Deep Breaths

Music Therapy calming song for special needs individuals.
Goal: Client will de-escalate aggressive, agitated, or hyperactive behavior through deep breathing.
Domains: Behavior, Sensory

“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning”
― Plato

The words “music” and “therapy” originate from Greek words: Mousike means art of the Muses. Therapeia means service, curing, and healing. The idea that music can teach as well as affect health and behavior is as least as old as the Ancient Greeks. “Patients in manic states were often instructed to listen to the calming music of the flute, while those suffering from depression were prescribed listening to dulcimer music” (Dobrzynska, et. Al., 2006). Music therapy has come a long way since the Ancient Greeks and we can now measure the effects that music has on heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and even brain activity.

I am not a naturally “calm” music therapist, finding that students are more apt to learn when they are excited to participate. However, sometimes enthusiasm can morph into hyperactivity, agitation, or aggression. While the focus of my type of music therapy is education and not mental health, there are times when a child so frenzied that any attempt at teaching will be unsuccessful and then mood needs to be addressed first.

Deep Breaths uses sung and written directions, visual cues, a slow tempo, a swinging 6/8 meter, a calming chord progression *(see below), and soothing instruments to pacify the listener. The mantra of the song “deep breaths calm me down” is sung twice, followed by instructions to inhale and exhale four times, and then two more restatements of the purpose of the song.

*(for music theory geeks) A cadence is a harmonic configuration that creates a sense of resolution… and that’s just what this song is hoping to achieve. The strongest cadence in music is an authentic cadence from the V (dominant) chord to the I (tonic) chord. This can be found in the “breathe in, breathe out” sections of the song. In the “deep breaths calm me down” sections, the configuration is extended: iii to vi, vi to ii, ii to V, V to I. The first three of these chord pairs are secondary dominants (V/V) resolving down a fifth (or up a fourth) to their relative tonics. These chords can be rewritten and function like this:  v/v/v/V (or v/vi) to v/v/V (or vi), v/v/V (or v/ii) to v/V (or ii), and v/V (or ii) to V, before ending with a V to I. A prolonged series of cadences is formed using secondary dominants resulting in multiple calming harmonic resolutions.

Download includes:

  • 2 videos [mp4 video files]
    • Deep Breaths
    • Deep Breaths (instrumental)
  • 2 songs [mp3 audio files]
    • Deep Breaths
    • Deep Breaths (instrumental)
  • lyrics [PDF]
  • lyrics & chords [PDF]


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