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Music Therapy: Can Music Really "Soothe The Savage Beast?"

By Duane Shinn

It has long been suggested that "music soothes the savage beast." But is this true? And if it is, does this have any implication where humans are concerned? The answer, apparently, is yes. To illustrate this, researchers point to the different physiological changes that take place within the human body in response to different sounds and noises. A loud noise that shatters the silence sets the human heart racing and stimulates a rush of adrenaline that prepares you for flight. In contrast a soft, soothing sound helps us to relax.

Music therapy has, in fact, been around for thousands of years. Nearly four thousand years ago the Hebrew Scriptures recorded that the boy who would later become King David was hired by his predecessor to play the harp to calm King Saul when he would go into a rage. Likewise, the use of music therapy is found in the writings of ancient civilizations such as Egypt, China, India, Greece and Rome.

More recently, scientists have been studying the effects of music therapy and have documented changes in respiratory rates, blood pressure, and pulse in response to musical stimuli. Likewise, researchers in the realm of music therapy have found that the use of music therapy can be effective in areas as diverse as IQ and recovery rates, pain management and weight loss.

Some object that this sounds too good to be true. How can music therapy change something like pain management? Researchers tell us that the reason music therapy works is based on how we hear. Sound is little more than vibrations in the air that are picked up by the inner ear and transferred to the brain which is a key component in your nervous system and controls the functions of the body and the brain responds to the stimuli that it is given.

In light of this, music therapy can and often is used in a wide variety of applications. One common application for music therapy is in working with autistic individuals because research has found that music can help autistic children to express themselves. Likewise, music therapy has been found to help individuals with physical disabilities to develop better motor skills.

With music therapy, individuals with high levels of anxiety can be helped to express suppressed emotions thereby discharging anger, or enabling the individual to express the joy they would not otherwise be able to express. Likewise, research has found that music therapy can help lower the anxiety levels of hospital patients who find themselves facing frightening prospects and in an unfamiliar environment. Furthermore, music therapy has been found to help medical professionals with pain management such that they have been able to reduce pain medication by as much as one half by helping to stimulate the production of the body's own pain killers, called endorphins.

Music therapy can come is a wide variety of forms. In some cases it's as simple as having the individual listen to particular music. In other cases music therapy requires a more interactive approach, having the individual respond to the music either in dance or using some other form of expression. But in its many forms, music therapy has often been found to be beneficial.

About The Author

Duane Shinn is the author of over 500 music courses for adults. His book-CD-DVD course titled "How To Add Runs & Fills To Your Piano Playing!" is used by pianists around the world. He is the author of the popular free 101-week online e-mail newsletter "Amazing Secrets Of Exciting Piano Chords & Sizzling Chord Progressions" at


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