Monday, January 10, 2011

Improv Lyric Analysis: A Twist on the Old Standard!

Several weeks ago I worked with a group of inpatient clients with psychiatric disorders.  They were male patients with a range of issues related to depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and other mood disorders. My group was under the category of "music expression" with the goal of facilitating improved communication, social and cognitive skills.  I have tried many different activities with this group and this activity just seemed to go really well.  I think the idea has many opportunities to be used in other settings, so I wanted to share.

Lyric analysis is the process of listening to a song and then having guided dialogging about the lyrics.  Songs have an amazing ability to break down barriers in group discussions and often lead to much better client insight than topical discussions without using music.  Under normal conditions, the therapist chooses a song that has meaningful lyrics and provides a recording or live rendition of the song for the group.  Usually the therapist also provides lyric sheets for all the participants to facilitate the discussion.  My idea for a lyric analysis group was to allow the clients to choose the song to analyze right on the spot!  This may sound a little risky but I did create some structure for the activity!

1.  Choose a set of recordings that include a wide variety of genres.
2.  Each participant will  need his/her own music playing device.
3.  The therapist will need a boombox or other free-field music player.
4.  Print out the Improv Lyric Analysis question sheet for each participant.*

The clients begin by listening to any songs of their choice.  You should give them at least ten minutes to browse through the song collections and find a song that they want to use.  Provide them with brief instructions to find a song that has words that they like.  After they find a song, give each person a few more minutes to listen closely to that song's lyrics and answer the questions on the Improv Lyric Analysis sheet to the best of their ability.

Present each participant's chosen song to the group by listening to the song and having the participant talk about the answers to the questions.  In my experiences there was much material for discussion and the ideas were easily transferred to clinical goals for each patient.  All of the people in my group seemed to enjoy the activity.  The ability for them to make choices and the chance to examine song lyrics they may have not noticed before were some of the preferred actions that the patients told me that they liked.

I think that this same activity would be great for junior high school and high school classes, either a functional academics level of special education or a behavioral intervention setting.  Giving clients choices, especially when it has to do with preferred music is usually a very effective component of a successful therapeutic group.

Here are the questions I handed out:

1. Why did you pick this song?
2. What words or lyrics did you like in this song?
3. How do you feel when you listen to this song?
4. What other songs do you like by this artist/band?
5. Who would you recommend listen to this song?
6. Now draw how you feel when you listen to this song...**

**Extension:  I added an art experience to my group by having them draw a picture that represented how they felt when listening to their chosen song.

Please let me know if you try this in a school setting!  I would like to hear how it goes.  You don't have to be a music therapist to do it.  I think teachers could find ways to use the activity to address writing and language skills.  Speech therapists might use the activity to improve communication skills specific to social and group settings.  Adapt and enjoy!

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