Songwriting Tips for the Clinic

I never thought I could ever produce as many original songs as I have in the past few months! As music therapists, we are constantly writing and re-writing songs to fit different interventions for different clients and hitting a song-writer’s block is the last thing you want to deal with when planning your sessions. Our team recently discussed some important factors in writing songs for the clinic, or with certain clients in mind. Sometimes a child or adult needs a song slowed down, directions broken into simpler steps, or a different verse or element that pertains to their goals directly. It’s important to have some tips and guidelines handy for when you hit that wall in your creativity! 

Songwriting tips for the clinic:

  • Decide why you’re writing the song – what is the purpose? Educational? Movement? Language production? Keep your purpose and the client’s goal in mind while you’re writing
  • In “key phrase” songwriting, the phrase should melodically reflect the spoken pattern of inflection

o   Example: The melody line for the phrase “Can I have a turn please?” should be an ascending line, since in general speech questions are usually end in an upwards voice inflection

o   Remember that rhythmic pacing is more important than the melody, as shown in recent MT studies, so remember to keep the rhythm going even if the music stops (with left hand tapping, etc)

  • For movement/action songs, be sure to include clear cues for when to do the movement

o   Count down to the action (“3-2-1 Jump!”)

  • Write your idea in the middle of a page. Put an arrow out from it & put down your initial reaction to it. Do 3 or 4 arrows and develop the idea in a different direction. Stretch your imagination & your idea.

o   Great one for clients who are higher functioning cognitively and can explore their creativity with you there to guide and prompt them

  • Write the melody without an instrument! It should be easy to remember and sing, and hold up without the lyric.

o   Especially important when working on any interventions involving mnemonics, but just a good rule in general…if you can’t remember your own melodies easily (without instrumental accompaniment) how will the client?


Good luck with your songwriting endeavors, and remember to let your natural skills and creativity as a musician play a role in the process 🙂 



PS. Just for fun, what do you think of Paste Magazines list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time?