The “I Shoulda, Coulda’s”

Exercise at our facility is truly one of my favorite groups. I’m actually flashing back to last week’s dining room recreation when in keeping with the decades theme
we had the 80’s day. Although we had a great time warming up to some classic female rockers (“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Love is a Battlefield”) and playing an exercise adapted version of WIN, LOSE, or DRAW by the lovely CTRS Taylor Alexander, I want to talk about a plan that could have gone better.

For the instrument play portion of the group, I planned to create the song “I Love Rock and Roll” By Joan Jett with paddle drums, tambourines, and bells. I started by demonstrating the song using a synthesizer in GarageBand and teaching them the melody/words. I split them into three groups according to instrument. The first group played the paddle drum on the “1-and” and “3-and” accompanied by a chant (Boom, Boom STOP!) to help them retain the beat. This group was made up of people with usage of both hands. The second group played the tambourine in an “around the clock fashion” (play over head, play at 3 o’clock, 6 and 9) on beat “2” and “4” and could be played by those with mobility in only one hand. The clock style of playing is intended to address range of motion. The third group comprised residents with a little higher cognitive ability and were given the task of accompanying our song on the bells. Each of the three members held bells representing each of the three chords of the song. We pitched the song in C to better fit elder vocal ranges (and to fit the bells we own!) giving Pt. 1 a C and G, Pt. 2 F and C, and Pt. 3 a G (only had use of one hand).
Like any good little music therapist would, I chained the elements of the song group by group, eventually adding the lyrics and melody back overtop.

Overall, a fairly successful intervention.


Hindsight I found a way to have made the entire process much easier on myself.

Have you ever been in a group and felt like there were not enough you’s to go around? Or you needed about 10 more sets of hands? That was definitely the case during this group. Fortunately, I had Taylor to direct the tambourine group and the BOOM BOOM group was pretty self-sufficient. That left me to lead the singing and direct the handbell chords. BUT…the whole time, because this was not a familiar song that they could use music memory to play by ear I kept wishing that I could be playing the synthesizer along with the bells to give a more grounded foundation for the rhythm and chordal changes. With the size of the room and set up–not to mention the extreme multitasking–this would have been quite difficult.


I’ve only had this iPad for a few months and had done little experimenting with GarageBand prior to this group. Literally the day after this group, I discovered looping tracks. I had used the live loops to create beats on the spot, but only later realized that the instrument tracks could be looped as well. After the fact, I recorded the chord progression on a true-to-the-80’s synthesizer and looped it. I also slowed the tempo significantly for teaching purposes knowing that if success was achieved at a slower rate, it could be sped up.

So moral of the story, get to know your resources, write down and make improvements to those “I shoulda, coulda’s” because you may have the opportunity to try again, and let the loops help you!



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