So far, I’ve Skyped 4 drumming experiences. I’m so grateful and excited to have taken part in these opportunities!

1. The first one was for Daniel Tague and his music therapy drumming class at the Florida State University.

2. The next one was for Meryl Brown and the Illinois Association for Music Therapy Student Retreat.

3. Then came the impromptu DrumSkype with John Lawrence‘s students in Canada (Edmonton, AB).

4. Finally I revisited FSU with a new class this term.

DrumSkype at Florida State, April 7, 2011 (Used with permission)

The last one was the best. I think we finally hit the nail on the head this time. Here’s what I’ve learned…



The main issue is the sound delay. Even if it seems like there’s not a delay, there is. And you’ve got to demonstrate the sound delay to participants at the other end so they can understand why you’re coming in a full second late on cut-offs. Or why you can’t speak in unison. It won’t work! (Until technology gurus speed up the electrons that pass through the internet…)

The way I demonstrated the sound delay is by saying in very strict, steady rhythm “1 2 3 4 POW.” One end says the numbers, the other end says the POW. The end that says the numbers detects the delay as the other end comes in with POW. Take turns saying the numbers and POW because then both ends will experience the delay.

That all sounded pretty confusing, didn’t it? Just trust me. The sound delay must be demonstrated on both ends so there is a mutual understanding.



Another interesting thing about DrumSkype is that the experience becomes more like a workshop than an in-the-moment drum circle. There are a few reasons for this. First, a full circle is not entirely possible because participants must be able to see the screen. And secondly, because of the sound delay, the facilitator cannot sculpt and shape the music in a traditional way. The facilitator must set up the group to self-facilitate from the beginning.



Here are some limits of a DrumSkype:

1. Self-facilitation required. The facilitator must provide some verbal instructions to prepare the group for self-facilitation prior to drumming. Actually I’m not sure whether this is a limitation or a good, old-fashioned challenge. Self-facilitation is really the ultimate drum circle experience, something that facilitators and therapists strive for anyway.

2. Half-circle seating modification. The participants most likely are not sitting in a complete circle because they must be able to see the screen. Self-facilitation is more of a challenge when everyone is not sitting in a complete circle.

3. Bare minimum of technology required. DrumSkype requires that each user has a webcam, internet access, and Skype on the computer. Consider including a big screen and audio amplification on the participants’ end so that the facilitator is fully visible to the group.



Here are the advantages:

1. Your speaker/therapist/facilitator options are now open to the world. Accessibility is the buzz word these days. Now, you can find an inspirational speaker, educator, or therapist, watch videos of the person online, then decide whether you’d like to hire that person . . . from thousands of miles away!

2. More accessibility. Now therapy may be available to people in rural areas who may not be able to travel.

3. No traveling necessary. The closest DrumSkype I’ve done was 1,700 miles away from San Diego. The furthest DrumSkype was 2,200 miles away. For four DrumSkypes, that’s airfare savings of $2,306. That doesn’t include hotel and meals!

4. Super convenient. I was in my house, lounging around when I facilitated the DrumSkypes. I even had notes and coffee ready and available behind the scenes.



Here are some current opportunities that I have in my music therapy practice for which I would be 100% comfortable with telepractice:

  • 1:1 Adult, high-cognitive song-writing session
  • Workshops (e.g. DrumSkype) for students, wellness settings, independent living, and corporate consulting
  • Follow up sessions
  • Professional and intern supervision
  • Consulting
  • Coaching

Here are some current opportunities wherein I would NOT be comfortable with telepractice (yet):

  • Patients in the psychiatric setting (psychosis, mood disorders, etc.)
  • Children with special needs
  • Patients in the medical setting
  • Groups and individuals in grief, bereavement, or hospice settings

As technology continues to evolve, perhaps I’ll move some of the non-telepractice opportunities to the total-telepractice list. Who knows~

Among all the rehabilitation therapies (music, speech, occupational, physical), telepractice seems to be most popular with speech therapists. Here are the Telepractice Key Points for speech therapists, found on the ASHA website. Here’s an interview with speech therapist Marcus Little about using Skype to provide articulation therapy. (If you don’t follow Marcus on Twitter, you’ve GOT to now! Fabulous tips.) Here’s speech therapist Jena H. Casbon’s explanation of her telepractice over Skype. You can even read what an occupational therapist thinks about Skyped sessions in the comments of that post.

There has also been a lot of buzz surrounding telepractice in music therapy. Here are 19 comments about Skyping music therapy sessions on Kimberly Sena Moore’s Facebook page. At the Online Conference for Music Therapy, we created a couple of online graffiti walls regarding the concerns and advantages of skyping therapy sessions. There’s also been some discussion about it on the music therapy listserv.

So, what do YOU think? Throw down a comment – would love to hear your thoughts!

If you liked this post, then you’ll definitely like these:
Using Skype for Music Therapy and Drum Circles, Is This the Future?
Music Therapy is Therapy for Musicians, Right?

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