Sound healing, as the name implies, is a vibrational therapy where sound is used to create balance and alignment in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of our being. In sound healing, music or tones are usually administered to an individual by assorted instruments or by the human voice coupled with the intention of creating health.

For centuries, sound was one of the predominant healing modalities in many cultures. Shamans chanted and drummed to heal people, while ancient mystery schools in Greece, Egypt and India developed sound into a sacred science. In the Bible, David played his harp to lift King Saul’s depression. Egyptian papyri over 2,600 years old refer to incantations as cures for infertility and rheumatic pain. The ancient Greeks believed music had the power to heal body and soul and used the flute and the lyre for treating illnesses such as gout and sciatica. Pythagoras used special songs and incantations with particular melodies and rhythms to cure diseases of the body and mind. The great Pyramids, some say, were constructed using sound.

While the use of sound and music can be found in many spiritual and sacred cultural traditions, sound healing is a relatively new modality in the allopathic and complementary healing arts. The basic principle of sound healing holds that all matter is energy; this energy is eternal and in a constant state of vibration, or resonance. Unseen, this vibration, or subtle energy field, is primordial and the basic foundation for all existence.

Cymatics offers us the means to observe the behavior of energy fields. Dr. Hans Jenny (1904-1972) was an early sound healing pioneer who studied Cymatics, or how sound creates shapes. Dr. Jenny played pure tones, or sine wave vibrations, into a speaker with a metal plate covered with various inert powders, pastes, and liquids. When the tones were played into the speaker, the substances on the metal plate became life-like, flowing forms, which surprisingly took shapes that mirrored patterns found throughout nature, art and architecture. These cymatic images are truly awe-inspiring, not only for their visual beauty in portraying the inherent responsiveness of matter to sound, but also because they inspire a deep recognition that we, too, are part of this same complex and intricate vibrational matrix.

Cymatic therapy, developed further by physician Peter Guy Manners, M.D., is based on the principle of sound healing that every cell in the body is controlled by an electromagnetic field, which resonates at its own unique sound frequency. Taking this idea one step further, the entire body has a composite harmonic frequency with its own personal vibratory rate as unique as a fingerprint. Even our bones, organs and tissues vibrate at a unique frequency.

When these different parts of our body are vibrating at their normal, healthy frequency, we call this state “health”; when portion of our body begins to vibrate at a frequency that is not harmonious to us, we call this “disease”. Based on the science of Cymatics, if the diseased organ or tissue, such as a kidney or liver, is exposed over a period of time to the correct frequency of a healthy kidney or liver, it will cause the vibrational pattern of the diseased organ to correct itself and return to a state of health and harmony. This is an example of entrainment.

One aspect of resonance is entrainment. Entrainment is a phenomenon of sound in which the powerful rhythmic vibrations of one object will cause the less powerful vibrations of another object to lock in step and to vibrate at the first object’s rate. The principle of entrainment is universal, appearing in chemistry, pharmacology, biology, medicine, psychology, sociology, astronomy, architecture and more. The classic example shows that individual pulsing heart muscle cells, when brought close together, will begin to pulse in synchrony. This tendency of one field to call another into its resonance applies to all types of waveforms — from heart and nerve cells to ocean currents and to the flights of birds. Nature always seeks the most efficient state; it takes less energy to pulse in co-operation than in opposition.

The ability of one sound to enter into the rhythm of another is at the heart of any therapeutic relationship, particularly bodywork. The principle of entrainment can be demonstrated in a simple acoustical experiment with two tuning forks calibrated to the same frequency. When one fork is struck and held in close proximity to the other, the unstruck tuning fork will begin to resonate and sound the same note. We humans are highly sophisticated tuning forks, capable of tuning ourselves, and each other, by intentionally aligning and sounding the frequencies of our unique patterning.

Jonathan Goldman, a leader in the sound healing field, states that intention is extremely important in any healing relationship, and that coupling intention with frequency creates the transformation experience that encompasses sound healing. The depth and variety of sound healing varies extensively and may include the following:

  • Music in Imagery: A client listens to specific music while using imagery to open their psyche for self-discovery.
  • Music Therapy: A therapist works with clients using songs and music to help elicit states of behavior modification.
  • Cymatic Therapy: Specific frequencies are projected into a client’s body via various instruments to create physiological, emotional and mental changes.
  • Audio Tapes/CD’s: Specifically designed frequencies are created for a particular condition in a client.
  • The Electronic Ear: A client listens to a program of specially filtered music via headphones, designed to open the ear and the brain to greater frequencies of sound and treat imbalances such as dyslexia and emotional issues.
  • Toning and Overtoning: A client receives the vocally created sounds of a practitioner to balance and align the physical, emotional or etheric levels.
  • Harmonic Resonance: A client is tested using kinesiology and receives frequencies from synthesized sounds to balance the physical body.
  • Bio-Acoustics: The missing frequencies of a client’s voice are found and played back via synthesized sounds.
  • Hemi-Sync: A client listens to synthesized sounds designed to balance the hemi-spheres of the brain and induce altered states of consciousness.
  • Mantra Chanting: A client sounds specific mantras designed to balance and align their etheric field, which influences the physical body over time.
  • Tuning Forks: A client receives the frequencies from specially designed tuning forks that are placed on meridians, muscles, etc. for relaxation and to restore health.
  • Vibro-Acoustic beds, chairs, etc.: A client sits or lays on a specially designed bed that projects music into their body.

Perhaps the supreme instrument of healing — one that is both natural and cost effective — is the human voice. Toning is a generic term that illustrates the use of the voice for releasing pain and stress and aligning imbalanced portions of the body with a healing frequency. Often, a sound healing practitioner will allow themselves to become a conduit for inspired sacred healing sound, voicing certain sounds based on their intuitive analysis of a client’s condition. This technique is identified as overtoning.

In overtoning, a sound healer uses their voice both to scan the physical body of their client and then to project vocal harmonics (overtones) into any imbalanced portion of the body, or etheric center that is identified. A siren-like sound is made, starting at the bottom of the client’s feet with a very low sound and continuing up the body, raising in pitch, until a very high sound is created at the client’s head. The vocal timbre, or tone color, created by harmonics in the voice, actually change when the sound reaches a place of imbalance in the body. The healer projects a specific harmonic into this area until the harmonic becomes less audible or disappears and the tone becomes normalized.

The results of overtoning can be quite astounding. Since sound can rearrange molecular structure, it is reasonable that seemingly miraculous things could occur; vertebrae align, muscles relax, chronic pains disappear, traumas and blockages release. Clients report feelings of being energized, ecstatic, light-headed, or drowsy following an overtoning treatment. Techniques such as overtoning are particularly effective when combined with various bodywork modalities, from massage to chiropractic to therapeutic touch. A skilled practitioner can create sounds to enrich their modality and enable their bodywork to reach new levels of effectiveness.

Sound as a healing modality is on the forefront of modern medicine. Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, MD, a prominent cancer specialist and leader in combining alternative therapies with mainstream medicine, has made listening to Tibetan and crystal singing bowls and mantra chanting a routine part of his cancer therapy. Gaynor believes that the vibrations created through these mediums affect the diosrhythmic motion found in cancer cells causing them to reorganize. Many of Gaynor’s patients say that the rich tones and frequencies from the bowls and chants resonate deeply to their core and that they feel in greater harmony with the universe following a treatment. These all-encompassing, trance-like states of consciousness, says Gaynor, are conducive to healing.

Fabien Maman, a French composer and bioenergeticist agrees with Gaynor. Maman experimented with the impact of sound waves on healthy cells and uterine cancer cells using a camera mounted on a microscope. When musical scales were sung to them, the diseased cells became disorganized. Maman further used these findings to support experiments with two breast cancer patients, each of whom toned for three and a half hours a day for a month. In one case, the tumor completely vanished, while the other woman had her tumor surgically removed. The surgeon observed the malignant tumor had shrunk significantly in size and there were no metastases; the patient recovered fully.

Dr. David Simon, medical director of neurological services at a San Diego hospital and at the Chopra Center, makes use of chanting to chemically metabolize the body into “endogenous opiates” that act as both internal painkillers and healing agents. Scientists at Michigan State University concur and demonstrate that simply listening to healing music significantly increases levels of interleukin-1 in the bloodstream. Interleukins are a family of proteins associated with blood and platelet production, lymphocyte stimulation and cellular protection against AIDS, cancer and other diseases. Participants in the Michigan study who listened to healing music reduced their levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that depresses the immune system, by as much as 25 percent.

The Heart/Math Institute in California verified that when two sets of sequenced tones are used together, heart and brain rhythms begin to work in synchronization; when this synchronization happens, healing is often the result. Hundreds of trials using sequenced frequencies with those individuals reporting various degrees of back pain support the conclusion that sound significantly decreased, and in a number of cases, completely alleviated pain for those participating in the research. Liz Longeran, RN and founder of the Body and Soul Health Clinic in Chicago used the sequenced tones on people with back pain and states, “We were astonished when degenerated discs began to restructure themselves after a patient started using the tones.” Now, these frequencies can be used as a preventative measure when back pain seems to be on the horizon for anyone.

Today, physicians, healers and therapists working with sound and music can follow the paths of the ancient shamanic traditions, combining the magic and mysticism of sound with science and technology. We are awakening to the knowledge that we are open instruments of energy, aware and interactive, from the most minute sub-cellular level of our own inner spaces to the far reaches of our universe. Healers and therapists using this knowledge will guide us back to the roots of the most ancient healing practices, and create a new frontier in the healing arts using sound as healer.

Editor’s note: To explore various sound healing recordings, click here.