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«SONGWRITING IN THERAPY BY JOHN A. DOWNES A Final Project submitted to the Campus Alberta Applied Psychology: Counselling Initiative In partial ...»

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Person requesting permission for use:………………………………………………… The undersigned agree that the person requesting permission may use the above named composition in the following manner: (choose appropriate options) ____ The song may be recorded on tape, CD, or video.

The song may be played in recorded format, performed, or photocopied (choose

one or more) for:

–  –  –

____ The multi-disciplinary team ____ Monetary gain ____ The use of the above named composition will maintain anonymity and confidentiality of the client / therapist (choose one or both).

–  –  –

There are numerous resources available on the Internet for beginner songwriters. Of course, most of this material is aimed at an audience that wishes to write songs for popular consumption; however, many of the same musical rules and tips can be applied to successful songwriting in therapy. As of August of 2006, these addresses are active and accessible, and they are presented here to illustrate the kinds of resources that are available. However, readers are encouraged to perform their own search for songwriting resources as the contents and addresses of web pages often change.

Sheet music from Canada’s past.

http://www.collectionscanada.ca/sheetmusic/ Learning the Blues. At: http://www.jazclass.aust.com/bl1.htm Fender Player’s Club – guitar lessons. At: http://www.fenderplayersclub.com/ Guitar Land – guitar lessons. At: http://www.guitarland.com/ Guitar Noise – guitar lessons. At: http://www.guitarnoise.com/easy.php Kid’s songs – lyrics and midi. At: http://www.kididdles.com/mouseum/index.html Midi file page of popular songs. At: http://www.kfs.org/~oliver/music/midi/ Midi file page of popular songs. At: http://users1.ee.net/lstone/midi.htm Easy Songwriting tips. At: http://www.easy-song-writing.com/default.asp Lyric writing tips. At: http://www.ultimatesongwriting.com/lyric-writing-tips.html Robin Frederick’s Notes on Songwriting. Great site with many useful links!

At: http://www.robinfrederick.com/write.html

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http://www.reach.net/~scherer/p/copyhelp.htm

Kelly’s Music and Computers. A great source for music technology. At:

http://kellysmusic.ca/Default.asp Writing Songs. Check out tips and tools. At: http://www.writingsongs.com/ Rhyming Dictionary Online. At: http://www.rhymezone.com/

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Songs always will be a natural container for the thoughts, feelings, emotions, personality characteristics, dreams and fantasies of people from all age ranges and, as such, provide a natural musical medium for the therapeutic process. (Wigram, 2005, p. 264) Learning Upon Completion In summarizing the process and content of this final project, I comment on the surprising and reassuring existence of creativity, the bounty of data that is produced by songwriting in therapy, ethical issues, and the three main approaches to songwriting that are explored in the guide. This is followed by an evaluation of the research and results of this final project.

Inexhaustible creativity. I have learned much about the boundlessness of creativity by writing this final project. I remember as a child thinking that by the time I was old enough to write my own songs, that all the songs would have been written; in a sense, all ideas would have been expressed, and all the notes used up. Thankfully that has not been the case, and writing this project reminds me once again that there are many ways to write a song and adapt techniques to suit clients’ and therapists’ needs and skills. Despite a book being published last year on the topic of songwriting in therapy (Baker & Wigram, 2005), neither they nor I exhausted the topic. It is likely impossible to write all the variations of creativity in relation to songwriting, as creativity is boundless, just as the combinations of notes in our western twelve-tone system is practically infinite. As Wigram states,

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sentence speaks of the permanency and variety inherent in music.

Riches for analysis. It is evident that songwriting in therapy can be the subject of analysis. Clients and therapists may reflect on the process of songwriting and assign meaning to how a song was created both in terms of the technique, the facilitative relationship, and the content of the song. Songwriting may thus provide insights on multiple levels, including: the participants’ relationship to each other, the participants’ relationship to the process, the participant’s relationship to self, and the participants’ relationship to the song. In debriefing songwriting in therapy, the participants have the opportunity to access rich data on these multiple levels, all of which can be analyzed through a process of meaning-making in the cognitive, affective, spiritual and relational domains of functioning.

Therapists can facilitate debriefing by encouraging clients to explore the meaning they have assigned to the process, the lyrical content, the music, and the cooperative creative relationship. Therapists may wish to reflect on the process of debriefing as well, since the conversation itself may affect the interpretation of the data. The phrasing of an exploratory question can affect the answer that is given. For example, “Was that difficult for you?”, “Tell me how that was difficult for you”, and “That was difficulty for you, wasn’t it?”, all have different implied meanings and may be interpreted differently.





Ethical issues. Striking a balance between fair and ethical treatment for therapists, clients, and authors of pre-composed music is central to avoiding

–  –  –

can avoid ethical dilemmas by taking precautions such as writing policies that outline terms, conditions, and limitations for the use of songwriting in therapy, preparing and using appropriate consent forms, and informing clients of these protective measures.

On a professional level, the ethical issues inherent to songwriting in therapy need to be brought to the attention of the CAMT so that guidelines can be created to govern and safeguard music therapist. Not only will this assure ethical behaviour in creating new songs with clients, but it will also assure the music industry that music therapists are using pre-composed music in an ethical manner. Given how generous and supportive the music industry has been to music therapy on a global scale, this seems like a proper and necessary course of action.

Songwriting basics. Within the limitations of the cultural context I chose to explore, three basic methods of approaching songwriting were evident: writing lyrics then adding music, composing music then adding lyrics, and writing both lyrics and music at the same time. Within these three basic approaches to songwriting there is a wealth of creative approaches that have not been exhausted. The uniqueness of creative individuals facilitates new approaches to songwriting because of the variety of worldviews and forms of inspiration that lead people to express themselves through song. Although the approach to songwriting may differ from one person to another, the results are similar in that the songs reflect the beliefs and feelings of the writers in the moment and in

–  –  –

dynamics and tempi. Songs are a direct reflection of the creativity and selfexpression of the people who write them. They are as unique a form of expression as is verbal communication with its words, inflection, timbre of voice, tempo, and dynamics.

Research Evaluation The evaluative process has also been a learning experience as it asks me to reflect on the research, writing, and creation of this final project. This final section of this project attempts to evaluate my efforts and the resulting product.

A stance of objectivity is impossible because each of us comes from some perspective or other, and the questions we ask, our theories, and our hypotheses arise from the assumptions embedded in our perspectives.

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Research and the researcher are inseparable (Guba & Lincoln, 1989), much as music and the composer or listener is. Another researcher could use the same reference materials as inspiration for writing a guide for songwriting in therapy, and come up with a completely different document from that which I have written. This can occur because researchers inevitably include themselves in the research by filtering the information that they gather through their own histories, worldviews, perceptive abilities, and experiences (Mertens, 1998).

When I consider how I have included myself and my experiences into the writing of this project, it is quite evident that the stamp of my personal characteristics is on every page. For example, I constructed the instructions for each technique

–  –  –

experiences. This was necessary when instructions for use of the techniques were not given in the literature. However, the byproduct of using my resources to fill in the gaps resulted in only being able to present information constructed out of my own realm of possibilities that exist as part of my history and unique perspectives. Users of the guide for songwriting in therapy will bring their own perspectives to the material, thus accepting, rejecting, or adapting the techniques as appropriate for their own situations. Even in evaluating this research and project, I realize that my conclusions will differ from the reader’s. This actually provides a valuable triangulation process that regrettably cannot be included in this document, but will at least exist in the reader’s mind.

Abrams (2005) suggests evaluating qualitative research in music therapy by examining the material through the themes of reflexivity (Guba & Lincoln, 1989), contextualization (Bruscia, 1998), groundedness (Glaser & Strauss, cited in Abrams, 2005), durability (Lincoln & Guba, 1985), usefulness or relevance (Wheeler, 2005), comprehensibility (Cobb & Hagemaster, cited in Abrams, 2005), aesthetic depth (Bruscia, 1998), congruence (Bruscia, 1998), ethical integrity (Guba & Lincoln, 1989), and intersubjectivity (Elliot, Fischer, & Rennie, 1999).

This section of the conclusion evaluates the research project through these themes.

Reflexivity (Guba & Lincoln, 1989). Abrams (2005) writes that the “researcher’s role in qualitative research requires the researcher to self-inquire conscientiously and to disclose her or his relationships to the research” (p. 247).

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or writing the guide to songwriting in therapy, I must rely on my memory and ability to question myself and give honest answers. In this section, each new paragraph begins with a question, followed by the answer written in an autoethnographic style.

How does songwriting as therapy reflect my values? Why focus on songwriting? I have always valued singer/songwriters as performers and expressive people who sometimes seemed to find the right words and music to express things that I could not. Joni Mitchell seemed the epitome of this ideal for quite some time in my life. Since first hearing her music at age 5, I wished to be able to write like her, and as I matured, I found my own songwriting voice. I value this form of self-expression, as it is a socially acceptable way for me to express my thoughts and emotions while also boosting my self-esteem from its own inherent positive feedback loop, as well as through positive feedback from others. I also value being able to create and help others tap into their own creative genius; therefore songwriting in therapy reflects my value of the importance of finding one’s own voice, the value of creativity, and the value of spending my life helping others to do this. The focus on songwriting comes out of my values regarding it, but also the fact that until recently, songwriting in therapy has been largely unexplored and unexplained. I began research for this project in 2003, and it was not until 2006 that I found a fully comprehensive book on the topic of songwriting in therapy (Baker & Wigram, 2005).

–  –  –

think the values I have around this issue originate from wanting to have some guidelines and policies spelled out for me by the CAMT regarding the treatment of co-created songs in therapy. Realizing that none existed, I researched the topic and included it in the project so that other therapists would be aware of the ethical implications of songwriting in therapy, and also to begin a discussion amongst music therapists. My values of honesty, respect for client confidentiality, respect for the individual, and issues of fair treatment prompted me to explore the issues of copyright and ethics in this project. Finally, I wanted to contribute something to the field of music therapy for some time. The guide to songwriting techniques is part of that contribution, but so too is the role of opening the discussion of copyright and ethical issues in songwriting in therapy.

Why did I not perform interviews or use questionnaires as part of my information gathering process? Simply put, to do so required the approval of an ethics committee as well as construction of tools for inquiry. The timelines for this project were tight, and therefore I decided that the simplest means of completing the project was to restrict my research to that which was presented in the literature. Had I been more organized and begun working on my final project earlier, having the ability to get others’ input directly may have been very useful.

However, it also would have put this project in competition with the book written by Baker and Wigram (2005), and the scope of the project would have been much larger than it already is.

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