Song of the Week – Brave by Sara Bareilles

Why I Chose This Song – This is a great example of age-appropriate repertoire to use with kids, teenagers, or adults with ASD. Using age-appropriate material is a very important aspect of working with this population, which is unfortunately overlooked at times. It is validating to the client’s individuality and presence in their society, as well as to the family of the client. It may even be a way to educate the client’s family members and peers about how to get to know the client’s taste and preference for music. In an inclusion setting, it can be a huge witness to the client’s peers, giving them the opportunity to enjoy similar music and form a relationship based on that. These are all possibilities to consider when choosing music for a client with ASD. However, you must also consider whether the song contains simple, clear communication, and structure. 

The structure for Brave is easy and predictable, the words are empowering and you can easily write your own verses.
When learning this song, be careful to get the inflection on the correct words in the verses. The way Sara Bareilles wrote it is a bit confusing unless you listen to it a couple times. At least, that has been my experience. I love the prominent bass tones in the piano though. This is a common characteristic in her music, which makes it easier to teach a group. Use those strong bass notes as a starting point to help guide the song. Or replace the piano part with a percussion instrument to provide similar emphasis. 
Once you are comfortable with playing Brave on your instrument of choice, I’d like to extend the challenge to write your own verse, bridge, chorus, or any other part of the song that you wish. This is a great song to practice this type of songwriting on.
I know this is the 2nd or 3rd time I have presented this task. The biggest reason is I struggle with this skill, but I have found it to be amazingly helpful and effective in clinical situations. So I am working on improving my parody skills and inviting you to as well.

If you are interested in further songwriting tasks, Rachel Rambach is leading a Songwriting Challenge for the next 5 weeks, which you can sign up for here. It looks like a lot of fun, so I hope you will consider joining. I will be posting periodically about it here, as well as sharing my compositions on the youtube channel.

The resource I am sharing today, I hope you are already familiar with, but just in case:

Autism Speaks

I hope you enjoy learning Brave this week, I know I will! And, as always, I encourage you to comment you thoughts, ideas, and results of the challenge. 

Catherine Hershey


2 thoughts on “Song of the Week – Brave by Sara Bareilles

  1. Hello!

    I actually used this song in session last week (on 4/15)! What a coincidence!

    I work with adult men with severe psychiatric/mental disorders who are incarcerated, and we were discussing and practicing communication skills, including: validation, paraphrasing, asking questions, and taking turns (in conversations).

    I used the song to open up the session and start us talking about communication (and how sometimes it takes courage, and emotion management to do it effectively) and also just get us making some music.

    We followed this with verbal role playing using the communication skills with scenarios such as: discussing medication changes with a psychiatrist, discussing enrollment in substance abuse treatment with parole, etc. The previous week we did musical role playing of communication, using paraphrasing on xylophones. I compared the skill of paraphrasing to the musical sentence structure-the original idea is presented, you repeat that idea, then you develop on it and present new ideas.

    The patients said they had heard the song on TV recently, and it is definitely age appropriate and relevant to current popular culture. The idea occurred to me to use the song about 10 minutes before session, so I pulled it up and learned it on YouTube-it is a major benefit that the song is so easy and simple, you could do a lot with it in session!

    Hopefully these ideas are helpful! I really enjoy reading your suggested uses for the song as well!

    All the best,


    1. Julia!

      Thank you for sharing your clinical use of this piece! What a coincidence that you had just used it the week before! It sounds to me that you took the song to the next level, what with using it to teach a musical skill that can be translated to social/communication skills.

      Thank you for joining the conversation!



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