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Rhythm-centered music making (RMM) has shown to improve physical, psychological and social health. Yap et al. [1] carried out a pilot randomized controlled trial with cross over aimed to explore the effects of RMM on quality of life, depressive mood, sleep quality and social isolation in elder individuals. A total of 54 participants were enrolled (27 in each arm). During phase 1, group A underwent the intervention with group B as the control; in phase 2 cross-over was performed. The intervention involved 10 weekly RMM sessions. Before intervention, at the 11th and at the 22nd week participants were evaluated with the European Quality of Life-5 Dimensions (EQ5D), the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS), the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and the Lubben Social Network Scale (LSNS). At the end of the study 31 participants were analyzed. Mean age was 74.65 ± 6.40 years. Participation in RMM resulted in a non-significant reduction in the EQ5D by 0.004 (95% CI: -0.097-0.105), the GDS score by 0.479 (95% CI: -0.329-1.287), the PSQI score by 0.929 (95% CI: – 0.523-2.381) and an improvement in the LSNS by 1.125 (95% CI: -2.381-0.523). Upon binary analysis, participation in RMM resulted in a 37% (OR = 1.370, 95% CI: 0.355-5.290), 55.3% (OR = 1.553, 95% CI: 0.438-5.501), 124.1% (OR = 2.241, 95% CI = 0.677-7.419) and 14.5% (OR = 1.145, 95% CI = 0.331-3.963) non-significant increase in odds of improvement in the EQ5D, GDS, PSQI and LSNS scores respectively. The authors conclude that participation in RMM did not show any statistically significant difference in the quality of life of the participants; however, as they mention it is an interesting alternative tool to use in the field of integrative medicine. They recommend moving forward to a larger study that will better aid at investigating the effects of RMM on elder individuals with the inclusion of a qualitative component.


The impact of active music making has been shown to improve social, emotional, physical and mental health of the participants [2,3]. While the study by Yap et al. [1] showed that there was a non-statistical improvement in the measures for quality of life, sleep and depression, the effect size of improvement of the EQ5D, GDS, PSQI was in the magnitude of 37%, 55.4% and 124.1% respectively, which is of great interest. Limitations for the study include small sample size that may not have sufficient powerer to achieve statistical significance and the study design which was a crossover study which fails to provide a washout period as it was assumed that once any active drumming session ended, the effect would have ceased immediately. Bruchhage et al. [4] showed that 8 weeks of drumming lead to positive changes of the brain based on MRI scans and this concurs with the idea that drumming can promote cerebral neuroplasticity. This lasting effect of a drumming intervention through the changes in the brain may also be the reason why the study by Yap et al. [1] failed to achieve statistical significance. However, the outcome of the study allows for better design of future studies which can be properly powered based on the effect size and the design should be a proper randomized control trial with no cross-over due to the possibility of persistence of the effect of active drumming or music making intervention.

Hallam et al. [5] showed that participating in musical activities leads to higher levels of well-being, better social, cognitive, emotional and health benefits. The positive effect of active music-making and drumming could be an added modality to promote the overall well-being in midlife women. Group music making not only prevents cognitive decline, but the impact of social connectivity can also lead to better mental health for the individuals and hence, quality of life.

Sengbin Ang, MD
Duke-NUS Medical School
Singhealth Family Medicine Academic Clinical Program
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Singapore


  1. Yap AF, Kwan YH, Tan CS, Ibrahim S, Ang SB. Rhythm-centred music making in community living elderly: a randomized pilot study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017;17(1):311.  
  2. Sheppard A, Broughton MC. Promoting wellbeing and health through active participation in music and dance: a systematic review. Int J Qual Stud Health Well-being. 2020;15(1):1732526.
  3. McCrary JM, Redding E, Altenmüller E. Performing arts as a health resource? An umbrella review of the health impacts of music and dance participation. PLoS One. 2021;16(6):e0252956.
  4. Bruchhage MMK, Amad A, Draper SB, et al. Drum training induces long-term plasticity in the cerebellum and connected cortical thickness. Sci Rep. 2020;10(1):10116.
  5. Hallam S, Creech A. Can active music making promote health and well-being in older citizens? Findings of the music for life project. London J Prim Care (Abingdon). 2016;8(2):21-25.

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