When music heals

When music heals

Music is frequently used as a therapeutic agent and this (music therapy) operates in 2 ways. The active form presents sounds through innovative techniques, is activity-based and helps improve hand-eye coordination. The passive form, where one just listens to music, is used for healing pain and trauma, and relaxation purposes.


This form of therapy has several effects. It increases the metabolic activity of the human body, has a soothing and healing effect on people, accelerates the respiration, improves muscular activity and ultimately, affects the nervous and circulatory systems of the listener and the performer.

Meena Ganapathy, a singer and a faculty member of Win Autism, has been practising music therapy for 12 years now. “One day, I came to class, feeling very tired and Ashwathi, a non-verbal child who hardly interacted with me, stood up and said ‘All of you, keep quiet. Ma’am is tired.’ That was an extraordinary moment!”

Music therapy is based on a scientific and clinical approach and has to be used with great care which comes with an understanding of the nature of illnesses. The first step is to identify the type of music that can be used. It is also dependent on correct intonation and right usage of the basic elements of music such as notes (swar) rhythm, volume, beats and melody.

There are countless ‘ragas’ with numerous characteristic peculiarities, which is why therapists cannot establish a specific ‘raga’ for a particular disease. In order to determine which ‘raga’ is to be used, they apply the formula of three ‘Ps’ — perfect time, which includes duration, span, interval and time to play the music; perfect direction which includes posture and conditions to listen to the music and perfect force which includes tone, timbre, sound quality and volume of meditative music.

Sowmya Anil Kumar, also a music therapist, says, “I am a Carnatic singer and I used music therapy for my daughter. When she was 3, she suffered a global developmental delay. I used to conduct therapy sessions for her and it did wonders.

I would sing to her and she’d respond well; she’d clap her hands and use words like ‘ba illi’ (meaning ‘come here’). Being a music therapist, I have gained a lot; most important are the feelings of contentment and happiness when the treatment works.”

The effect may be immediate or slow, depending on a number of factors, as
music therapy largely depends on individual needs and taste. And the bright side of this treatment is that there is no such thing as an overdose, withdrawal or addiction as it is not a substitute to medicine.

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