Using technology in music therapy

In celebration of our Bedroom 2 Dancefloor competition, which is offering aspiring DJ’s the chance to win the ultimate DJ experience, we’re looking at how technology can contribute to providing people with life-changing music therapy.

Increasingly, our music therapists are using electronic music and technology in their work, as it offers such a wide scope for different forms of music making. It can provide individuals with very limited movement the ability to create complex musical sounds, often with just a few finger taps.

In Charlotte’s case, technology has provided an opportunity to record a song about her personal journey to recovery.

Charlotte has been in hospital since December last year, recovering from meningitis encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Initially the condition affected the use of both of her arms and legs, her head control and her speech. It was challenging for her to find the right word to use in her head, and when the words did come out, they were often disjointed.

During her stay in hospital, she has been having music therapy with our music therapist Alan, who has worked with her to write a song “Change” about her experience. By re-discovering her love of music in her music therapy sessions, and processing her challenging recovery through writing her song, her mood was lifted and she started to see a light at the end of the darkness; words which eventually became a part of her song. The lyrics reflect her positivity as she sings:

“Keeping smiling, keeping going, getting Stronger day by day, looking forward, feeling hopeful, there’s a change coming my way.”

Using Garageband technology, Alan and Charlotte have created a mash-up of her song with “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics! Speaking of recording the song, Charlotte said:

“I liked the range of sounds on Garageband which I could experiment with and it was interesting how that brought different dimensions to the song we’d already created. This led on to experimenting using different songs such as Sweet Dreams, and it turned into a bit of a mash-up. I really liked using the strings sounds as I liked the drama of them and it was lovely to hear it become an orchestral version of my song. It reminded me of being in a recording studio and I felt like we were creating something really professional and long-lasting. I liked that feeling, which was so separate to my current normal life and it made me feel like I was in a different place and not in hospital. It was something new and lots of fun.”

Explaining how he uses technology in his sessions, music therapist Alan said:

“On the laptop I tend to use Garageband to record songs with patients. We record the keyboard on one track, and then, using headphones the beneficiary can sing live on top of the this. From here we can easily adjust volumes and add effects and mix it down to create a finished piece. It’s possible to record each new instrument in turn to create a layered piece which is very rewarding.

“Just yesterday, I used the guitar sound on the tablet with a gentleman who is recovering from a stroke. He is no longer able to use his left hand – and as a guitar player, this is devastating for him. Whilst clearly not the same, he said he had really enjoyed playing the interactive guitar on the iPad and being able to recreate familiar chords with his stronger hand whilst singing over the top. For people with limited movements, the tablet can be a wonderful source of musical interaction by their bedsides – as with just one touch it is possible to produce beautiful string sounds, with options for ‘autoplay’ which continues to play the music and chosen chord until they have enough energy to change it.”

Find out more about our Bedroom 2 Dancefloor competition.