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Music Therapy: Basic Facts and Exercises

Updated on July 12, 2016

A Brief History of Music

Music is a form of art. It is found in every culture throughout history.

Its history starts in prehistoric times. First, the prehistoric people used only their voices for music making such as singing, whistling or humming. The first music instruments were bone-carved flutes. The oldest flute found in archeological park near Cerkno town in Slovenia is believed to be about 40,000 years old.

In ancient times, music became an important part of social and cultural life. Together with dance it was used in rituals, celebration and religious ceremonies (for example in ancient Egypt). In ancient Greece and Roman Empire music was also used in performances in theatres and played a role in much kind of entertainments.

The medieval era’s music was mainly connected with Roman Catholic Church. Also the only music repertory which remained from this time period is Gregorian chant, the liturgical song of the Roman Catholic Church. When this era turned into Renaissance, music became part of secular arts; it wasn’t connected only with religion anymore. That escalated with baroque; a lot of new forms of music were discovered such as the opera, the fugue, the sonata or the concerto. This era also gave birth to such world famous composers as Johann Sebastian Bach or George Frideric Handel. Classicism developed previous baroque form of music and its best known composers are Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert. Through romanticism music entered era of 20th and 21st century developing enormous amount of new music styles.

Music

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Power of Music

As I mentioned before music is a form of art. It is performing art to be more precise. This category of art also includes theatre, film and dancing.

Music is very powerful. As a form of art it can be used for expressing emotions. A lot of people (not just world famous artists) put into music their own problems they have to deal with and their own emotions. Music can be used like this as a form of relaxation and a way to deal with hardships. Expressing emotion through art as music or drawing is common for artistic based people.

A lot of people memories are connected to music. That is a reason why music is so powerful and can influence people’s mood so easily. It can either bring happiness or sadness. It can heal or hurt. Bring a peace to people’s mind or a storm.

There is a form of therapy which intentionally uses music to influence people’s mind in order to help them – it is called music therapy.

About Music Therapy

If you search through a literature you will find a lot of definitions of music therapy. It is a therapy which focuses on developing communication skills, helps with interactions with surroundings and self-expression. It can be performed in an individual or a group form.

On top of that, music therapy can be divided into two categories:

  • Active music therapy
  • Passive music therapy

Active music therapy:

It contains a few possibilities how music therapy can be performed in an active way. We can split it into five categories.

  • Vocal – using singing in order to harmonize a personality and bring relaxation; while singing in a choir one can be integrate into a group and gain a lot of new experiences; it also helps to regulate a negative tension
  • Instrumental – using oneself body (clap, stomp, snap one’s fingers) or a musical instrument mostly for self-expression
  • Verbal – narrating stories with music accompaniment
  • Movement – using dance as a tool for achieving positive emotions and form of nonverbal communication
  • Visual and dramatic art – music can be used in different types of art (for example: The song is played and a person is supposed to draw what he/she feels while listening to this song)

Passive music therapy

Passive music therapy is only about listening music, usually favorite ones or some relaxing or stimulating music.

Power of Music

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Influence of Music Therapy

Music therapy can be provided to almost anyone, age doesn’t matter. But there can be a problem with some diagnosis, so if you will recommend music therapy to someone, be careful. Since music is so powerful, it shouldn’t be used lightly.

Actually, music therapy can worsen a state of health at people with following diagnosis: neurosis, epilepsy, schizophrenia, depression (mainly at people who have a tendency to commit a suicide), anxieties or maniac reactions. So while choosing music therapy as a tool for healing, one must be extremely cautious and be aware of individuality of people and their health problems.

Music therapy can be used for people with some health problem but according to some authors it can also positively influence chakras. In the book Tune & Heal by Barbara Angel Romanowska you can even find specific compositions which influence each chakra. Just in case you are interested, or if you are interested in a whole topic of chakras (you know, not everyone actually is in this topic) I can present you some of compositions mentioned in the book.

  • 1. Chakra Concerto C-dur by Johann Sebastian Bach
  • 2. Chakra – last part of V. symphony by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  • 3. Chakra – ‘Spring’ from The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi
  • 4. Chakra – ‘Winter’ from The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi
  • 5. Chakra – Eine kleine Nachtmusik (first part Allegro) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • 6. Chakra – Preludium A-dur op. 28/7 by Frédéric Chopin
  • 7. Chakra – Turkish March by Ludwig van Beethoven

Except influencing chakras, music therapy can be used to influence other areas as well. Some of these areas were mentioned before – dealing with problems or health issues, relaxation, improving communication skills or expressing emotions. It can be used for enhancing memories, managing stress or relieving from pain.

Music therapy can be performed by professional music therapist but you can also practice music therapy by yourself if you don’t want or need a professional help. Let’s present some of music therapy’s exercises which can be used at home.

Music Exercises

There exists a book called Sound Health: The Music and Sounds That Make Us Whole by Steven Halpern, a Grammy-award nominee and one of the founders of New Age Music (in Czech Republic this book was translated together with a book The Healing Energies of Music by Hal A. Lingerman so I will use some ideas from this book as well). The reason why I mention Steven Halpern’s book is that it is full of music exercises and ideas how to deal with a noise. Here are some of these exercises.

A Music Bath

Play soft music according to your own choice. Sit or lie in a relaxing position. Take a deep breath and with exhalation get rid slowly of tension in your body. Imagine that music is flowing through your body and acoustic washing away consequences of daily noises. Immerse into music as if it was a bath. Feel its resonations in your body.

A Music Exercise with Imaginations

Choose a place and time without anyone interrupting you. Take up a relaxing position. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. When relaxing music starts to play, imagine pleasant surroundings – it can be a meadow with a lot of flowers, a mountain stream or seashore. Try to listen to blowing wind, rustling trees or ocean waves, try to touch things, smell grass or flowers, feel a touch of sand under your feet. Spend your time in a deep relaxation.

An Exercise against Sleeplessness

I picked this exercise up, because I think that a lot of people have problem with sleep thanks to stress.

So, before sleep listen to calm, distant music. Avoid late TV program which can be disquieted. Eat little at evening. You can also listen to quiet play of flute, harp or the strings.


Relaxing Music for a Sleep

How to Find Music Which Can Positively Influence Your Health

Take up a relaxing position. While listening to music, observe your breathing. If you breathe irregularly and weekly, music is not good for your health. If you breathe deeper and regularly then that music can have a positive impact on your health. You have to find out that music by yourselves. Try to experiment.

There is more to it in this book – about music influencing our health, our psychic or our condition so if you are interested in this topic I recommend you to read this book.

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