Two Music Games to Use In Your Sessions This Week
by Miranda Rex, MA, MT-BC
Sometimes we all need a bit of a mental break. For this reason, I like to use music games with my clients–kids and adults alike–because it gives everyone some respite from the “seriousness” and intense mental concentration required in therapy; however, this does not mean the games have no therapeutic value. I use games to promote appropriate social skills and teamwork; increase focus and attention; increase impulse control; and even increase self-esteem.
You wouldn’t believe how much just a little success in a simple game can do for a client’s self image. I’ve even found that these games can provide clients with additional coping skills (more about that later).
Two of my favorite games to use with clients are called MusicMan and Musical Scattergories.
Keep reading for a free downloadable guide of this post!
Music Game #1: Music Man
MusicMan is basically hangman but with a different name for obvious reasons. The setup is the same, except instead of drawing a hangman, I draw a stick figure at a mic. But if you feel that is even potentially a risk for your clients, I have also played with no drawing at all, giving it a more “Wheel of Fortune” vibe.
To play the game, you’ll need a dry erase board and markers; access to a bluetooth speaker; and the music streaming service of your choice (I prefer Spotify).
I usually prep for this session by creating a playlist of music I think the clients will enjoy. Typically, this includes today’s hits, some throwback jams, and some classic oldies (I’ll include a sample playlist at the end). I choose 20-25 songs, depending on the size and length of the group.
Here’s how the game is played:
Choose a song and draw the appropriate number of blanks on the board and draw the basic structure of our MusicMan.
Allow each client to have a turn guessing a letter. If it’s correct, it goes in the right blank. If it’s incorrect, I write it underneath our stage drawing/in the letter bank. This goes on until they get all the letters or until they guess the title.
Once the clients have guessed the song title correctly, they get to listen to about one minute of the song–or at least until it gets to the “good part.”
I usually do this for several rounds. Sometimes, depending on how well I know the group, I will allow the client who guesses the song title correctly to choose the next song for the group while they sit out that round.
Here are some sample playlists:
Music Game #2: Musical Scattergories
Another game I like to play is Musical Scattergories. It takes the basic idea of Scattergories and simplifies it a bit. Instead of just writing down as much as you can, I provide the clients with a sheet of paper that has the whole alphabet A-Z.
Here’s how the game is played:
I give them a topic that is related to music, then give them 2-3 minutes to complete the sheet. I usually have some background music playing to serve as a timer. Once time is up, we go through each letter together and share our answers. If someone else has the same answer as you, you have to cross it off and don’t get any points. If your answer is unique, you get points.
Depending on the amount of time you have, as well as the number of clients, you may go through 2-3 rounds of topics. My go-to topics in this case are: singers/bands, song titles, and musical instruments. If you have extra time, something I like to do is return to an already used category (e.g. singers/bands) and have them write down additional items…but they can’t be repeated from their first list. This always elicits some groans, but nearly every time I have done this, the clients end up doing better the second time around.
The last time I played Scattergories, some of the teen girls asked for extra blank letter sheets at the end of group just for fun. Thinking nothing of it, I left a couple for them to use. The next time I worked with them, I did something different, but at the end of group, one of the girls asked, “Miss Miranda, do you have any more of the blank letter sheets? I would like some if you do. When I get bored, I like to write down different bands I like so I can remember for later music I want to listen to because music really helps me.” I was stunned. I never would’ve thought this simple game could be so beneficial.
Debriefing after each game:
When we finish either of these activities, I typically ask a few things:
- What was that experience like?
- How did it feel to be put on the spot?
- How did you work through it? Do you do the same things in real life?
- I also usually point out how well everyone worked as a group, intentionally or not, and talk about how getting assistance from others can be very helpful to us.
Kids and adults have both responded well to these games when I have done them, so they’re definitely worth a try.
Let me know if you have questions or thoughts! You can reach me at