Category Archives: Sound Healing

Music Therapy and Sound Healing: What’s the Difference?

In the last year, as I have talked to people about how I want to use sound to heal others, I’ve been asked often, by those who are unfamiliar with either music therapy or of sound healing, “What’s the difference?”

This post is my attempt to explain, through two professionals’ definitions, the differences and similarities within the fields.

In a March 31st post on her blog for Psychology Today, Kimberly Sena Moore had this to say about her work as a music therapist:

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The key I take away from her explanation and of my own understanding, as I have talked with professional and student music therapists is that this form of therapy is process-based and relies heavily on the therapist’s knowledge of music’s structure, rhythm and melody to influence, motivate or effect physical, emotional, or social changes in a person.

With sound healing, as with music therapy, both can use instruments or the voice to impact a client’s wellbeing; both can engage the client in music making.

The differences between music therapy and sound healing, as I understand them, are subtle but distinct: The intent of sound healing is to facilitate and direct specific sounds, and their resulting vibrations, to impact well being. Whether through a complex musical passage, or with a single toned note, the focus is on influencing sound’s energy to bring about change in people and environments.

Here is what Jonathan Goldman, a pioneer in sound healing, had to say about his work:

“… the basic principle of sound healing is that everything is in a state of vibration, including our organs, bones, tissues, etc. If these parts of the body become imbalanced they may be healed through projecting the proper and correct frequencies back into the body. This works for imbalances and over- or under-activity in the chakras and the energy fields.”

So, to summarize, both forms of therapy use music as a basis for impacting clients’ well being. Music therapy bases its protocols on what is known about music’s structure and rhythm to actively engage a client in music making for the purpose of addressing a specific health outcome.

Similarly, sound therapies use music to guide healing, but protocols are not based solely on the process of music listening or creation, but rather on finding and producing specific frequencies, which may be unique to the individual, that then can be directed internally to facilitate healing.

For those of you actively working with clients in either of these therapies, I’d love to hear how you would describe the work that you do.  For those of you who have used both forms of therapy in your practices, what advantages or disadvantages, if any, have you seen?

Calling Kali: Reclaiming my Voice and Courage through Sacred Chant

My journey through sound began at a very early age. From the age of three on, I can remember getting a healthy dose of American Bandstand along with my Saturday morning cartoons: grooving to the hits of the day.

There were the long winter nights listening to my Dad’s reel-to-reel recordings of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells that sent currents of electricity up my spine, and Isao Tomita’s interpretations of Claude Debussy’s Reverie and Golliwog’s Cakewalk that could reduce me to tears and then have me laughing hysterically (they still do more than 30 years later).

Then there was my cherished record player that introduced me to the voices of Motown, George Harrison and Ricky Skaggs.  It served as a backdrop for many hours of blissful vocal exploration.

My love of singing continued throughout grade and high school, giving me many opportunities to hone my skill and share my first love with people from around the world.

Fast forward 18 years later. I am sitting in a yoga studio quietly contemplating what I hope to discover from a summer-long workshop designed to put me touch with my personal sound and the six energy centers, or chakras, of my body.   “What do I sound like?”, I wondered. After nearly two decades, the only signing I had done involved singing along with the car radio and a couple of stints of Karaoke at company Christmas parties.  I realized that I had no idea what I sounded like unaccompanied and striped to my essence.   It had been even longer since I had sung without an agenda and had enveloped myself in the rush of harmonics that I heard and felt to my core as I vocalized on the fly.   “I can do this. I need to do this,” I said, at once exhilarated and petrified.

Each class started with a group chant that progressed to call and response and finished with each of us choosing two or three Sanskrit seed syllables to weave a tapestry of vocal invocation using only our inner knowing and our sound to carry us from note to note.

One evening, during the call and response portion of class, as the instructor led us in chant, I felt my usual sensations of serenity and calm, but somehow tonight was different. I also felt a growing wave of heat and vibration that traveled through my arms and legs and left me feeling extremely energized.  Even at 10 o’clock that evening, after three hours of chanting, I felt that I had energy to burn and couldn’t settle down. “Wow!,” I thought. “What I had I tapped into tonight?”

I received my answer the following Tuesday evening.

While discussing my previous week’s experience with my classmates and teachers, I pondered that the  seed syllable “Krim” (Kreem) must really hold some significance for me, as it kept me unusually energized. The teacher who had led the chant paused, looked surprised, then smiled and said, “The fear you had wanted to put aside, well, you didn’t just move it, you demolished it.”

It turns out, the intended syllable had been “Eim” (I’m) which Eastern Hindu, Vedic and Tibetan Buddhist traditions define as “Develops and manifests spiritual knowledge. Used to achieve good education, memory, intelligence, musical skill and spiritual endeavors”

While with Krim I had chosen to express, “Seed of the Hindu goddess Kali, goddess of creation and destruction.” Chanting this is said to produce an accumulation of kundalini power at the base of the spine.

Whether by accident or intuition, I had called upon the energy I had needed to speak my truth. The same innate energy I tapped as a three year-old, and as a teen, as I lost myself in sound.

How has sound affected you or your clients?  What have you learned about yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually with music and sound as your guide?  I would love to hear from other practitioners, teachers or students who actively use sound in their practices.