What is sound therapy?
You’ll be familiar with how music can affect your mood and state of being, from relaxing you to energising you, from lifting your spirits to making you feel thoughtful and pensive.
Sound therapy has similar effects, but working at a more basic level: without using the melody, pattern and structure that music has.
Sound therapy uses:
- tone – a sound of a single frequency
- timbre – characteristic sound of an instrument
- pitch – the highness or lowness of a tone
- intervals – the pitch difference between one tone and another
- volume – loudness
- rhythm – pattern in time of the sounds played
to bring about a therapeutic effect in your physical and mental state.
Instruments and techniques
I play gongs, Himalayan singing bowls, crystal singing bowls, frame drum and therapeutic percussion, combining the sound therapy elements above to bring about a healing or therapeutic effect in the client. I can play in a fashion that is relaxing or stimulating, depending upon the symptoms the client is presenting and what they want to work on. I may play one instrument, or a combination.
The instruments I choose to play, and the techniques I use in playing them, vary depending upon the client’s needs. I would play differently for a client with fibromyalgia than I would for one experiencing anxiety, and differently again for a client dealing with grief. My sound therapy method uses gentle volume, working to the principle that less is more.
I also can lead my clients through a reflective method that helps them gain greater insight into their issues, enabling them to start shifting deep thought patterns and perspectives that have been keeping them stuck in pain, stress and unhappiness.
Entrainment and resonance
My playing works with a physical principle called entrainment, bringing two different systems into sync with each other: in this case, the two systems are the sounds played, and your body. This can be done with tone or rhythm.
The lack of rhythm in long tones, such as those tones produced by the gong or Himalayan singing bowls, can encourage your system to relax into lower brainwave frequency states, taking you into deep relaxation. The regular rhythm of the frame drum can bring your physical body into resonance with it – matching frequencies between you and the drum. I can make this soothing or energising with the speed of the rhythm I play.
Altered state of consciousness
Sound played therapeutically takes you into a deeply relaxed state, where you’re likely to feel a sense of peace and calm. This is called an altered state of consciousness (ASC), simply meaning that it’s different to your usual state of consciousness, that of alertness and attentiveness. Your physical system calms and slows down, as does your brain’s activity.
This state is the same one you’re in when lost deep in daydreams, or just about to drop off to sleep. This is a rest-and-repair state, on a physical level as well as mental. Mental and physical tension can be released, and new insight gained into your problems. Your creativity and self-awareness can also be heightened.
Shift your problems and reduce stress
Experiencing this deep relaxation is healing for you on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. Done regularly, you can begin to shift problems in your life that have proved difficult to deal with in other ways. You can also experience reduction of your stress levels.
Sound therapy can be an effective way to relax if you find it difficult to relax through your own efforts. The response of your body and brain to the effects of tone and rhythm, through resonance and entrainment, is natural and hard to resist, letting your self relax with no effort required of you.
My private sound baths for one or two people are now available in Cockermouth. Book yourself in for one, and discover just how easily and deeply you can relax and de-stress.