Music, movement and the brain

  • Music and movement are inextricably linked in the brain: an early response to hearing music is to move.
  • This response becomes more refined as children grow up, enabling music to offer a framework for action.
  • The most immediate feature of this framework is ‘entrainment’, through which we synchronise movement with a regular beat. Some of the Tuning In songs available through Little Amber and AmberPlus are specifically designed to promote entrainment, including ‘To and fro’, 'Left, right’ and ‘Forwards, backwards’. AmberPlus Music Resources
  • This will be particularly important in children with neurodegenerative disease, which will have an increasing impact on a child’s ability to move. Music can provide the impetus and motivation to move, using both fine motor and gross motor skills.

Linking qualities of music with types of movement

  • As well as regulating actions such as walking and clapping at different speeds, the pitch of music can be used to scaffold up and down movements. The ‘Up and down’ song from Tuning In is specifically designed to reinforce this connection and encourage movement. AmberPlus Music Resources
  • Similarly, loud sounds have an affinity with large movements and quiet sounds with small ones. Try ‘Quiet and Loud’ from Tuning In. AmberPlus Music Resources
  • Music can be linked in a symbolic way to movement, in pieces such as ‘Peter and the Wolf’, for example, where different people and animals have their own themes, which can be used to inspire and scaffold particular types of movement according to the character that is represented.
  • Other pieces, such as Brahms’ ‘Hungarian Dance No. 5’, with its sudden changes of tempo and mood, can be used to build storylines around that involve different types of movement.

Thinking of the movements needed to play musical instruments

  • All instruments require movement of some kind and playing them can be very motivating for children.
  • Different instruments require different movements; hence as a child’s physical abilities change over time as their disease progresses, help them choose an instrument to play that provides just the right level of challenge.
  • Remember that some percussion instruments can be played other than with the hands (think of ‘one-man bands’). Switches and gesture-based technology mean that any movement using any part of the body can be used to trigger any sound.


  • The sounds of music and the movements of dance are closely connected in many contexts.
  • If the child can’t see, you may need to model dance moves for them, and they may find it easier to keep in physical contact with you or another dance partner.
  • Children and young people who are unable to walk may well enjoy wheelchair dancing.
  • You could try specialist technologies such as the Soundbeam that can convert dance movements into musical sounds.