The use of percussion to facilitate motor development in therapy is a common clinical practice.    The span of fifty- plus years of related  studies and articles have helped to shape the way we view and practice music therapy.  Below, you will find descriptions of the first articles to arise in the field regarding the use of percussion instruments and rhythm to facilitate motor development.  These studies arise at the early stages of our profession, largely beginning with an exploratory approach, with later studies seeking to study more specific areas of need.

In 1954, in the American Journal of Physical Medicine, J. Fields published a descriptive study entitled Music As an Adjunct in the Treatment of Brain Damaged Patients. In this study, Fields describes the use of percussion instruments to facilitate/promote flexion, extension, and rotation.

In 1967, Holthaus (see citation below) described how a drum and rhythmic testing may play a role in hand movement skills.

In 1984, Ford discussed the use of percussion and adapted instruction to facilitate motor development.   This same year, other journal articles discussed the use of adapted drum set for gross motor skill development (Steele, 1984), movement coordination (Sutton, 1984), and motor sequencing (Thaut, 1984).

In 1985, CoFrancesco used a tom-tom drum and sticks to focus on hand grasp strength with stroke patients.

In 1987, Krout offered case examples to describe the use of bells, shakers, tambourines, maracas, claves, and woodblocks to facilitate hand-eye coordination, as well as fine and gross-motor skills.

This thread will be continued to cover the late 80’s and beyond, as we look at how later studies and publications began to detail the potential of percussion to facilitate motor development.


Cofrancesco, E.M. (1985). The effect of music therapy on hand grasp strength and functional task performance in stroke patients. Journal of Music Therapy, 22(3), 129-145.

Fields, B. (1954). Music as an adjunct in the treatment of brain damaged patients. American Journal of Physical Medicine, 33, 273-283.

Ford, S. C. (1984). Music therapy for cerebral palsied children. Music Therapy Perspectives, 1(3), 8-13.

Holthaus, C. (1967). The rhythm test in the scope of music therapy. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 15(1), 30.

Krout, R. (1987). Music therapy with multi-handicapped students: Individualizing treatment within a group setting. Journal of Music Therapy, 24(1), 2-13.

Steele, A.L. (1984). Music therapy for the learning disabled. Music Therapy Perspectives, 3(1), 29-42.

Sutton, K. (1984). The development and implementation of a music therapy physiological measures test. Journal of Music Therapy, 21(4), 160-169.

Thaut, M.H. (1984). A music therapy treatment model for autistic children. Music Therapy Perspectives, 1(4), 7-13.