In a nutshell, the purpose of Musical Interaction is to create rapport. For a person with a communication disability, this experience meets many needs including the need for connection, empathy, community, communication, togetherness, hope, happiness and understanding. Human beings are social creatures and rapport is the central experience of positive connection.

When a practitioner uses Musical Interaction, the intent is not to teach music because this would mean that the practitioner has an agenda or learning objective and is therefore leading the activity. Having an agenda means that some behaviours will corrected or invalidated and rapport will be sacrificed. As in Intensive Interaction, the value of the approach is in ability to respond in the moment to the person’s interests and behaviour, letting the person lead and validating and affirming their choices and actions.


The first step of Intensive Interaction practice is to look for OFFERS in the person’s behaviour. The practitioner then joins in and celebrities these OFFERS by mirroring, reflecting or doing what you see. This has the effect of validating and affirming the person’s behaviour and creating connection and rapport.

Musical Interaction follows the same principles but will often involve the practitioner making the first OFFER (of music or song) to which the person then responds. The practitioner will see this response as an reciprocal offer and then respond to this.


Interaction Songs (Structures)

These songs (or structures as I tend to refer to them) are designed to allow the facilitator to respond to the unprompted behaviours and interests from the participants in response to the initial offer of pulse, rhythm, tune, lyric or phrase.  These songs are the core of my Musical Interaction approach and are designed to around the 3 C’s; developing rapport and facilitating musical conversations.

Common repertoire

These are the songs that everyone knows.  By offering a mutually understood song, tune, lyric or phrase the facilitator can create a foundation for social inclusion and rapport.  Typical songs that I frequently sing in sessions include Coming Round The Mountain, You Are My Sunshine and Happy and You Know It.  These songs are important to establish familiarity and shared understanding.

Improvised songs

Improvisation is a key skill in Musical Interaction.  Ideally the facilitator should be able to respond as fluently as he or she would be able to in normal verbal conversation.  Improvised songs may take the form of a sung commentary on the participant’s unprompted behaviours; this could be a completely new song or might extend from an existing interaction song such as Music Here Today or I’m in a Singing Mood.  Improvisation is often the most direct route to the creation of new songs, particularly when working with older people with memory problems or people who find it difficult sustain the attention required for a more typical song writing activity.