A Music Therapist’s Go-To Guide for Instruments and Resources

by Miranda Rex, MA, MT-BC

As music therapists, we need a lot of instruments. But one question that comes up for new professionals or seasoned therapists when making job transitions is: what are your go-to’s?

Whether we work as traveling music therapists, in schools, in mental health, in hospice, or in other settings, we need a plethora of instruments and resources at our disposal, so what do some therapists say are the essentials for their population?

Miranda Rex, MA, MT-BC (that’s me!)

Music therapist, Heart and Harmony Music Therapy

  • Cabasa
  • Resonator bells
  • Ribbon wands
  • Guitar alternative*
  • Variety of small percussion**

Katie Bourland, MA, MT-BC

Music therapist, Cook Children’s Hospital

  • Garage Band
  • Ukulele
  • Lollipop Drum
  • Shakers***
  • Piano

Marianela DeVries, MA, MT-BC

Music therapist, Heartland Home Health & Hospice

  • HAPI Drum
  • Piano
  • Variety of small percussion**
  • Themes for all seasons/holidays
  • Guitar

Cassady Rosenbrock, MT-BC

Music therapist, Central State Hospital of Virginia

  • Tubano 
  • Djembe
  • Shakers of all kinds
  • Ocean drum
  • Resources for incorporating other techniques into your sessions (within our scope, of course)****

Jonathan Wilcoxen, MS, MT-BC

Music therapist, Austin State Hospital

  • Tubano and/or djembe
  • Xylophone
  • Baritone ukulele
  • Cabasa
  • Frog rasp

Ashley Bray, MT-BC

Music therapist, Harris County Department of Education

  • Sturdy, portable guitar case
  • Wrist jingle bells
  • Multicolored shakers and bells
  • Scarves
  • Yes/no indicators for communication

Gabrielle Jagen, MA, MT-BC

Music therapist, independent contractor

  • Regular drums
  • Paddle drums
  • Hand drums
  • GarageBand
  • Rap resources

Other Recommendations

Other recommendations for all populations include:

  • Laminator
  • Music streaming service (Spotify, Apple Music, etc.)
  • Bluetooth speaker
  • Art supplies
  • Tablet (iPad, Galaxy Tab, Amazon Fire, Surface Pro, etc.). 

As you can see, there are several commonalities between each of these populations and there are some that are unique as well.

Of course, these are just the thoughts of a small group of therapists of varying experience levels; everyone’s “must-haves” for their population will be different. But if you work in one of these populations and see something you haven’t heard of or thought about using before, why not do some research and give it a try?

In my experience, I’ve found that something as simple as trying one new instrument can really change a client’s response to interventions and help with feelings of burnout. 

You can find many of these instruments at major retailers like West Music, Amazon, or Guitar Center. Another great place to look for instruments is your local music store, pawnshops, and thrift stores. 

* guitar alternatives I like to use are ukulele and mandolin

** small percussion includes, but not limited to, maracas, shape drums, jingle bells, tambourines/foot tambourines, claves, quack sticks, guiros, and castanets 

*** most people have the standard egg shakers, but Katie has found that her clients enjoy fun-shaped shakers (e.g. avocados or other fruits/vegetables)

**** resources might include music and imagery exercises, mandalas, or other grounding exercises, as well as music and movement methods within the scope of music therapy practice

 

What are some of your “must-haves” for your populations? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Miranda Rex, MA, MT-BC

Music Therapist – Board Certified

miranda@heartandharmony.com