Friday, January 11, 2008

Schoolhouse Rock: Teachers Make Music With the Suzuki Q-Chord!

Music therapists in the school setting usually spend one or two times per week working with a client who has disabilities. Many teachers continue to use music strategies with their students throughout the week when the music therapist is not there. The majority of teachers that I work with are very creative and dedicated professionals and do their best using audio recordings and a cappella singing to assist them in music activities in the classroom. These teachers often lament their singing ability and wish for the live guitar accompaniment I am able to provide for the music therapy sessions.

I have had much success in introducing teachers to using the Q-chord to help them enhance their classroom music activities. The teachers I have worked with agree that audio recordings are often too fast in tempo or do not allow enough time for children with special needs to make appropriate responses. The Q-chord changes this dynamic by allowing the teacher to set the tempo and even pause whenever necessary in order to facilitate responses from the children. Using the Q-chord also introduces live music into the environment and provides a music-making instrument for physical interaction.

Here are five highlights I tell my teachers about when introducing them to the Q-chord:

1. Making music with the Q-chord is as easy as pushing one button at a time! Most children's songs are very simple in musical structure and usually only have three to four chords per song. In my work as a therapist, I use song cards with pictures on the front and large print lyrics on the back. I have also placed the letter names of the chords over the appropriate lyric words for reference. The Q-chord has buttons labeled with the letters A, B, C, D, E, F, G which correspond to musical chords. The person playing the Q-chord simply has to push the letter button indicated on the back of the song card and the appropriate music is created. Teachers can immediately be successful without much practice. I have also had some students be able to press the letter buttons to accompany singing.

2. Choose your own tempo! I recommend the Q-chord because the tempo of the music can be slowed down with the simple turning of a dial. Teachers find this very useful as they are learning to play and the students are able to participate better at tempos that match their abilities. The Q-chord also has many different kinds of rhythm backgrounds that keep the music unique and interesting.

3. Strum away! The Q-chord strum-plate is one of its best features. The strum-plate requires only a small amount of touch in order to activate a sound. Small finger taps or large dragging motions work equally well to produce pleasing sounds. The Q-chord comes pre-programmed with a variety of sounds so that teachers and students can make their preferences known. Another nice feature is that one person can push the chord buttons while another person strums the strum-plate.

4. Plug and play! Song cartridges can be ordered separately that plug into the Q-chord. There are many different styles of music and songs that can be obtained and most cartridges have ten or more songs. The advantage to these cartridges is that the preloaded songs can still be slowed down or sped up in tempo and strumming sounds can be added to them. A teacher using a cartridge would not have to push any chord buttons and could focus on having children strum, sing or otherwise interact with the music at a pace that is appropriate.

5. Take it on the road! The Q-chord is very light and easy to to have in your lap. It can be used with batteries or an AC adapter, so power is not an issue. In many classrooms I go to, the students may be in wheelchairs or other special seating arrangements with tray-tables or other obstacles. I have often found that the Q-chord is more accessible than even my guitar or a keyboard as I am going up to these clients and trying to encourage their involvement in the music making.

A Q-chord really makes sense for teachers who want to increase the use of music as a strategy for learning, communication and social interaction!


  1. For those interested in this instrument, one may download and review the operation manual for this instrument at no charge at:

  2. Here is a video of a very talented little girl who is blind, autistic, and has spastic movement in her arms... with an incredible voice. Demonstrates the true power of music! :)

  3. Wow! Thanks for sharing! She has great musicality! I love the solo on the strumplate!


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