In April and May, I participated in a five week songwriting challenge organized by Rachel Rambach over at www.listenlearnmusic.com. While I write songs almost weekly for my clinical work, it was fun to participate in a community of songwriters. Songwriting is definitely something that gets easier with practice and with a little mentoring from experienced songwriters.My friend, Nicole Martens, has been a tremendous influence in this area. In fact, after her help with improving some of my compositions, we created a five hour continuing education class on the topic of songwriting. The big takeaways from that learning experience: accurate word emphasis (being sure the accented syllable of a word falls on a strong beat in the music), symmetrical phrase structure, and appropriate vocal range for young voices. Attention to these details results in songs that are much more effective for helping kids learn.
The first task was to write a greeting song. Music therapists often use a greeting song at the start of each session to create familiarity and structure. I wrote a short greeting song for an adult client of mine. He has become very skilled at singing “Hi Kathy” in response a greeting song I wrote several years ago. The goal of this song is for him to greet me first. Eventually, I will be able to cue him by singing just the melody of the opening which accompanies the lyrics of “It’s time to say…”
Task number two was to write a piggyback song, which essentially means putting new words to a familiar melody. During this weekly challenge, I came down with a spring cold and completely lost my voice. I have been hoarse many times in my life, but this was an absolute ZERO voice for 4 days and it was kinda scary. It wasn’t really due to the cold, but lack of self care and overusing a compromised voice box.
So, I ended up notating this one in Print Music and posting the printed music. It’s to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Lyrics are included below. If you’re interested in the notated version, you can get the one page pdf here.
I’ve been working on this song, for what seems like too long.
Rhyming and playing with the timing, but you can’t go wrong
When you use music, to help kids learn.
I love to use music, to help kids learn.
I love music therapy, I love music therapy
Except for when I lose my voice, then it’s kinda scary!
I need to get better with self care, listen to my body and don’t push so hard.
Then I won’t lose my voice, I will make a better choice.
Please come back real soon, I feel like such a goon.
Please come back so I can work. Being able to sing is such a perk!
The next challenge was to choose an instrument and at least one goal that could be targeted with the instrument. I chose the agogo bells.
This specific song could be used to work on following directions, identifying small and large, or for turn taking. In group sessions with young children, I often include an instrument song that requires passing an instrument around the circle structured with a brief, fun song that keeps the other kids moving and grooving while they are waiting their turn.
Song for a Client-Specific Goal
The fourth task was to write a song for a client-specific goal or objective, keeping in mind the client’s preferred style of music. I used a math song for this one with a goal of changing an improper fraction into a mixed number. You can read more about that here. This particular client is very motivated by songs that end with a variation of “Shave and a haircut…two bits!”
A Song for Me
This was definitely the most challenging song of all. I don’t think I’ve ever written a song just for me. I’ve put a few Bible passages to a memorable melody, but coming up with lyrics is not my strength.
While cooking supper one night, I asked my ten year old daughter—who is becoming quite a gifted writer—to write me a poem with four verses, four lines each. Meanwhile, I kept cooking and started coming up with some opening lines of “I love to read, I love to read, I love to read, but what I need.” That’s as far as I got, but was going to go on about needing more time to get through all of my book piles. Ten minutes later, Anna comes downstairs with four complete verses! On the SAME TOPIC!
That got my creative juices flowing and “Reading, Reading Everywhere” was born. The lyrics are about 50% mine and 50% my daughter’s. I’m really quite pleased with the result.
Reading is something that’s good for your brain.
You can read in your bed, you can read on a plane.
You read a lot in school, it’s really kinda cool.
But if it’s a library book, don’t read in the pool.
Are you short on cash? Do you want to buy a book?
You can go to the library and just take a look.
Or, you can get your own library card.
Talk to the librarian, it won’t be hard.
Then you can check out a book.
Maybe a book that will help you learn to cook.
Or, it could be, a book about ancient Rome.
Either way, you get to bring it home!
Reading is awesome, fun for you and me.
As long as you return it on time, it’s free!
Support the library ev’ry chance you get.
But, please remember, don’t get the book wet.