want to learn, especially when it may represent work? The rewards of learning must be fully established (Madsen & Madsen, 1998, p. 24).

Madsen, C. K. & Madsen, C. H. (1998). Teaching/Discipline: A Positive Approach For Educational Development. (4th ed.) Raleigh, NC: Contemporary Publishing Company of Raleigh, Inc.


Repertoire Challenge 03: Memorization

The Rhythm & Reason Blog’s Repertoire Challenge continues every Sunday this April. While driving from session to session,  sitting down to practice guitar, or watering the garden, keep song lyrics in your mind! You’ve thought of different genres, listed songs from each, and now – how many of those songs can you perform from memory? Which genres do you need to work on? Are there any clinical populations that you would like to be musically better prepared for? Are there specific techniques that you’d feel more confident about if you were more familiar with song lyrics or themes? How many songs can you memorize this week? How many do you want memorized in three months? Challenge 03: How many do you have memorized right now? What do you need to do in order to reach your memorization goals?


Repertoire Challenge 01: Genres

Sundays are normally the Rhythm & Reason Blog’s day to evoke curiosity, to ask questions and reflect on our profession and the wondrous world around us. Throughout April, these Sundays are going to be serialized to find out how well you know your repertoire. First challenge: Can you name at least ten different music genres?


Definite Major Purpose

“There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.”

Kimberly Sena Moore began her excellent private practice e-book with this quote from Napoleon Hill, then before diving into great guidelines and insights on establishing and expanding a successful music therapy business, she first asks you to reflect on your highest priorities. She references Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich (1937) in asking you to illuminate your own Definite Major Purpose (DMP). It is “the one thing you want to accomplish in your life. It is your main mission in life. Think of it as a personal mission statement.” (More on mission statements here.)

“Defining your DMP will also bring you much needed clarity. You will find it easier to make decisions, to focus on the task at hand, and to have the drive to keep working at it until itʼs complete. You will inevitably feel frustrated, angry, stuck, and depressed during your private practice journey. But if you are clear with your DMP, you will have the drive and focus to keep going during the tough times.”

Whether we are entrepreneurs or not, let us take a few minutes to wonder… What is your DMP?


Thirteen Ways of Looking at Music Therapy

Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” was published in his premiere book of poetry, Harmonium. The founder of of Poetry magazine reflected on the collection: “If one seeks sheer beauty of sound, phrase, rhythm, packed with prismatically colored ideas by a mind at once wise and whimsical, one should open one’s eyes and ears, sharpen one’s wits, widen one’s sympathies to include rare and exquisite aspects of life, and then run for this volume of iridescent poems.”

The selected poem’s thirteen different sections give voice to thirteen different perspectives, somehow relating to the blackbird. Here are some of my favorites line:

“I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after” (V).

“I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know” (VIII).

Perhaps MT-BCs can help their clients articulate 13 different perspectives on something important in their lives, behaviors, futures, treatments, etc. “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” evokes the style of haiku, but does not conform to its narrow parameters. Writing poems and songs in therapy sessions may take this imitative but playful approach. Critical thinking skills help us to explore every possibility and more accurately examine an issue. (e.g. “What are 13 different ways I could have handled the situation?” “Which 13 people will help me stay sober?” “Which 13 events most positively shaped my life legacy?”)

Take the intervention further and let the client select 13 songs to match their 13 verses. The trained practitioner may carefully select 13 classical songs to guide mental imagery. Thirteen song lyric quotes might inspire original sentiments. Song lyrics will be analyzed.

As the music therapists, what poems will we write? Perhaps we can explore Thirteen Ways of Looking at Music Therapy. Let your curiosity and critical thinking elaborate on 13 clinical populations, 13 non-musical goals, 13 common misconceptions, 13 key research articles, 13 powerful MT techniques, 13 MT moments, 13 reasons we choose this profession, 13 professions we co-treat with, 13 songs every MT-BC can perform, 13 books that influenced your work, 13 approaches/orientations to MT practice, 13 examples of MT accurately portrayed in the media, or 13 things we will help the field accomplish by 2025!

And here it is, the beautiful “Blackbird” performed live by Paul McCartney in the 1970s. This song is great for lyric analysis, practicing fine motor skills, or music listening for relaxation.



In what ways is love a behavior? An attitude? Emotion? Idea? What are the different types and meanings of love? Let us briefly indulge our curiosity before enjoying another Valentine’s Day with significant others, dear family, good friends, fellow human beings, and even music for music’s sake, pets, and strong coffee!


Music, Empathy, Altruism

Does true altruism exist? Are we selfishly motivated to help others simply because the benefits of helping behaviors outweigh the costs? Or is altruism possible when we feel empathy? Can we modify empathy in order to increase altruism? Does emotional music influence empathy?


Music AS Therapy, or Music IN Therapy?

There are questions we are tired of debating, such as the endless query into nature vs. nurture, art or science, etc. These theoretical divides always seem to be resolved through compromise. At the superficial level, they’re exhausted. But with foundational knowledge and enough curiosity to explore deeper, they may forever challenge our assumptions, heighten our awareness, and lead to new insights. Treatment for maladaptive attributes, behaviors, feelings, abilities, etc. may vary depending on assumptions about their genetic or environmental etiology, and our ability to produce change. That is important. Valuing the training and skills required to practice the art of therapy, yet maintaining an objective, scientific approach, will make an efficacious, well-balanced clinician. That is important. Finally, we must learn when, why, and how to use music itself as a form of therapy, as well as when to apply music as part of a larger treatment approach. So continue to ask yourself, when, why, and how is music applied AS therapy? When, why, and how is music applied IN therapy? Can you explore rationales? Examples? Research? That is important.