The human body is the original instrument. You always have your body with you, anywhere and anytime you want to make music. There are many body music techniques to play with, and many creative activities.

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Body Music TechniquesEdit

Body Percussion: Hand clapping, toe tapping, foot thumping, chest thumping,  stomping, high-fives (is no risk of physical conflict), thigh slapping, stepping, finger snapping, hand 'warming', applause, etc.

Vocal Effects: Beatboxing, tongue clicking, grunting, rhythmic breathing, humming, singing, whistling, chanting, toning, etc.

Environmental Sounds: Markers as drum sticks, tabletop to drum on with hands, misc. items available, i.e., basketball to bounce, cards to shuffle, etc.

Exercise Movements: Clapping further from the body, standing rather than sitting, slow or "frozen" movements, an accelerated tempo, dances, the wave, jumping, etc.


Background Music: Bring a stereo, you can play some patient preferred music with a good beat, i.e. Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," or the Beatles' "I Want To Hold Your Hand." You may also use drum machine loops or recordings of drum circles. In fact, many techniques and activities used to facilitate Drumming groups transfer to body percussion. Other options include live guitar music (see Repertoire) or a Karaoke machine. To put together an "Air" Band, use body percussion to emulate a drum set, or make some sort of body music rock beat. Other individuals will personify guitar, bass, horns, or other instruments either by singing or creating an "Air" Band to the use of Background Music.

B-I-N-G-O (Old MacDonald Had a Farm): You can guide individuals to select favorite, topical, or even Goal/Objective oriented words to adapt this children's song to. Clapping, or any sort of body percussion, to replace an additional letter with each repetition of the song engages much focus. Learn "B-I-N-G-O" here on YouTube.

"Blood Circulation" Wave: Simulate consistent circulation through the wave, as a component of an exercise group. Individuals can start by raising their hands, then standing up from a chair, and even to standing from crouching or bending at the waist to touch their toes.

Boots n' Cats n' Boots n' Cats n': This vocal effect literally speaks for itself. One needs only to repeat the names of this activity to "beatbox" a simple rock beat. How cute! Boots n' Cats n' Boots n' Cats n' Boots n' Cats n' Boots n' Cats...

Environmental Orchestra: Incorporate miscallenaeous objects available around the therapy environment to use as music instruments, such as the markers, basketball, tabletop, or playing cards. As an alternative, you may use body music to emulate sounds in nature, such as finger snapping the rain, exhaling the wind, stomping the thunder, etc.

Follow The Leader: Call and response to familiarize the group with body percussion. Take turns being the leader.

Hand Games: Miss Mary Mack or the Patty Cake are just a few of the many examples of how children's hand games can be musical. See Miscellaneous Hand Games or for similar activities see Children's Clapping Songs, and Circle Games.

Hot Potato: Group taps to the music's tempo and, in regular beat, individuals take turns clapping their hands instead of passing an object around (Riley, 2012).

If You're Happy and You Know It (i.e., Clap Your Hands!)Substitute words for "Happy," and substitute body percussion techniques for clapping your hands.

Improvised Group Jam: Teach a variety of approprirate body percussion techniques by opening a conversation about what sort of sounds the body can be used to make. Facilitate an improvisation using just the body! May be combined with Singing  chanting, or toning.

Mirroring: Partner up, facing one another. Take turns as leader. The follower mirrors any body movements. Then take turns mirroring body movements plus body perucssion.

Rock Paper Scissors (Paper): An easy way to establish a simple beat is to build off this children's hand game. Pound your fist into the other hand's palm (rock), than clap your hands together (paper), pound your fist again though this time with your first two fingers out (scissors), and finally, clap your hands together again (paper).

Pulse Beats: Transfer body percussion to the human body. Chest slap to, i.e., "Bad To The Bone," to get a heart beat sound. What are the consequences of a bad to the bone lifestyle? What attributes to heart-healthy living?

Simon Says: See Simon Says for general instructions, but in addition to jumping in the air or sticking your toungue out, Simon Says to stomp your feet, clap your hands, etc., until a rhythm emerges. If choosing to play competitively, winners can earn reinforcement, or will i.e., be given some sort of therapeutic question to answer.

We Will Rock You: ( stomp stomp clap!     stomp stomp clap! ) This is a simple and recognizable beat that most people will find success playing. Use this rhythm to establish a beat, and then you can layer a group mantra or catchy melodies to address academic skills or vocabulary words. High-functioning individuals may also freestyle rap or use various songwriting or poem writing techniques to collaborate on verses. Everybody can sing the chorus. Check out this Prompted Responses to We Will Rock You PDF for group members to individually complete and then each take turns speaking/freestying/singing while the group keeps the beat. This is also an easy song to incoporate Boomwhackers or Hand-Bells.


The Mango Muse published an article with body percussion and related activities.


Riley, James E. (August 20, 2012). Hot Potato (just got hotter). [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Riley, J. E. (November 13, 2012). Body Music in the Psychiatric Population [Powerpoint slides].

Further ReadingEdit


James E. Riley, MT-BC

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