3 Tips For The Rhythmically Reluctant

Our clients pick up on our feelings – confidence, insecurity, joy, sadness. When you feel like the master of your craft, and you come into a session with total confidence, then you can truly focus on what matters: the well-being of your CLIENT.

If your music therapy clients are rhythmically reluctant, and you step in with uncertainty about your own rhythm, then the session is likely to turn into a train wreck.

Here are 3 tips that will help you overcome insecurity, step into the leader that you are, and serve as a vehicle for positive change within a session:

KatFulton-1931. “Strike the drum with your hand.” When I enter a session and say “Let’s make some music together!” . . . unless the group or individual is accustomed to making music with me already, usually there is resistance. However, when I give out a simple action step that describes a motion, the object, and the body part, then the rhythm maker just goes with the flow.

The specificity and simplicity do not allow for doubtful thinking such as “Make music? I can’t do that. I don’t have rhythm.” The brain just does what you tell it to, simply and quickly.

2. “Tap, tap, tap with me.” This phrase is a winner because it is rhythmic by nature. I say this phrase while I’m playing a simple beat.

I also move my body and walk to the beat while saying “tap tap tap tap.” That way the participant can visually and aurally perceive the rhythm and transfer to the drum.

3. “This mallet is my gift to you. Here you go.” or “We need your help – here’s a drum.” This phrase is handy for those music-makers who have been resistive in the past.

Instead of asking “Would you like to play?” you can simply frame the experience around the idea that this is what we’re doing now, and everybody is included. If offering the mallet as a gift is still met with resistance, then I let go, revisit the music-maker later on in the session, and offer the gift again. These phrases go well with eye contact, smiling, dancing, movement, and singing.

If you found these tips helpful, I know you will LOVE Dave Holland’s course – World Rhythm 101!


  1. Hallo Dave,
    I found your article insiring for all those musictherapists that I’ve met and are still wandering “How Do I Start?”. I am a Biologist and a Musician and I’ve recently combined these two sciences into Musictherapy for “specially gifted people” (That’s how I call them). I hope to read more interesting things from you, I am using your article for a fb group that we have created I hope you don’t mind.
    Yours Truly,
    S.Heider Kentrou
    PhD Cand. in Biology

    • Hi Sara, Welcome to our site! I see you’re from GREECE – I hope you can check out the World Federation of Music Therapy and join colleagues over there: http://www.wfmt.info/

      Warm wishes, and thanks for being part of our community – Kat

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