What is music therapy and how does it work?

andres caicedo

31 January, 2022

What is music therapy and how does it work?

Throughout our history, the influence of music on people has always been present. It is known that, in prehistoric times, music was already part of magical, religious and healing rites, although its first written record, found in the ancient Egyptian city of Kahum, dates back to 1500 BC. The ancient Egyptians already gave music the power to heal the body, calm the mind and purify the soul. A long journey through the eons to our days, in which we have already rationalized it and we know that music affects our body and mind, activating certain brain areas related to mood and state of mind. The ancient Egyptians already gave music the power to heal the body, calm the mind and purify the soul. A long journey through the eons until our days, in which we have already rationalized it and we know that music affects our body and mind, activating certain brain areas related to mood and state of mind.

What is music therapy?

It has been proven that music is a sensory experience that can activate all our brain areas simultaneously. For this reason, its use in therapy is especially useful, as it triggers the functioning of the brain in three aspects: emotional, cognitive and physical.

There are many definitions of music therapy, but perhaps the one that best defines its general character and essence is the one given by the International Music Therapy Association:

“Music therapy is the use of music and/or its elements (sound, rhythm, melody, and harmony) by a qualified music therapist, with a patient or group, in a process aimed at facilitating and promoting communication, learning, mobilization, expression, organization, or other relevant therapeutic goals, in order to assist physical, psychic, social, and cognitive needs.

 

How is music therapy applied?

The first thing to keep in mind is that a music therapist is not a music teacher. He is not just a person with extensive musical training. In fact, it goes beyond that. Music therapy is not simply music education, since music itself is not the end, it is the means, to obtain changes in a person.

To this end, music therapy can be performed in 4 different ways, depending on the musical experience that is needed:

  • Improvisation: The patient creates his/her own music by singing or playing the instrument provided.
  • Recreation: A song is sung or an already composed piece of music is played. From memory or by reading the score.
  • Composition: A song or a piece of music is composed according to known musical structures.
  • Listening: Listening to recorded or live music.

Likewise, it is important to choose the right music according to the objectives of the therapy. For this, it is necessary to consider the different parts that make up a piece of music:

  • Time: Slow times convey calm and security, while fast times are more exciting.
  • The rhythm: They can be slow and fast, the latter producing a greater motor activity.
  • Harmony: It is produced when several sounds are played at the same time and chosen conscientiously, according to the effect that you want to produce.
  • The tonality: The major modes are usually cheerful, lively, and funny, provoking the extraversion of people. The minor modes, present different connotations in their expression and influence, favoring the introversion of the individual.
  • The height: the high notes act, frequently, on the can wake us up or take us out of a state of tiredness. The low sounds, on the other hand, usually produce somber effects, a pessimistic vision, or an extreme tranquility.
  • Intensity: A very important aspect to control since it must be adequate for each person.
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