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Guitar skills for music therapists and music educators

Meyer, P., De Villers, J. & Ebnet, E. (2010). Guitar skills for music therapists and music educators. Barcelona Publishers, Gilsum. 143 pp., ISBN 978-1-891278-56-3

Reviewed by Viggo Krüger, PhD Candidate, GAMUT / Music therapist, Aleris Ungplan

Guitar skills for Music Therapists - Barcelona Publishers

Cover from Guitar skills for Music Therapists - ©Barcelona Publishers

I will begin this book review with a personal point of view. As a music therapy student back in 1997, I recall being told by teachers and older music therapy students that most music therapists used the piano in their work, regardless who they were working with. Now, in 2011, the situation of the role of guitar in music therapy seems to have changed. The guitar has a new and altered status in music therapy, at least speaking from the perspective as a music therapist in Norway. As it seems, many music therapists use guitars in their work, and therefore a book about guitar skills for music therapists is particularly welcome.


Meyer, De Villers and Ebnet have published a guitar book that set out to give music therapists and music educators a tool to use in their work. The book is meant to give beginners and intermediate guitar players suggestions and pointers to improve their knowledge base and technique. The text offers material that can be used in functional guitar courses for music therapy and music education majors as well as anyone interested in learning the basics of guitar playing. Topics covered include basic and advanced techniques such as strumming patterns, fingerpicking, flatpicking, barre and power chords as well as authentic stylistic accompaniment in styles such as Pop, Blues, Jazz, Rock and Rhythm and blues. The book is designed to assist the learner in developing his or her practical guitar skills in a format that can be used in both the classroom and for individual self study. The text begins with the very basic exercises of guitar playing and expands into more challenging material as book progresses throughout the chapters. The book has a chapter called music therapy techniques. In the chapter on rules for improvisation, techniques on how to use open tunings and slide guitar are described. The DVD follows up the descriptions with demonstrations so that the reader can both see and hear how the techniques are used.

As a guitar playing music therapist and a teacher in guitar skills for music therapy students, I basically find the book usefully and well made. I think that both the written material and the DVD can function well as scaffolding in learning process whereas the learner is looking for tips on how to play ordinary guitar skills needed for playing western music genres such as rock, pop and blues. However, the book may in some regard seem a little too much as an ordinary guitar book and I miss more material on actual guitar skills for music therapists and also on other “world music” genres from countries such as Asia or Africa. Taken into consideration that all three authors are music therapists, the chapter on music therapy techniques is a little too short regarding content of guitar skills for music therapists. Both descriptions and demonstrations of different modes, open tuning and the slide guitar are useful, but can we really consider them music therapy techniques? Actually there is only one page describing how the guitar can be used in music therapy techniques such as improvisation, questions and answer or how to leave space (page 112).

In my view, Meyer, De Villers and Ebnet have made a book that illuminates the need for elaborations and descriptions on how the guitar is a useful instrument in music therapy. The questions, ‘How?’, ‘For whom?’ and ‘Why?’, they have left for others to describe and explore. From my own experiences with guitar in music therapy processes, and from those I have been talking with about such processes, there certainly lie great potentials and resources to be used and discovered. Maybe now is the time to open up for such stories and knowledge. However, most such knowledge may remain as what Polanyi calls tacit knowledge (Polanyi, 1966). And in relation to the discussion on tacit knowledge, if we don’t give our knowledge names and make stories about our experiences, they will remain silent, but not necessarily useless.


Polanyi, M. (1966), The tacit dimension, Doubleday, N.Y and Routledge & Kegan, P. London

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