Preferred Vocal Range of Young and Older Adults: Implications for Music Therapy Majors' Clinical Training Experience

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: The purpose of Study 1 was to determine differences in female music therapy (MT) and non-music majors' vocal range. Twenty-seven female MT and 28 female non-music majors participated. Results indicated no significant difference for lowest mean comfortable singing note between groups; however, significant differences occurred regarding highest mean comfortable note, p < .0001 and the mean number of semitones in vocal range, p < .0001. Non-music majors also indicated a preference for singing in lower keys. The purpose of Study 2 was to determine if MT students selected appropriate keys for young and older adult populations. Students said they played songs in keys that fit their vocal range and were easy to play. Also, students placed 25% of the songs for older adults and 41 % of the songs for young adults in keys outside of their vocal range. Clinical implications are provided.

Singing is an important therapeutic experience utilized by music therapists to meet various client needs. Over 25 years ago, professional music therapists reported that they implemented singing experiences during almost one-fourth of their working hours (Braswell, Maranto, & Decuir, 1979). Lathom (1982) found that 67.6% of music therapists used vocal skills in leading music therapy sessions. Recently the American Music Therapy Association's Professional Competencies and Standards for Clinical Practice delineated the therapeutic importance of singing in clinical training and for therapeutic outcomes, and research efforts continue to further validate the importance of singing (American Music Therapy Association, 2004).

Researchers reported the benefits of singing to meet therapeutic objectives for children with and without special needs. Music therapists have used singing to increase prewriting, prereading, and reading skills for children in early intervention and school programs (Colwell, 1994; Hoskins, 1988; Standley & Hughes, 1997). Colwell and Murlless (2002) used singing and chanting to increase reading accuracy of elementary students with learning disabilities. Singing paired with signing has also increased receptive communication skills of ESOL children (Schunk, 1999). Singing and engaging in vocal exercises resulted in a significant increase in frequency range and a significant reduction of fundamental frequency for 22 children with severe and profound hearing impairments (Darrow & Starmer, 1986), and singing increased lung functioning of children with asthma (Wade, 2002).

Researchers have also reported that singing improved speech and memory of adults with cognitive impairments. Singing instruction resulted in improvements in speech and verbal intelligibility for adults with communication disorders due to neurological impairments as well as individuals with Farkinson's dis ease (Cohen, 1992; Cohen & Masse, 1993; Haneishi, 2001). Furthermore, research regarding the effects of singing on memory of patients with Alzheimer's disease and other memory impairments revealed that individuals recalled words to songs more than spoken words, learned a new song even though many did not recall newly presented spoken material, and learned the names of some nursing home residents through singing (Carruth, 1997; Prickett & Moore, 1991). Other researchers found that therapeutic group singing resulted in greater vocal and verbal participation for patients with Alzheimer's disease compared to a discussion group (Olderog-Millard & Smith, 1989).

Other research efforts revealed further benefits of singing in music therapy. Clinicians also used singing to enhance active coping in some individuals experiencing chronic pain, promote trust and cooperation, increase communication among participants, facilitate group cohesion, and create positive changes in mood (Anshel & Kipper, 1988; Kenny & Faunce, 2004; Unwin, Kenny, & Davis, 2002).

Singing has been identified as an important aspect of music therapy treatment as evidenced by music therapists' reports of using singing during music therapy sessions, and researchers that have indicated positive therapeutic outcomes of singing for all age groups. …