Patriotic Songs to celebrate for this 4th of July:

I was a little late getting this posted for the upcoming holiday, but there is still time for anyone looking to expand their patriotic repertoire! I’ve put together a list of patriotic songs as well as service songs and songs that became popular around World War II. My older adults love singing these songs and these songs can help facilitate memory recall and song discussions during my music therapy groups. One song in particular, “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” may trigger a lot of memories for group members due to the song describing a young man going off to war and asking his sweetheart to remain faithful until his return.

I also love incorporating movement and various percussion instruments into patriotic sing-a-longs since these songs typically have a strong beat which is easy for everyone to follow. In some songs, such as “You’re A Grand Old Flag,” scarves can also be utilized to help target movement among group members and following directions.

During the sing-a-long I may also first play an instrumental recording of the songs we are about to sing, to see if anyone can identify the song and “name that tune.” Then after a group member identifies the tune, we can all sing the song together as a group with song packets. This is another great way for group members to work on memory recall and cognition.

Here’s a list of patriotic songs for this 4th of July:

Patriotic Songs

  1. “My country Tis of Thee”
  2. “America the Beautiful”
  3. “God Bless America”
  4. “Star Spangled Banner”

    silhouette of people beside usa flag
    Photo by Brett Sayles on
  5. “Yankee Doodle”
  6. “Yankee Doodle Boy”
  7. “You’re A Grand Old Flag”
  8. “The Cassion Song”
  9. “The US Coast Guard Song”
  10. “Battle Hymn of the Republic”
  11. “Stars and Stripes Forever”
  12. “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”
  13. “God Bless the USA”



What are some patriotic songs you’ll be singing with your clients and/or family this 4th of July?



Exercising The Body and Mind Through Drumming

In music therapy groups as well as individual music therapy sessions, I find that drumming is a great way to work on several goals/skills simultaneously.  We are all rhythmic beings, and we all have an internal rhythm. Without realizing it we unconsciously tap our feet along to our favorite songs, we walk in rhythm and we even talk in rhythm.  Rhythmic activities are great ways to help target motor functioning, speech and language, as well as cognition.

Drumming is a fun and great way to help improve general motor functioning.  When striking a drum with drum sticks or hands, an individual is exercising their range of motion. Drums can also be positioned in a functional way to target specific functional movements such as crossing midline or working on reaching with a non-dominant arm. Keeping up with a steady beat can even help improve physical endurance and strength. One major difference of drumming vs. traditional exercise is that you are getting that immediate auditory feedback whenever the drum is being played, which in turn, can help motivate you to keep going.

The very elements of speech are even rhythmic. Syllables in words and sentences become rhythmic patterns and structures.  Music itself is just like speech except words are elongated and pitches fluctuate more frequently. For someone who stuffers with aphasia or has general difficulty with expressive communication, drumming and rhythm can be used to help improve initiation of speech, articulation, and intelligibility. Rhythm and music are all very predictable, structural, and planned, which allows the individual to anticipate the rhythm and synchronize it with their speech.


Drumming and rhythmic exercises are also great for cognition and executive functioning skills. During a call and response activity, an individual would have to listen and be able to repeat a specific rhythm or rhythmic sequence, which targets attention skills and memory recall.

I think the best thing about drumming is that there are no wrong notes!  Drums are approachable versus instruments that have notes or strings.  Drums are easy to learn for people who may never played an instrument before and there are so many different types of drums you can use!  You can use frame drums, djembes, tubanos, or cajons, etc..  Having many different types of drums offers several options and different options allows individuals to find a drum that they are comfortable with.  For anyone that may have physical limitations, I also always want to be able to modify or adapt the equipment I am using to make it a successful  experience for that individual.

I have recently been implementing a new group with my older adults using exercise balls. It sounds kind of silly to drum on exercise balls, but it creates a fun, relaxing, and approachable music therapy group for everyone no matter their musical experience. I use exercise balls as drums and place them on top of square laundry baskets to help stabilize them and keep the balls from moving while group members hit the exercise balls with drum sticks. In this group we are all in a circle and group members must watch me and follow my rhythmic patterns and sequences while we drum to live or recorded music. This group is both a mind and body workout. My older adults really seem to enjoy it!



Anything can be turned into a drum! Drumming and rhythmic activities are great ways to keep us exercising our body and minds no matter our age or abilities!



Invoking Holiday Memories with Music: St. Patrick’s Day


St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner which has me thinking about Irish songs.  In some of my music therapy sessions, I like to use my own songbooks. I try to create songbooks that have a specific theme or specific genre of music, such as “Patriotic Songs,” “Love Songs, “Spring Time Songs, or even “St. Patrick’s Day Songs.”  It makes it easier for my older adults to be able to follow along during sing-a-longs and it also helps with awareness, such as orienting them to the season, month, or holiday. For someone who may have dementia, they may forget that it is March, and that we are getting ready to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. So having a music therapy session based on a theme like a “St. Patrick’s Day Sing-a-long,” is a great way to reinforce times of the year and help orient them to the “here and now.”

Another great reason for having a song book for your group members is because this will then be a visual of what you will be singing in group. Visuals are always helpful for encouraging people to participate as well as help everyone feel connected in the group. Visuals and song lyrics are especially helpful if someone is hard of hearing within the group.

During music therapy sessions, I also really enjoy song discussions after the group sings a familiar tune together. Typically, I will try to encourage group members to reflect on the song and share personal stories or memories associated with that song. This may prompt another group member to share something, which will then increase social interaction among the group members.

I’ve been prepping for some Irish themed music therapy sessions and was able to compile a list of tunes. I’m looking forward to hearing my older adult’s memories/stories of these old Irish tunes!

Here’s a list of Irish songs I’ll be singing with my older adults this St. Patrick’s Day:

  1. “Danny Boy”
  2. “Harrigan”
  3. “I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen”
  4. “The Minstrel Boy”
  5. “My Bonnie”
  6. “Peg O’ My Heart”
  7. “Wild Irish Rose”
  8. “Molly Malone”
  9. “Rose of Tralee”
  10. “Sweet Rosie O’Grady”
  11. “Irish Lullaby”
  12. “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”
  13. “I’m looking over a four-leaf clover”
  14. “Galway Bay”


What are some of your favorite Irish tunes to sing?


Music Therapy Games: Musical Jeopardy for Older Adults

I find that when working with older adults, they love to play games.  Bingo of course is always a hit among residents and so are board games and card games.  In my music therapy sessions, I always try to keep things interesting and fun for the residents that I work with, so I came up with the idea of Musical Jeopardy. The great thing about using musical games in music therapy sessions, is that residents or clients don’t realize they are in a therapy session working on specific goals. They just think they are having a great time and it doesn’t feel like work!

For Musical Jeopardy, I designed a power point template. The template makes it very easy to be able to change the answers/questions for each game I play. Some of the categories I use are, “Name the Artist,” “Name that Tune,” “Patriotic Songs,” “Name that Movie,” and “Name the Instrument.” I also like to switch things up and use recorded music as well as live music. I display the power point slide show on a large projector screen so everyone can clearly see it. Here is an example of the template I created:

musical jeopardy

For “Name that Movie” I may play the recording of a song and then residents have to guess the Movie. For the category of “Finish the Lyric” I always sing the beginning of a popular lyrical phrase while using guitar or piano and the residents/team has to sing it back. In the category of “Name the Artist” I’ll play a particular song such as “Hound Dog,” and then the residents have to guess the artist, which would be Elvis Presley.  I also find that “Patriotic Songs” is a great category because most older adults know many patriotic songs and some may also be veterans. For one answer I may play a recording of a song such as “Stars and Stripes Forever” and for another I may sing the song live like “God Bless America.”

Musical Jeopardy is played just like the game show Jeopardy on TV. I put everyone into teams and each team takes a turn choosing a category. The residents then have to work together to come up with an answer and this is a great way to work on

MT Blog Picssocial skills and communication skills among residents. I always try to make the game challenging for working on memory recall and cognitive skills, but it is also very important to make sure the game is a successful experience for everyone. As a music  therapist, it is always important to be able to assess each individual’s strengths and weaknesses so that you can modify and adapt the session as needed.

I also always have some sort of prize for every participant, such as candy or dollar store items. In my music therapy groups, everyone wins.

Have you ever used musical games for older adults? What are some music therapy games you like to do in your sessions?!



Top 20 Love Songs for Older Adults

It’s that time of the year, Valentine’s Day! My older adults enjoy listening to love songs, musicals, country songs, and various songs of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, but this week they have all been in the mood for love!  I thought it would be interesting to take a survey of their all-time favorite love songs.

I was able to compile a list of the Top 20 Love Songs for Older Adults. Many of these songs I sing on a regular basis in my music therapy sessions since everyone tends to know them and can associate particular memories or feelings with them.  Love songs tend to tap into forgotten memories and bring out a lot of emotions which can be processed and reflected on during music therapy sessions.FullSizeRender - Copy

Here’s the Top 20 Love Songs for Older Adults:

  1. “I’m in the Mood for Love” by Frank Sinatra
  2. “L.O.V.E.” by Nat King Cole
  3. “Love Letter in the Sand” by Pat Boone
  4. “A You’re Adorable” (The Alphabet Song)
  5. “Cant Help Falling in Love With You” by Elvis Presley
  6. “I love you a bushel and a peck” by Doris Day
  7. “Let me Call You Sweetheart”
  8. “That’s Amore” by Dean Martin
  9. “Tip Toe Through the Tulips”
  10. “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” by Doris Day
  11. “Moonlight Bay”
  12. “Peg O’ My Heart”
  13. “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole
  14. “My Girl” by The Temptations
  15. “As Time Goes By” by Frank Sinatra
  16. “Dream A Little Dream of Me” by Ella Fitgerald
  17. “Love me Tender” by Elvis Presley
  18. “Bicycle Built for Two”
  19. “In the Good Old Summertime”
  20. “You Are My Sunshine”

I hope this helps anyone looking for some new love songs or some fresh music therapy session ideas!

What are some of your favorite love songs for older adults?

Where words fail, music speaks…