Today's instrument spotlight : the ukulele!
The ukulele is similar to a guitar in looks, but it is smaller and has only four strings. The ukulele also comes in a variety of sizes that each have their own distinct sound. There is the soprano, the concert, the tenor and the baritone ukulele. For the purpose of our music therapy sessions we primarily use the soprano ukulele, which is the smallest and most common.
The ukulele is a perfect option for music therapy sessions because of its:
In music therapy sessions portability of instruments is extremely important. Being able to get the instruments to and from the session not only benefits the music therapist but also the effectiveness of the session. The small size of the ukulele is perfect for the job.
The size of the ukulele is also beneficial for the clients using the instrument. It is easy to hold, taking up little space and being lightweight. For children in music therapy sessions the ukulele is easily manageable without being overwhelming, and for adults it is less intimidating than a full size guitar. The narrowness of the neck of the ukulele also represents the smallness of the instrument. The narrow neck allows for less effort in playing chords making the ukulele all the more easier to play.
The type of strings the ukulele uses also differentiates itself from the guitar. Nylon strings are used instead of the normal steel strings seen on a guitar. The steel strings are harder on the fingertips while the nylon strings are softer and easier to press into, creating an easier way of playing.
Because of the different notes that each ukulele string represents the chord shapes differ than those used on the guitar.
There are many chords on the ukulele that are easier to learn and play. For instance, the C-chord on the ukulele only takes using one finger, whereas on the guitar the C-chord uses three fingers stretched over a wider distance.
When first using the ukulele in sessions adapting familiar songs to the easier chords is a perfect way of engaging the client and setting them up for the most success.
The use of ukuleles in sessions work multiple domains. They can be used to improve attention because of the focus it takes to learn a new instrument. It also works cognitive components of the brain due to the memory skills it creates and maintains in learning new chords and songs. The physical aspect of the ukulele can improve both gross and fine motor abilities due to the use of both hands while playing.
Best of all, learning and using the ukulele creates a sense of pride and achievement. The skill can be developed throughout sessions and create a performer out of any client. The joy and fun that playing a ukulele can provide matches perfectly the goals of music therapy!
Check back soon for our next Instrument Spotlight!