In a recent post, I briefly discussed rhythmic acuity.  This is the first follow up, and a brief discussion of one of the eight categories within the Rhythmic Acuity Measurement Scale, or RAMS. Today’s category is fortitude.

We’ve all been in that situation where we are  tapping our toe along to some new and complicated music, perhaps a jazz solo, and all of a sudden, we realize that we might not be tapping on the beat we thought we were.  The group comes back in with the main melody, and we are not with them!   Maybe the soloist was playing a lot of off-beats, and we found ourselves eventually tapping along to him/her, thinking that we were still holding down the pulse of the music in some way.   At times, we were not able to maintain that pulse, perhaps because we were distracted by the syncopation.

Fortitude is the third category in RAMS. Fortitude is the ability to maintain a steady pulse in relation to external stimuli.  It is one of the categories that relates to our “inner clock.”  Musically, our fortitude begins at a level where we may require external support, perhaps an auditory reference.   We might think of our use of the metronome,  helping to provide us with a rhythmic guide when we practice.   At more comfortable, intermediate  levels, our fortitude does not require a guide, and is not challenged by some external stimuli, such as a-rhythmic play, or others talking to us.   On higher levels, our fortitude is strong enough to maintain a pulse individually against highly syncopated external rhythms, and can also maintain while we sing, converse with others, hand out instruments, chant counter-rhythms, and other multi-tasking abilities.

The ability to provide instrumental accompaniment within a music experience can hinge upon one’s fortitude with that instrument.  We may have built up a strong fortitude on a particular instrument, where other instruments are more of a challenge.   During presentations, music therapists have shared with me that they feel very comfortable maintaining a ground on a guitar while singing and talking, but that they feel less capable of this on a hand or frame drum.   Part of the challenge has to do with how much we’ve developed our relationship with each instrument.

We may have also built up a strong fortitude with a particular rhythm/strum/accompaniment pattern at a particular tempo.  Musical fortitude is something that can always continue to be developed.  Successful experiences will also transfer to assist across instrumentation, as well as across new meters and rhythms.   We just need to develop the practice.

There are particular ways to practice that can develop one’s musical fortitude, and we discuss and experience them at MTD trainings.  In music therapy contexts, a therapist who can provide a solid musical framework without receiving any distraction, has the potential to be more mindful and conscious of the intermusical, intramusical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal dialogues.    Metaphorically speaking, what we can learn through musical fortitude, and the perseverance that helps create it, can also inform us of the virtues of fortitude in our lives, and in our clinical practice.

Stay tuned for more RAMS categories soon!