Music and Aphasia

As we wind down our activities for National Aphasia Awareness Month, we’re so pleased to feature this guest post from our own, Roberta Brooks, CCC-SLP!

Back in January, when we could still gather together, a group of members of our Aphasia Center met weekly for Musical Mondays. Musical Mondays was designed to be a 10-week trial program to explore the question: “What can music do for you?”.   We completed 9 weeks of our program before COVID-19 changed the way in which we interact with each other, for now. Those 9-weeks were filled with laughter, music, sharing, and support. We learned a lot from each other and experienced the power of music. Although the program is over, for now, there are many ways to incorporate music into your life!

What can music do for you?

Have you noticed all the music in the air during Aphasia Awareness Month?  It makes sense. Music is a “universal language”. Hans Christian Anderson, a famous storyteller said:  “Where words fail, music speaks.” Researchers continue to discover the full power of music and its role in healing (see music and healing:

Aphasia therapy has long used singing as a tool for regaining speech. Let’s start with singing and then look at other ways music can help with communication skills and shared experiences.

Sing, Sing, Sing

Melody, rhythm, and familiarity with favorite and/or emotionally charged songs may allow a person with aphasia to sing words he/she may not be able to speak. Start by singing a favorite song or a song that connects you to a happy memory in your life.

If the song has repeated words in the chorus, is slow paced, and uses short words, all the better. But, start with a song you love. Sing along with someone. There are lots of ways to do this. Sing with a family member or find a song on you-tube, Pandora, or other sources of music you may want to explore. We found YouTube to be particularly helpful because we could often find the song we wanted to sing with the words in view on the computer screen.

If you are singing at home, sing along with the song each day, for 10 to 15 minutes. Over time, gradually make the sound softer on your computer and sing a bit louder. When you feel ready, try singing the song on your own. 

Here are a couple of favorite “sing-along” songs from our group.

Queen,  We are the Champions

The Beatles,  Let It Be

Clap your hands  

Rhythm and rate (tempo in music) are important parts of music and speech. Copying a rhythm pattern and/or creating a rhythm pattern by clapping your hands, beating on a drum or tabletop, or tapping your foot is good for you. Start with short rhythmic patterns and gradually try to copy longer patterns. Listen carefully to the pattern you are repeating. Do they sound the same? This activity exercises listening skills, auditory memory, and fine motor coordination.   Use this listening skill when you are speaking to help yourself take your time when talking.

Notice the different rhythms in these two pieces of music: 

ABBA,  Dancing Queen

Jean Luc Ponty, Cosmic Messenger

Music and Mood

A 2013 study in the Journal of British Psychology found that people who listen to upbeat music could improve their mood and boost happiness in just two weeks. Music can also be energizing or  relaxing and a source of comfort. See how different types of music affect your mood

Mary J.  Blige,  Be Happy

Gene Kelly, Singin’ in the Rain

Elton John, Candle in the Wind

Beethoven, Moonlight Sonata

Elvis Presley, Hound Dog

Music can do a lot for us. We can enjoy it when we are alone and we can enjoy it together.  In this computer age, even when we are apart, music can be a shared experience,

Until we can be together again, let’s keep the music going!

For more information about joining the MossRehab Aphasia Center, please contact: Ms. Nikki Benson-Watlington at or 215-663-6344

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