Incorporating Your Primary Instrument Into Music Therapy: A Violinist’s Perspective

        Robert Schumann once said “To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts—such is the duty of the artist.” While this concept can be applied to any musician playing any instrument, I have felt it particularly relevant throughout my journey with the violin. It is by nature one of the most expressive instruments with the capacity to portray almost any emotion. It has a unique timbre that is both vulnerable and brilliant at the same time. It’s sound is approachable yet its mechanisms are complex in that they require perfect synchrony and execution. The various ways in which it can be played give virtually limitless options as to how this instrument can be used in music therapy interventions. Not only are the sounds unique, but they give the client something new to experience. Often times clients are only exposed to the main therapeutic instruments (i.e. voice, piano, and guitar) which could become repetitious. Bringing in a different instrument gives the client an opportunity to form a new relationship with the music. Whether it is alerting, drawing attention, or accentuating different motor movements the client will most likely not respond to the intervention the same when executed from a different instrument. There is also a large repertoire of music for violin that can relate to a variety of cultures. From classical to modern or from Irish jig to Italian opera, there is music out there for any population. Another benefit to the violin is the level of mobility the instrument provides. The therapist is able to make eye contact and move around the room if their music is memorized or if they are improvising. This allows for more intimate interactions with individuals in a group as well as individual settings. While singing and playing is a possible and challenging skill to acquire, it is not necessary in order for the instrument to sound complete. The melody can be played by itself or with a background beat and be equally as effective as any other therapeutic instrument. The following infographic illustrates some tips, tricks, and precautions when using the violin (or another primary instrument) in a therapeutic setting.

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