Percussion in Music Therapy blog

This is our fourth and final blog post in this series! I hope that you have enjoyed learning with me. Here’s a list of the whole series:

Part 1: Motor Uses of the Buffalo Drum, Ocean Drum, and Tambourine in Music Therapy

Part 2: Using Guitar and String Instruments for Motor Goals in Music Therapy

Part 3: Percussion in Music Therapy: Motor Uses of Cabasa and Wooden Percussion Instruments

Part 4: Motor Skills with Resonator Bells

For my graduate practicum project in fulfillment of my master’s in music therapy at Colorado State University, I decided to delve into instruments and the creative ways we can use them as music therapists to address motor needs with a wide variety of clients. This is a resource intended for other music therapists, students, related professionals, and anyone curious about music therapy. The following profiles are 1 of 8 total in which  I explore ways to use the instruments to address multiple motor needs. Be sure to click through the links to the demonstration videos in each profile  for an even more in depth look at each instrument. I hope you learn from and enjoy this project!

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Profile on Motor Uses of Resonator Bells

History of Resonator Bells

Resonator bells go by many different names depending on who you ask: tone bars, bells, chime bars, even the “deconstructable xylophone.” For the purpose of observing the history of the resonator bells, we can assume that modern resonator bells have developed as modifications of the xylophone. The xylophone originated in Southeast Asia or Oceania from hollowed logs of various sizes struck by a mallet. Many variations of the xylophone developed in different areas of the world before we had the modern xylophone. The American Orff-Schulwerk Association was formed in 1968 based on a pedagogical approach to music and movement. Orff instruments are known for their resonant qualities and often resemble deconstructed xylophones or marimbas all with bars over a resonating chamber struck by a mallet. The resonator bells investigated here are not Orff instruments, but resemble Orff instruments in their shape and structure.

Resonator Bells in Music Therapy

These resonator bells are friendly for the everyday music therapy clinician who might not have the resources available to purchase Orff instruments and are a great tool to have in your go to tool box for under a hundred bucks! They are also color coded which allots for natural cognitive grouping, and they match Boom Whacker sets in color. Resonator bells are appropriate for almost all ages and diagnoses, and because they are so lightweight, they can be easily moved and manipulated for creative approaches to motor needs. 

See Madison’s Demonstration Video: Exploring Motor Uses of Instruments in Music Therapy: Resonator Bells

Motor Use



  • Use one or two hands to practice grasping mallets or bells during play. Apply adaptive grips as needed.

Range of motion for arms: flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, internal and external arm rotation

  • Hold one bell in a way that targets a specific range of motion for the arm
  • Hold two bells to play back and forth to extend range of motion and/or target two different ranges of motion
  • Switch between where two bells are held to practice switching between multiple ranges of motion



  • Continuous purposeful play for a target movement can increase endurance and strength for that target movement.
  • Placing the bells at different heights or in different areas of the room can be an excellent challenge to endurance, making sure each bell is played in time within the harmonic structure of the music.


Cognitive cueing within a motor task

  • The rich resonance of resonator bells can be used to very effectively cue or signal a change in movement or motion during motor excersise/s.


American Orff-Schulwerk Association. (2020, March 11). Retrieved from

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019, July 4). xylophone. Retrieved from

Madison Michel, MM, MT-BC

Music Therapist – Board Certified

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