Sound therapy uses music to promote wellbeing and relaxation even further. Developed from the rituals of past cultures, it’s still in use today and there is now a solid body of research showing how music can reduce stress, anxiety, and promote wellbeing.
What is sound therapy?
Sound therapy is based on the knowledge that music and sound can harness our emotions. A sound therapy practitioner can use relaxing sounds to promote mindfulness.
Sound therapy can teach us to become more aware of the sounds we take in, while instilling a relaxed and calm state of mind. When carried out routinely, you may begin to experience a calmer state of mind in your everyday life.
Music therapy, on the other hand, is a different branch of treatment. It’s designed for clinical intervention for those affected by injury, illness, disability, and for those with cognitive, emotional and other social needs (BAMT – What Is Music Therapy?).
Where does sound therapy come from?
Sound healing has been found in ancient Greece, where music was believed to treat mental disturbance, induce sleep, and aid digestion. Greek physicians even used instruments to treat patients.
Sound has also been used as a calming tool for thousands of years. Himalayan singing bowls have been used in meditation and prayer for centuries.
How do I practise sound therapy?
Meditation is the key to sound therapy. Research has found that meditation can help beat stress, reduce anxiety and depression, improve memory, and more.
The Bonny method of Guided Imagery and Music involves the use of music alongside imagery, and has been shown to uncover strong emotions and improve health.
Sound therapy uses musical instruments to promote meditative states.
What are sound therapy instruments?
Sound Therapy Instruments are from the percussion family. Designed to be struck with a baton or tapped with the hands directly, each sound therapy instrument creates a sustained metallic note which can be used to promote meditation or relaxation.
Some sound therapy instruments play a single musical note, like the singing bowl or tuning fork. Other instruments feature multiple notes and can allow you to create a complete musical performance, including the handpan and tongue drum.
The final category of sound therapy instruments is unpitched percussion – this includes the gong, finger cymbals, and ocean drum.
The singing bowl was used from the 12th century throughout Asia for meditation and healing. Hindus and Buddhists traditionally used singing bowls to mark the beginning and end of meditation. Some research suggests sound meditation using singing bowls helps to alleviate the symptoms of tension, anger, fatigue, and depressed mood.
Singing bowls produce a long, resonant tone. Adding water to the bowl creates water sounds and beautiful ripples, making tiny water particles dance to the frequency of the vibrations.
To play a singing bowl, you need a singing bowl mallet. The bowl can either be struck, or wiped with a leather mallet to create a constant tone – trickier to master but ideal for creating focus during meditation.
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A two-pronged fork which is tuned to a specific pitch.
Commonly used to tune orchestral instruments, tuning forks can also be applied to different parts of the body, where they can focus strong vibrations through the skin to pressure points. There is some evidence that tuning fork therapy can help relieve muscle and bone pain.
Tuning forks produce a consistent pitch with long sustain – ideal for meditation and mindfulness.
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Gongs produce an array of complex frequencies. For sound healing, they are commonly used in sound baths – usually carried out in groups where participants lie on mats while a gong master plays gongs and a variety of other instruments.
The dynamic range of a gong is huge, with low shimmering sounds to mighty, loud tones that can overwhelm the room with a sonic presence so intense you can feel your DNA vibrating.
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Tongue drums allow you to play gentle melodies with an entrancing resonance – perfect for spending an afternoon in quiet reflection. These metallic instruments include many pitches to be struck with the hands or with a beater. They are common instruments for street performers due to their portable size and beautiful sound.
Even if you’re not looking to meditate with your music, these fun instruments encourage you to be mindful while experimenting with their easy-to-play design.
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These metallic drums are created from two half-shells. Similar in tone to the tongue drum, they feature a set of tuned notes and have an enchanting resonance.
The handpan is a subset instrument of the steelpan and similar in construct to the Hang. This is an instrument that can be mastered to an expert level, and allow you to create a sophisticated performance which blends melodic notes and percussive sounds.
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An ocean drum recreates the gentle sound of the sea, created by small round pellets which move freely inside the drum.
“There’s something about the ocean drum that seems to captivate young children; my classes always become totally silent and very focused when I bring it into a session.” – Rachel Rambach – Music Therapist.
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From Greek mythology to modern medicine, that’s sound healing. There’s a lot to take in, and this is just the beginning.
Find out more | Sound Therapy Instruments at Gear4music