Required Paper

Running Head:Throughout history how has music been used to heal?

Throughout history how has music been used to heal?

Miranda Galindo

California State University, Monterey Bay


Author’s Note: This paper was prepared for CHHS 125 taught by David Calloway & Natasha Oehlman.


Miranda Galindo


David Calloway & Natasha Oehlman

11 May 2014


Throughout history how has music been used to heal?

Music has been used throughout the ages within many cultures to heal. Music can be vocal or instrumental sound (or a combination of the two) to create harmony or express emotion. Egyptians’ used music in their rituals and ceremonies to the gods and Tibetan monks spend the majority of their life chanting.  Pythagoras, a Greek philosopher, thought music to be a type of medicine and Western society uses music as a type of therapy.  Whether music is used for religious reasons, celebration or enjoyment; music heals. Music has been used to heal by the Greek philosopher, Egyptians, Tibetan monks and music therapy.


Pythagoras, a Greek philosopher, discovered musical law. He discovered that a speed of a vibration produces a certain sound and octave. Later, he set a scale to those vibrations ranging from A-G. As Pythagoras discovered music law, he believed that this confirmed the existence of God and through God –you can heal all.

Pythagoras created a machine which then discovered the difference in the vibrations and the sound they create. Pythagoras “found that the speed of vibration and the size of the sound-producing body were the factors in music that were regulated by number” (Richards 2009).  He found that the numbers could be represented by a scale system. In Greek society “held the number seven as sacred” (Richards 2009), therefore the scale ranges from A-G. Pythagoras patiently worked with this machine till he created what he called music law.

As Pythagoras came upon discovering music law, he believed that music had the ability to heal. As Pythagoras became more involved in music, he began to call his method ‘musical medicine’. “Pythagoras considered that music contributed greatly to health, if used in the right way” (Stuart & Reid 2011). Pythagoras believed that music can increase the well-being of individuals, which can be compared to DeSalvo.  DeSalvo notes “people who began writing report feeling a greater sense of well-being.”  As Pythagoras established his music law, he found that there were health benefits to music. He believed that “With certain melodies composed top cure the passions of the psyche…anger and aggression” (Stuart & Reid 2011). Pythagoras believed in what he was doing and that music had healing abilities, which is why he called it ‘musical medicine’.


One of the first cultures recorded to use music were the Egyptians. Music was used for an array of reasons from parties to ceremonies and they used both instruments and vocalization depending on the occasion.

Musical instruments that the Egyptians used evolved over time. The oldest recorded instruments used were idiophones, instruments which “which vibrate to produce a sound when struck, shaken, or scraped” (Oxford dictionary). Types of idiophones are clappers, sistra, cymbals, and bells.  As time progressed, the instruments the Egyptians used evolved. They began to use wind, string, and percussion instruments. Wind instruments they used were variations of the flute, and oboe. String instruments recorded were harps and lutes. Percussion instruments used were sistra, menat, and tambourines.  The sistra and the menat, similar to the castanet, were used to worship gods in banquets and ceremonies along with singing.

Singing was a major part of Egyptians life. They sang to the gods as they gave them their offers of worldly materials, such as beer, bread, various meats, and clothing. Egyptians had many rules and regulations, such as certain words and instruments being used at a designated occasion. “The Egyptians believed that vowel sounds were sacred […]” (Stuart & Reid 2011), which is why Priests were the only ones allowed to use them in their chants. Egyptians believed that Priests were the only ones that able to display their power. Priests used sistra while vocalizing the chants. When sistras were used they did “not merely employed to enhance the musical soundscape, but were intended to enhance the healing effect.”  (Stuart & Reid 2011) Egyptians believed that the power of music had a healing effect. These rituals were an active part of the Egyptians daily life, which is similarly said about writing. In DeSalvo, it is noted that “a healing narrative links feelings to events” (DeSalvo 1999). Egyptians link their feelings for their gods to the music; similarly individuals link their feelings to the words they write.


Tibetan Monks

Chanting are sacred sounds used in rituals by Tibetan monks. Monks did not always chant their prayers and Lama Je Tzong Sherab Senge, a Tibetan monk, was the first to chant his prayers.

Tibetan monks chant their prayers out loud. Senge first discovered this method of chanting in a dream. “The sounds that came out of him were the sounds he had heard in his dream — unearthly sounds, tantric sounds — and he gathered his fellow monks together to tell them of his dream” (Goldman 2002). 500 years later, monks are still using Senge’s chant method. This chants sound like nothing they have ever heard before. These chants are powerful enough to heal- not just those chanting, but those who hear. “In Tibetan tantric chanting the goal of the chanting is to invoke and then unite with a particular deity or being” (Goldman 2002). The monks become the god they are chanting to in order for them to heal themselves and those around them. They believe that these that these chants have the ability to heal the psyche and physically body. The monks receive insight from the chanting and the deity they are chanting to. This related to DeSalvo on how “a healing narrative reveals insights we’ve achieved from our painful experiences” (DeSalvo 1999). Healing brings insight to the mind, body, and spirit (psyche). Music and writing both share this common goal in healing; though they have different methods they both are found to be effective.

Tibetan monks chant their prayers to gain insight from the deities. Their goal is to heal themselves and those around them. They dedicate their life to chanting and serving others. Tibetan monks’ chants are recognized as music that has been heard all around the world. Monks believe in what they are doing and enjoying singing for all to hear.

Music Therapy

In 1789, the first known music therapy was used by Western society. Music Therapy has come a long way since then. In the 1900’s Music Therapy became popular amongst many organizations. The National Association for Music Therapy was founded in 1971 and began to be recognized. Music therapy has spread worldwide from the United States and thirty other countries.

Music Therapy is available for everyone. Persons with illnesses and those considered healthy can all benefit from music therapy. Music Therapy is used in hospitals to help individuals cope with the news that they have an illness. Participants in Music Therapy do not need to have prior music experience. Music Therapy is fun, healthy way to relieve stress.  Music Therapy is not only used in hospitals, but schools, nursing home, and psychiatric facilities. Music Therapy sessions vary session to session and person to person. There is not a set music genre that works best for patients. The National Association for Music Therapy goal is  to help any and/or all of the following groups of people “Children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly with mental health needs, developmental and learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease and other aging related conditions, substance abuse problems, brain injuries, physical disabilities, and acute and chronic pain, including mothers in labor” ( 2014). Music Therapy can be used to help a wide range of people.

Music therapy uses both instruments and vocals during a session. The National Association for Music Therapy uses music to heal the patients on a specific manner depending on their situation. Music Therapy is typically used for children with serious illnesses and those individuals that are in nursing homes. Music therapy has been used to lengthen the life span of those who are seriously ill and/or in nursing homes. Music Therapy heals individuals in different ways, whether it is physically, psychologically, and/or mentally. Pennebaker makes a remark about the human body that relates to the way Music Therapy works. “Our bodies have evolved to respond almost immediately to an array of stressors” (Pennebaker 1997). Music Therapy tries to help their clients respond to those stressors in a positive way by using music.



Music has been used throughout the ages by a variety of people. Their geographical location and their music may define them, but that does not mean their music has not been used for healing purposes. Pythagoras, Egyptians, Tibetan monks, and music therapy have all been used to heal through the power of music.  They came across music for different reasons, but they all used music to heal. Music is powerful force that has been used to draw people together and let them all heal in a positive manner.


Stuart, J., & Reid, A. (2011, January 1). Ancient Sound Healing. . Retrieved , from

Dollinger, A. (2003, July 1). Music. . Retrieved , from

Richards, M. (n.d.). Pythagoras and Music. . Retrieved , from

DeSalvo, L. (1999). “Writing as a Way of Healing”;  Boston, Massachusetts. 02108-         2892. Beacon Press.

Goldman, J. (2002, January 1). Tantric Harmonics. Teachings. Retrieved , from

Kornblum, N. (2012, January 1). The Healing Power of Sound and Overtone Chant. . Retrieved , from

American Music Therapy Association. (2014, January 1). FAQ’s. Retrieved , from

Pennebaker, J. (1997). Confessions in the Laboratory . Opening Up (). : The Guilford Press .


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s