Monday, November 5, 2007

Shoptalk: Assessment of Music Skills and Responses

The process for music therapy assessments has not been standardized, although it includes certain basic elements. One of the basic elements in a music therapy assessment is to try and ascertain if a client has certain unprompted responses to musical elements. Some assessment procedures also include levels of response to music based on the number and type of verbal, visual and physical prompts. This information is helpful since many clients do not have many unprompted behaviors and so may qualify for music therapy services based on a difference in the number of prompts or self-initiated behaviors between music activities and non-music activities. I feel that it is important, however, to evaluate the power of music without prompts so that it can be argued very clearly that music stimuli alone is having an effect.

Music therapy in the public school setting, for example, requires that in order for a client to receive music therapy there must be a demonstrated effect of music to help the client achieve educational objectives. Over time, I have adapted from other assessment templates some groupings of music that I consider when evaluating a client for music therapy services. For each song or activity, I record my observations with a simple "yes" or "no" if the client exhibited responses without non-musical prompts.





Vocalizes by:



Alerts to sound


Attends to sound


Responds/differentiates to dynamics

Singing on Sounds/Syllables

Responds/differentiates to timbres


Follows one step lyric directions

Sings on Pitch

Follows two step lyric directions

Sings off pitch, but follows melodic

pitch contour.

Responses to Musical Structure

Sings 2(+) note melodic phrases

Takes turns in call and response


Indicates song preferences

Responds to pauses in songs


Uses rhyming words

Motivated to complete melody

Motivated to complete chord/rhythmic


Sings up/down a musical scale

Starts and stops to sound cues

Remembers lyrics with melody

Responds to 7th chords, suspensions to



Supplies sequential information

Maintains basic beat

Social Skills

Imitates 2 beat rhythm

Engages with adult during musical play

Responds to changes in tempo

Engages with peers during musical play

Moves body to rhythm

Maintains appropriate eye contact

Completes rhythmic sequence

Imitates gestures

Instrument Playing

Indicates instrument preference

Plays instruments appropriately

Plays instruments in rhythm with accompaniment

After each activity is scored, the data may be compiled for all the activities to give an idea of what music elements are most effective. The more unprompted responses, the greater likelihood that the client will respond to specially developed music activities. The unprompted responses also indicate that certain music stimuli are unique in aiding the function of the client. My template is still a work in progress, but I invite other therapists to comment about the idea.

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