Brain activity naturally synchronises to sensations of pulse and rhythm in the external environment. This is called ‘rhythmic entrainment’ and its promotion in simple music interactions has been shown to increase coordinated movement, reduce muscle spasms and provide distraction that helps disrupt pain pathways. It can also stimulate areas of the brain in a way that can give rise to more ordered thought and better motor planning.
What you need
- Just you and your music partner.
- Optional – This interaction can be embellished with simple percussion such as maracas, egg shakers or stick tambourines.
- A relaxed environment free of distraction if you wish, but this interaction is perfect for when you and your music partner are on the go.
Guidance and instructions
- If possible, position yourself in your music partner’s line of sight.
- Gently communicate your desire to interact.
- Initiate a steady 1, 2, 3, 4 rhythm by, for example clapping your hands, beating your chest or tapping your feet.
- You can add another rhythmic element with your body, for example by nodding your head, bobbing up and down or swaying your upper body left to right. You can do this in time with the clapping or on every other beat – try to keep your movement synchronised with the clapping.
- You can also sing or hum a simple tune in time with the beat, if you want to. This could be a song your music partner loves, a popular tune or an improvisation with words that relate to an upcoming activity. For example, at breakfast time, you could sing “A slice of toast, a cup of tea, a lovely breakfast soon for me. This is my favourite kind of breakfast, and it makes me feel happy’’ to the tune of ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’.
- Repeat the song but this time tap the rhythm on your music partner’s body. You will know the best place to do this and check at all times that what you are doing is welcomed.
- On the third time, free up your hands by tapping your foot. Remember to keep a steady 1, 2, 3, 4. Using hand-over-hand support and being mindful of any physical or sensory comfort zones, gently sway your music partner’s hand in time with the beat. You could also try tapping together on an immediate surface such as the arm of a chair.
- You can repeat this as many times as is wanted, creating new variations of interactive beat-keeping. Try supporting your music partner to keep the beat on your shoulder. If you need to decrease the sensory stimuli at any point, hum softly or stop singing.
- You could keep an egg shaker in your coat pocket or bag to use as an alternative to body sounds.
- After the interaction, thank the person for sharing the interaction with you, and share with them how much you enjoyed it yourself.
- This final tip is oft forgotten! Don’t forget to thank yourself (in your head) for giving so generously your time and intention to create an opportunity for a positive shared experience.
What to observe, assess and record
- Ongoing evaluation involves keeping note of your music partners responses and how they may change over time. This will help you to be equipped to select the most appropriate things to do during an interaction.
- A simple checklist can include prompts to note changes in the following: eye contact, language/vocalisations, level of participation, facial expressions (e.g. smiling in response to a shaker or screwing up face in response to a high note), breathing, control of movement, body position and posture.
- Keep a note of the following four key variables: content (what you did), structure (in what order you did it), time (how long you did it for) and place (where you did it).
© Matthew Richards, Engage & Immerse
Email: [email protected]