By Katlyn Hasbrouck, MusicWorx Intern
Who knew whacking colored tubes could bring so much joy? Boomwhackers® can address goals including fine/gross motor skills, physical movements, attention span, creativity, education, impulse control, and more. These tubes are fun and appropriate to incorporate with all ages and populations. Clients can play Boomwhackers sitting down in a chair or on the floor, or standing up or walking around. Personally, I appreciate Boomwhackers for their lightness, flexibility, durability, adaptability, and easy-to-clean surfaces.
The following are 5 music therapy interventions I compiled which make use of Boomwhackers with a variety of different populations and diagnoses.
#1 Physical Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs
Boomwhackers are great props to hold when doing physical warm-ups and cool-downs to help with movement goals. I recommend using recorded music to allow for freedom of movement, which is especially helpful in modeling styles to group members. These movements may include tapping body parts with the tubes, twisting the tubes 180 degrees either direction, drawing shapes or letters in the air, and waving them around. Other movements that promote social interaction include hitting other participants’ Boomwhackers nearby, passing the tubes back and forth between individuals, and pointing to a group member. Using boomwhackers as a prop is a great way to get participants moving and socially interacting with each other while setting them up for a successful experience.
Song choice will vary depending on the population and the goal that is being addressed. Here are some possible songs and recordings that I have enjoyed using:
#2 Identifying Colors
This intervention is geared toward individuals who are learning how to identify primary colors. One way to effectively teach colors includes handing out the Boomwhackers and singing a song like “Color Song” by Patty Shukla, which calls out selected colors to stand up and dance during the chorus. Another idea is to sing “I See Something Blue” by Super Simple Songs and encourage clients to match the Boomwhacker color to objects in the room. This matching game gives clients a solid-color object to use as a reference to aid in finding similar colors. YouTube is a great resource to locate hundreds of color songs to use for these interventions.
#3 Composing Songs
Another way to incorporate Boomwhackers includes adding them into writing or composing songs. One method that works well for children and adults who have a solid foundation with color identification is writing the starting letter of the color on the board (example, R for red// Pi for pink, and Pu for purple) in a 4 by 4 box. Another way is to draw an ‘X’ or a filled-in circle on the board in the specific color.
Using these visual aids, the therapist will then either hit a drum, clap, or use a metronome to keep a steady beat as they say or point to the colors indicated. Once mastered, the therapist can 1) ask the client(s) if there are any specific colors they would switch out within the pattern, or 2) start from scratch and encourage the client(s) to come up with a new pattern.
For adolescents and adults, I suggest handing out specific Boomwhackers that fit the key/scale of the improvisation intervention. My go to is the C-Pentatonic scale (C, D, E, G, A). The therapist can create musical structure either on guitar or piano, as the group plays on the Boomwhackers and any other assorted instruments provided. By matching the tones of the Boomwhackers to the key of the song, group members will be set up for a successful musical experience with minimal opportunity for “mistakes”!
#4 Following Songs and Bass Notes
An easy way to use Boomwhackers is by using these instruments to play a simple melody. The difficulty of the song paired with the number of group members present determines how many Boomwhackers go to each participant. Simplistic melody lines may only need a few participants, while more complex melody lines may require each individual to play 2-4 Boomwhackers. In smaller groups, clients can play the bass note of each chord instead of the full chord. You can find some songs that are already noted in video format on Play Alongs for Boomwhackers and Classroom Instruments, and a quick Google search or look through a resource book can help you find a few songs notated on the staff. If you have specific songs you would like to use in a session, there is a strong possibility you will need to create your own natations. Options for notation softwares include Finale, Flat, and MuseScore.
#5 Attention Challenge
This intervention is one of my favorites. I created this with a client I had during my time in college to help increase attention. The goal of the game is to play an indicated Boomwhacker before anyone else; this works best with 3 or more people. Set up includes writing all of the beginning letters of the colored tubes on a whiteboard or poster board, and laying out as many Boomwhackers as are available on the ground. One participant will be deemed the “pointer” while the rest of the group follows the pointer’s instructions. The pointer prompts the group members to play the Boomwhackers that correlate with the notes on the board. One way to challenge the participants is to point at two colors instead of one, encouraging group members to play two Boomwhackers at the same time! The pointer gets to choose the speed, difficulty, and length of the round. I love this intervention because it still addresses attention goals while disguised as a challenge game.
I hope that some of these interventions spark ideas of how you can incorporate Boomwhackers into your music therapy sessions. As a music therapist, I would highly suggest getting an octave of Boomwhackers and octavator caps (these drop the tubes one octave when placed). Here are some places where Boomwhackers are sold: