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Can Music Alter Physical and Mental Health?

Updated on April 26, 2020
Joyful Pamela profile image

Pamela is a professional musician and private music instructor for over 3 decades. She is constantly researching aspects of music education.

A Well Loved Instrument (over 100 years old)
A Well Loved Instrument (over 100 years old)

What can music do?

Music appeals to so many parts of the human soul and mind. From the first moment we hear a piece of music, we have a natural impulse to like or dislike the song. Why? The song may be appealing or not due to the volume level, the tone colors or sounds used, the tempo or speed, the style, the mood of the song, or the mood of the listener. But as one really listens and gets to know a piece of music, it can go much deeper than that first impressions it makes. Have you ever changed your mind about a song after you have had a chance to listen to it more? I mean, really listened to it. Can your impulses about the song change your mood from sad to pleasant? Or vice versa? Do you think that music could also change a person's physical well being to either better or worse? As a musician, performer, and teacher, these are things that I consider when I am choosing music to play and teach.

Music & the Body

"My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary." ~ Martin Luther

"Music is the effort we make to explain to ourselves how our brains work. We listen to Bach transfixed because this is listening to a human mind." ~ Lewis Thomas

"The poets did well to conjoin music and medicine, because the office of medicine is but to tune the curious harp of man's body." ~ Francis Bacon, Sr.

"Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons, and you will find that it is to the soul what the water bath is to the body." ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

"I can only think of music as something inherent in every human being - a birthright. Music coordinates mind, body, and spirit." ~ Yehudi Menuhin

"Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul." ~ Unknown

Share Your Thoughts

Has listening to music changed your health?

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Music Changes People's Actions

A simple example of when music can change actions comes from observations at weddings. Classical flute is one of my main performance genres. As I have performed with small, quiet chamber ensembles during wedding receptions, I notice that the guests are calm, relaxed, seated, and quietly talking during the meal. When my classical group departs, usually a rock band or DJ steps in to make the party "come alive" with rock or dance music. As the style and volume changes, so do the actions of the guests. People are up either walking around or dancing, conversations become louder, and other behaviors are noticeably more active. Then imagine the DJ playing a soft rock song. It's almost funny how people automatically talk quieter and their bodily activities and actions slow down.

I also find it interesting watching audience's faces and body movements during a concert from the stage. During a love song, couples will hold hands. When the piece is more pulsive, feet taping, head bopping, and clapping occurs naturally. In a 20 minute classical concerto, I observe either contemplative looks, rested bodies, or snoring! I think you get the point. Next time you are at a concert or are listening to the radio, stop to think about how your body and mind change as the songs change. See if you can catch yourself being more active or subdued, happier or sadder - I bet you will notice a difference!

Music & the Mind

Most people will probably say that the overall tone of a song will alter one's mental patterns. There are definitely songs that make me feel better after a hard day or troubled time that I long to listen to when needing to be cheered up. On the other hand, It can work the other way, too. Some songs bring a memory or feeling to mind that we would rather not think upon.

Certainly we all have pieces of music that "bring us back" to a particular time or place in our lives whether good or bad. Can you think of a piece of music that immediately makes you think of a person, location, or event that has happened?

Even when a piece of music is not personally connected to a listener, it can bring a feeling of delight or sadness just by it's musical expression.

Loved ones, friends, and doctors have made listening suggestions to people for many purposes: relaxing, exercising, concentration, intelligence, and even healing. Ever heard of the term psycho-acoustics ? It basically means using sounds to affect the brain. "Dr. Andrew Weil, trailblazing pioneer in the field of integrative medicine and a bestselling author, teams with Anna Wise, a leading authority on brain waves and healing ... they collaborate on a peerless sound and healing experience. Utilizing psycho-acoustics ... created music chosen to enhance the listener's well-being and sense of health by specifically addressing brain waves ... themes of Bach, Brahms, Mahler, and Mozart. Combined with healing sound frequencies, the overall effect facilitates the listener's experience." Quote from an Amazon review of their book.

Musical Influences to Thoughts & Actions

The most obvious way that a song may make an influence is through the lyrical story. - What are the words in the songs really saying? Are the lyrics a poem, story, or just an emotion? Can you relate to how the composer feels? Have you been in that sort of situation that they describe before? Do you feel the performers are expressing in the music what the words themselves say? All of these things can make a huge impact on people's thoughts and actions.

How about music which does not contain lyrics? The tempo or the rate of speed, can make one relax, be alert, bouncy, or agitated. Subtle changes in the rhythmic patterns affect the overall feeling of a piece as well as articulations such as accents, staccato notes, and slurred passages. The way that the melody and harmony blend together or clash will bring comfort or disorder to one's mind. The tone color or instrumental sounds all have different qualities in their tones, also. A flute and violin duet will give a much different emotion than a trumpet and electric guitar on the same piece of music. Even the combination of voices alone, instruments alone, or voices and instruments together makes a completely different sound influencing what thought processes or actions may occur in a person.

Music & Physical Health

It's one thing to say that music may benefit the mind in thought and action, but it goes much further when making connections to physical health. Research by numerous scientists, physicians, and musicians has been continuing for decades with positive results.

The science that deals with music and the body is referred to as music therapy. It has been shown throughout time that music gives a patient not just a positive thought process towards healing, but has also been proven to help slow down heart rates and blood pressure, reduce stress, encourage better breathing, and help patients rest and recover.

Speech therapy is enhanced by using vocal music techniques and breathing. Gross and fine motor skills have been improved with the use of different types of instruments. Working as a group of musicians together aids some in social interactions and group activities. Coordination becomes stronger through the use of music with dance. Composing lyrics and music aids those who need ways to help express their feelings. Music listening skills help in memory and brain processing. Achievement in musical activities helps to bring self confidence to those who need it.

These numerous observations about how music may positively impact our health bring evidence to this exciting medical field. There is so much more to know about music therapy. Check the links below to learn more about it.

A Simple Musical Experiment

Out of pure curiosity and research, I was wondering what people thought of different arrangements and styles of music and how they make people feel. So, I chose one of my favorite composers and pieces, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, to do the following experiment. The first video is played similar to how Herr Beethoven wrote his composition. The other versions are interpretations by other musicians. If you have a few minutes, please listen to a little or all of the following videos and vote for which one you prefer.

I know there are many factors to someone preferring one style over another. I am hoping that visitors will please leave me a comment on their feelings about the five interpretations. Does one version make you feel or think a different way than another version? Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :-D

Classical Piano

Swing Piano

Modern Orchestral



Which version of Beethovan's Moonlight Sonata did you prefer?

Please leave any other thoughts and feelings below in the comment box.

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Music Quotations

"Music has a power of forming the character, and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young." ~ Aristotle

"Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together." ~ Anais Nin

"Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought." ~ E.Y. Harburg

"Truly there would be reason to go mad were it not for music." ~ Peter Tchaikovsky

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." ~ Berthold Auerbach

"Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit."~ Unknown

Music, Body, & Mind Quotes were researched from Think Exist.


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