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Music for Health

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I feel very passionately about the power of music to affect us, our mood certainly, but also physiologically.  The rhythm can entrain our pulse and respirations.  Listening to music can greatly enhance relaxation.  “Performing” music a very effective means of expression.  It’s also great for our children’s self-esteem and confidence. 

Music can be listened to, used as a means of expression, or performed.

You don’t have to be a “musician” to enjoy playing an instrument.  We use percussion instruments from all over the world, and improvise with anything else too!  Hammer handles make great claves, broom handles and dustbins (and lids), saucepans, small branches from a tree, plastic bottle filled with rice, hardboard as a “wobble board” – just a few examples!  Sing!  How many of us sing in the bath/shower – wonderfully uninhibited and expressive.  Go for it!

 Drumming for Health


Music affects us as profoundly as anything we experience.  Very many people say that music is a big part of their everyday life.  We can hear evidence of this in the blaring car radio, and see the jogger with his personal stereo.  That is the new portability of music that brings it everywhere people live, play and work.  There are different kinds of music for all tastes – classical, pop, rock, rap, jazz, folk – each culture has its own style.  All this testifies to the great effect music has on virtually all people.  Different parts of the body resonate to different sounds and pitches, and most significantly, certain kinds of music resound powerfully in the human spirit.  We can listen to music anywhere and everywhere.

Those who make music with voice or instrument experience an added dimension to life, but it is true that many who might make music do not do so only through lack of confidence in themselves and their abilities.

Music transcends all.  It cuts through language, culture, age and religion.

Music is already real therapy for millions, whether they make it or listen to it.  It reaches its greatest significance when it becomes part of spiritual life.  Every significant religious tradition contains music that embodies the spirituality and longing of the people.

Listening to music can change your mood – sometimes dramatically.  Sometimes if you’re feeling low, it’s tempting to play slow sad music, but this will make you feel worse.  An uplifting tune or cheerful song can instantly improve your energy levels and your emotional well being.  

Music in film and television shows us how music can affect mood.  A romantic drama would have a very different filmscore to a thriller.  The old “silent” films originally had a pianist in the cinema playing along, trying to strike the right mood.  At times, when watching a film or TV programme, you know what’s about to happen because of the music being played – you can anticipate the terror, such as in “Jaws”.  There are many times when I've turned down the sound during a TV programme, and used subtitiles - because the music unsettles me so much!

In our spiritual lives, music plays a very big part.  Music creates the mood for worship, reverence or joyful celebration. 

Tunes such as “Pomp and Circumstance” (Land of Hope and Glory), will instil great pride and patriotism in the vast majority of us. 

It is well known that “musak” – background music – can affect our shopping habits, encouraging us to spend more money.  A recent survey by the Psychology Department at Leicester University (website) showed how music can affect the products we buy.  For a set period of time they played French music, and watching with a video camera directed at the wine shelves, showed a significant  increase in the number of bottles of French wine being sold.  They then played a German tune, which showed the same results with German wine.  The buyers seemed unaware of the influence of the music.

Scientists have shown how even hens are happier and produce more eggs when played calming music!

Playing Mozart when studying is said to increase our IQ.  (Weblink) Another recent study has shown that children who learn a musical instrument are much quicker at developing spatial awareness and problem solving skills.

A new invention reported in the Daily Express on 12 August 1998,  (and shown on Tomorrow’s World the next day), headlined “Music to your rears” – “Musical chairs that vibrate to your favourite tunes could prove the answer to stress”.

There are times when we might feel like taking our temper out on a set of drums, and it would almost certainly help us to feel better.  

Relaxation (or New Age) music has a slow rhythm.  Sounds are often synthesised and there may be added natural sounds, such as whalesong, birdsong, waves or gentle rain to help produce a feeling of calm and relaxation. 

An article appeared in ‘best’ dated 2 February 1999, with the headline ‘Musical Minds’

“Adults who had musical training as children have better word recall, a recent study has found.  Researchers say that women who went to music lessons for at least six years before the age of 12 were significantly better at remembering words than those who hadn’t.  Music could also be beneficial in treating memory loss or language difficulties.” 

McDonalds have done their own research, which shows that we eat according to the speed of the music being played.  Therefore, when a restaurant is busy, with a queue building up, McDonalds plays fast music, thus ensuring that the customers will eat quickly, and leave the restaurant sooner, freeing up the table for the next customers.

200 schools in London are presently trialling music in the classrooms.  After a few weeks, they have already found that the classrooms are much calmer, with even the most “unruly” child being able to work and concentrate better.  They have been (quietly) playing a variety of music that children wouldn’t normally listen to such as classical and traditional music from all over the world.     A teacher in Wales used Mozart's music with similar effect -  Learning with Mozart


Music experience has been shown to:

Improve motor functioning

Decrease muscle tension

Entrain and regulate respiration

Improve respiration and vital capacity

Reduce pain

Reduce heart rate

Increase pain tolerance and threshold

Decrease pain medication required

Decrease blood pressure

Decrease corticosteroid levels

Decrease finger temperature

Improve comfort

Compress/shorten time during labour

Promote well being of new-born

Provide measure of control and reduce helplessness

Reduce anxiety

Reduce psychological trauma

Enhance relaxation

Provide diversion

Elevate mood

Decrease fear

Increase verbalisations - speech is less inhibited

Increase mental performance during study


Effects of Music

Music   influences bodily processes.  It can affect our heart rate, blood pressure, and muscular responses. 

Music influences mood

Evokes imagery and imagination - varies for each person, culture, previous musical experiences and history.

Music makes relaxation more effective, and the mind is better able to picture images than with words alone.

 Entrainment - Music has the potential to entrain, or bring together, heart rate via its pulse, or breathing via its rhythm.

By matching music to your existing mood, changes in the mood can be brought about through changes in the mood of the music.

Enhance the effect of other treatments - E.g. Music can enhance relaxation

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Links to Music Therapy sites

British Society for Music Therapy

REI Institute   music for neurobiological disorders

Healthy Sounds

Music Therapy Info Link

How does Music Therapy Work? with links for music therapy in many conditions

American Music Therapy Association

Canadian Association for Music Therapy

Music Therapy & Mental Health

Music Therapy in Stress Management

Music Therapy for Young Children with Special Needs

Music Therapy for Personal Growth

Music Therapy in Palliative Care

A Bill of Musical Rights

Effects of Music on the Mind

Extra Music Improves Children's Learning Ability

Smooth Operators Name Their Tune  -  Music in Operating Theatres

Music for People

Prelude Music Therapy

Play it Again Etta  -  Sound Therapy

Knock on Wood UK online Music Shop for world instruments

Chamberlain Music   UK online Music shop

New World Music - if you'd rather listen than play!

Rainbow Music Therapy

Learning with Mozart

The Mozart Effect

Sing & Dance to Better Health

The Tomatis Method

Music Education and Therapy   for Children and Youth with Disabilities Network

Prelude Music Therapy

Florida Association for Music Therapy

Margaret Brandman Music Page

Music is....    (and the value of music in education)

Music and Children

Exeter University

Nordoff-Robbins   New York

Music Workshop Project

Marcie's Music Therapy Page

Smart Music

Music Power

Music for the Mind

Mozart can cut epilepsy

The Power of Music

Music Therapy Helps Dementia

Music in the

Research articles on Music at PubMed

Research articles on Music at Medscape/Medline

Music Therapy articles at BBC News  (use search facility for specific searches)  eg. 'music in classroom'

Guernsey (Schools) Music Service - provide an unbeatable service to the island's children!

Drumming for Health

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22 April 2002