Ancient civilizations and the healing power of music: How beneficial can it really be?

Music is well regarded for having endless unique benefits, including the ability to improve cognitive performance and improve memory. However, when it comes to music’s rumored power for helping to heal our physical or mental ailments, it can be understandably hard to believe that sound can achieve such a feat. While ancient civilizations may play a role in holding the answers, here’s how sound was used back then in relation to healing and how music was later discovered to relate to medicine — as well as how it can continue to be beneficial today.

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Ancient civilizations and the healing power of music. © Image Credit: DreamsTime

How the Egyptians benefited from sound

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Egyptian musician in a bas-relief from Hatshepsut’s Red Chapel in Karnak Temple near Luxor (Thebes), Egypt. © Image Credit: Wrangel | Licensed from DreamsTime, ID: 583167

Music has been utilized for its therapeutic benefits since ancient times, and while Greek physicians were known to use flutes and zitters to heal their patients, the Egyptians had their own method of gaining benefits from creating sound, too. Believing that the sound of vowels could generate vibrations that had special healing abilities, they used a special method called “toning,” or the manipulation of vowel sounds by using breath and voice to create a unique and therapeutic result. In fact, this method was so important for healing that resonating structures were actually built in order to amplify the therapeutic effects of sound during important times such as religious ceremonies, and were actually incorporated into the pyramids themselves — highlighting just how much it was valued. The King’s chamber in the Great Pyramid of Giza, for instance, was designed to reverberate to increase the sound energy from chanting, according to one acoustician by the name of John Stuart Reid.

Finding truth in music’s therapeutic properties

Many may be skeptical when hearing about the many healing and therapeutic benefits that music can hold, though there has been significant research that proves ancient civilizations were onto something profound. Although researchers began to study the application of music in medicine and healing towards the end of the 19th century, Diogel of Salpetriere Hospital in Paris originally reported on the effects of music on physiological responses, (including aspects such as cardiac output, respiratory rate, pulse rate, and blood pressure). Through the use of live musicians by the patient’s bedside to conduct his research, it was ultimately found that music does heal in a sense through lowering blood pressure and heart rate and increasing cardiac output, as well as generally aiding the workings of the parasympathetic system.

From ancient civilization to today

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A woman at healing session with singing bowl in room. © Image Credit: Chernetskaya | Licensed from DreamsTime, ID: 207531493

Today, music is well known for its healing properties and is becoming more widely used in treatment methods for both physical and mental illness via methods like structured music therapy. In fact, researchers concluded that music is a valid therapy that can potentially reduce depression and anxiety as well as improve mood, self esteem, and even the quality of life after reviewing 25 trials. However, you don’t have to participate in official music therapy sessions to gain the many benefits that music has to offer, as learning to play an instrument — like the piano — can allow you to do just that. With apps such as Flowkey offering features like the ability to speed up and slow down songs to practice as well as the ability to “listen” to an acoustic or digital piano to give instant feedback, you can easily learn on your own. However, other online learning methods including Piano Marvel, are ideal for serious players and are designed for fast learning, allowing you to choose the best teacher for you.

While it can seem doubtful that simply listening or performing music can be healing, ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians realized it’s power very early on. With research dispelling any myths, reaping the benefits of music’s healing powers can be done today through official music therapy or even by simply learning to play an instrument on your own.