We're Going on an Egg Hunt!

It’s the week before Easter and throughout the George Center,

Eggs have been shaking. Goodbye cold winter.

Easter egg hunts are very common this time of year. This week at the George Center, we put a musical twist to a old classic:  Musical Easter Egg Hunt. All of our clients are familiar with our egg shakers. This week, we addressed social skills by taking turns hiding the egg shakers around the room. Once all the eggs were hidden, the client and therapist would find the eggs that were hidden around the room. Sounds like a typical egg hunt right? But aren’t all music therapy sessions tailored to therapeutic goals?

Of course they are!

So how did we take this basic setup and fit it to each of our clients’ individual goals and objectives? For our clients who are taking lessons on the piano or guitar, cards with rhythm patterns were hidden with the egg. In order to put the egg the client found in the basket, the client had to play the rhythm on the card with the egg shaker. For our clients who are working on receptive communication skills, they had cards hidden with their eggs with fun directions for them to follow. Some of the directions included “Make a silly sound”, “Hop 5 times”, and “Clap your hands 4 times”. Our clients who are working on social skills got to work on turn taking and participating in a social activity.

The George Center wishes everyone a happy spring!

Spring time is a great time to start music therapy! Naturally, you probably have a lot of questions. Why not let one of our knowledgable music therapists answer some of those for you?


"In and Out and Under," A Song for Groundhog Day!

Tomorrow is Groundhog Day!  Everyone's favorite rodent-based holiday!  If you thought there's no way you can learn anything from Groundhog Day, think again.  Our newest music therapist, Tasia Dockery, has a great song for teaching prepositions!

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3 Steps to Writing Better Piggyback Songs

Many teachers use piggyback songs (songs that use an existing melody with new lyrics) as a way to teach math, science, or other concepts for their students.  Or perhaps they're using songs about school to provide structure to activities like morning circle time and dismissals, and for good reason.  Music and singing has been shown to strengthen learned concepts.  It's not unusual for teachers to scour the internet, searching for a piggyback song that fits the concept they're currently teaching.

However, sometimes those piggyback songs just don't exist, and you have to write it yourself.  What's the novice song writer to do?

Here are 3 steps to writing better piggyback songs!

1. Repetition is your friend, friend, friend, friend.

In an effort to keep things exciting, we often forget about our old pal repetition.  Human beings LOVE repetition.  We crave routine and structure.  In fact, next time your favorite songs comes up on your iPod, pay close attention to just how much it repeats small sections.  It probably has a guitar riff that is played 30 times during the song, a chorus that we hear four or five times, a repeating drum beat, etc.  Our brains eat up repetition and predictability.

So don't shy from it with your piggyback songs!  In fact, your piggyback songs should probably have more repetition than a normal song, as we're trying to drive a concept home.  You don't need to write 16 original verses.

2. Keep it Simple

Yes, a piggyback song about fractions sung to the melody of your favorite song by The Police would be hilarious and awesome, but how many 3rd graders know songs by The Police?  Not many.  Don't forget the old nursery rhymes.  Are they goofy?  Yes.  Cheesy?  You bet.  But it's a simple melody everyone knows, and it'll get the job done.  The idea is not to write a song your students will listen to everyday on their iPod at home, but to write a simple tune that they can sing to themselves at test time to remember that confusing formula.

3. Don't Over Think It

In a perfect world, you could have a rhyme for quadratic formula, but it just might not be meant to be.  Take advantage of online rhyming dictionaries to help get you through tight spots, but don't fret if your song doesn't rhyme perfectly.  In fact, it's more important that the songs meter fits the original melody than for everything to rhyme perfectly.  What's meter, you say?  Meter is the rhythm of the melody.  For example:

"Twink-le, Twink-le, Litt-le, Star"

Now try to fit the sentence "The pythagorean theorem is great for using with triangles" into that melody.  Doesn't work.  I don't care how good you are at rhyming "triangle," it just doesn't flow.  Keep the meter as close to true form as possible, and you'll have success.

That's it!  You're on your way to writing some killer piggyback songs!  Be prepared for lots of humming when you administer your next quiz.

The George Center offers consulting services to educators and school administrators on using music in the classroom.  In fact, we'd love to come out and give your staff a free inservice!  Contact us today to get started!


3 Reasons to Use Piggyback Songs

I'm a big fan of the saying "Work smarter, not harder."  A lot of people have negative connotations with that saying, and I'm not sure why.  In my eyes, nothing about it says you shouldn't work hard.  On the contrary!  Hard, efficient work is far better than hard, wasteful work!

But I digress.  This Friday, we're talking about piggyback songs!  What's a piggyback song?  It's when you re-write the words to familiar songs in order to serve a new purpose.  Ever notice that "The Alphabet Song" and "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" have the same tune?  Did I just blow your mind?

Piggyback songs are fantastic, and I'm about to give you three big reasons why.

1. Familiarity

No matter your audience, using a song with a familiar tune helps everyone learn the important part of the song: your lyrics!  Piggyback songs can be used to convey information such as instructions for transitions or teaching important academic concepts.  When your audience already has the melody in their head, they can focus in on the information being conveyed.

2. Repetition

During my graduate studies at Florida State, I taught a song-writing course at the College of Music.  One of the early lessons I taught my students was to embrace repetition.  Humans LOVE repetition.  We thrive on routine, we crave patterns and order, and the same is true in music.  There's a reason pop music and 3-chord rock songs are so popular, because they've mastered the art of repetition!  Who doesn't love a good, predictable pattern that our brains can lock into.

Piggyback songs play into this as well.  Frequently, these songs are built off of simple tunes ("Twinkle, Twinkle," "Farmer in the Dell," "Frère Jacques") which feature lots of repetition.  This, again, helps with memorization of lyrical content.

3. Ease of Creation

Time to bring it all back: Work smarter, not harder!  Don't reinvent the wheel!  Any other cliche sayings I can throw in here?

Piggyback tunes can be created by teachers, nurses, caretakers, anybody!  No need to have any musical training.  For those with musical training, piggyback songs save you time!  I know it's tempting to want to write a song that would make Raffi weep, but trust me, your audience/clients like the familiar tunes just as much (if not more...).