Music for a While BLOG
BSO Associate – Neil Valentine
Entry 7, 29/10/15
One of my favourite activities to do as part of Music for a While is called Passing Instruments. This is essentially selecting instruments and passing them around a circle of participants giving each person an opportunity to play them.
Key to this is space and time. It takes time to explore something new until you are satisfied with it, and this activity needs time for each person and space so that they can be free to explore. Each person has their own protected time to explore the instruments, and for music this means that it is just one person trying something out at a time.
This is very important. Music is sound, and sound travels. If it were art then each person could try out their red pen at the same time. If everyone tried out an instrument at the same time, they would not experience their own sound the way you would if you all had a red pen and you all tried colouring at the same time.
To experiment fully you need to space and focus to do this, and we provide this. Each person is focused on, listened too, appreciated, encouraged and congratulated as they explore the instrument, however they choose to do this. There are no right or wrong answers in this, and sometimes the instruments are tasted rather than played, or used in a new and creative way (intentionally or not). This is fine, although we do encourage and lean them towards a more efficient technique.
I always begin with a small purple shaker. I like the colour, its vibrant and fun. Its light and easy to handle, and most importantly it makes a very good quality sound that is loud and clear for the effort needed. You can move it the smallest of amounts and it will produce a loud and exciting sound. Perfect for this work when some of the patients really struggle with fine motor skills.
I choose a two-tone wood block next. This is another instrument that is exciting to look at, it can be played multiple ways and is very loud for the energy needed. It is also light and can be played easily or with assistance.
I may say ‘I have this shaker, here, listen to this’ and then ‘David (insert name) would you like a go? here, try it, it’s great fun’. David may have a go, we appreciate, encourage, but not too loud, and then it is passed on and around.
Occasionally someone will not want to give it a go, which is fine. This leads to another use of this exercise. I will say ‘that is fine, no problem at all! Can you take the shaker from Doris and pass it on to David? That’s really helpful, thank you’.
This will encourage them to just take the instrument and pass it on. They have already held it then, had an instrument in their hand, which is one less barrier to getting them involved again the next time round.
This also promotes social bonding between the group, as they have to engage with each other to make sure the instrument is passed around the whole group.
A very fun, ice-breaking and musically useful opening activity.