Different Types of Sound Therapy: A Comprehensive Overview

Discover the Power of Sound Your Way

In our last blog post, we explained the benefits of what therapeutic-grade sound therapy actually does for the mind, body and spirit.  Of course, the wonderful world of sound is rich with a wide variety of manifestations. While some of them may be new to you, there are many different types of sound therapy that can produce these mindbody benefits in different ways. And within these types, there are different styles and variations, so there’s bound to be some version of sound healing that resonates with your needs and preferences. In this comprehensive overview, we’ll explore the different types of sound therapy and their uses, to help you discover the power of sound your way. 

Tibetan bowls and candles

Types of Sound Therapy

We’ll be covering more information on these treatments over the coming weeks. But, in brief, the different types of sound therapy can be (with some overlap) reduced to the following categories:  meditative music, active sound therapy, body/energy therapy, and facilitated therapy for personal change & transformation

  1. Meditative Music

Meditative music is probably the most subjective of all the forms, considering that there are many different styles of meditation, and ways of painting  a landscape for the subconscious mind. This form of sound therapy requires a proficient knowledge of music theory & composition, and in many cases, improvisational skills, to effectively induct the body into relaxation and set the tone for the accompanying therapeutic intention. This type of music has been around for ages, as music has been a crucial element in spiritual ceremonies, rituals, and mind-body wellness practices in every culture since antiquity (attesting, again, to an age-old understanding of the power of sound).

In this branch of sound therapy, the following specialties can be found: 

Sound Bath: The sound bath is one of the widely-spreading forms of sound  therapy emerging in places from yoga studios to gallery openings, because of the gentle and often mesmerizing qualities of its instruments and how they are played. Besides using instruments rich in overtones and played in a way that facilitates access to altered states of consciousness, a quality sound bath holds space for inner exploration. They allow participants to become meditative, without effort, as they block their visual senses and embark on a soundscape experience of vibrations and sensation.  *Coming soon to the Om Shoppe & Spa

Private concert in a clinical environment. With candles surrounding the scene

Sound Journey: Though this label has been used on a wide variety of sound experiences, here at the OM Shoppe, we have branded our OM Sound Journeys to be a journey of sound in which hypnosis and sound are blended together to activate subconscious exploration and spark the process of emotional transformation. They are carefully curated compositions that also incorporate improvisation to further navigate the energetic flow of the room, usually performed with an extensive array of instruments (many times, over 50), and 3-4 trained musicians and sound therapy practitioners. 

*Available at the OM Shoppe & Spa

Guided Sound Meditations: These are different than sound baths, though some sound baths can begin with a guided meditation to unify purpose and intention and promote relaxation. A guided sound meditation, however, emphasizes meditation facilitated mainly by imagery and instruction, rather than sound. Sound is present and aids the journey, but only as a background setting to enhance feelings of calm and ease. The sound can come in a variety of forms, from nature sounds to  gentle music or simple droning from crystal singing bowls. 

Kirtan: Kirtan is a form of chanting based on sacred Sanskrit sounds with a unified focus and energetic intention. Because of its call-and-response format, kirtan is a form of active sound therapy, but we have included it as meditation music, as well, because it can also be sung and is often accompanied by music. The popular westernized form of this practice often combines other musical genres with the chants, including rock, electronica, and many others. As a group mantra meditation, kirtan helps to guide the awareness to a place of unity, peace, and stillness. 

*See Ocean of Sound Productions for world-renowned kirtan artists performing in the Sarasota area.

Hands of the woman playing a harp. Symphonic orchestra. Harpist close up.

Meditation Music Concerts: There are many genres that fall under the meditation music concert category, but it can refer to any type of music performed with the intent of bringing awareness to the inner world, and promoting stillness of the mind or another positive intention. Genres in this category can include anything labeled conscious music, medicine music, indigenous spiritual music, and can often be influenced by elements from New Age music, traditional folk music, and world music. But the reaches of meditation music have definitely been expanding, and now, you can find music with this focus in more modern applications from reggae to hip-hop to electronica, and many more!

*See Ocean of Sound Productions for meditation music concerts in the Sarasota area.

2. Active Sound Therapy 

Active Sound Therapy involves the client or audience audibly participating and not just receiving the vibrations of sound. This is a powerful form of therapy for strengthening the voice and sense of self-empowerment, as well as promoting a sense of connectedness and internalizing intention. 

Forms of Active Sound Therapy include: 

Chanting: Chanting (this can include kirtan, mantra chanting, seed syllable chanting, and many others) is a powerful way to lose the separation of self, and enter into an altered state of consciousness where the mind is protected from excessive thoughts. This can be done by oneself or in a group setting, but the key lies in repetition and continuously bringing the mind back to the chant when it wants to wander. Recent studies have even discovered that chanting sacred sounds, like OM, can even regulate the hypothalamus of the brain, deactivating the amygdala, which helps stabilize emotions, and reduce fear, anxiety, depression, and anger.   

Facilitated Drum/Rhythm Circles:  Properly facilitated drum, rhythm, or music circles can have a profound effect at entraining the brainwaves into a theta state, triggered by the simultaneous creation of particular rhythms or tones and bringing participants into the present moment. They can also provide a strong sense of community, focus, self-empowerment and a constructive method of emotional release, among many other benefits.  

*Coming soon to the OM Shoppe & Spa.

3. Sound-Activated Body/Energy Therapy

Sound-activated body and energy therapy involves the use of sound waves, usually  through pure sustained tones or intervals, to affect the body and energy-body in direct ways.

Some forms of this type of sound therapy include: 

Vibroacoustic Therapy: Vibroacoustic therapy usually involves the use of low-frequency sound vibrations transferred through a transducer onto a bed, chair, or mat, where a client can listen to and physically feel the sounds from the device. Though it has not yet been validated whether vibroacoustic devices actually increase energy levels in our cells to an optimum state, there have been a  multitude of studies that show significant therapeutic effects on the body, from calming down the autonomic nervous system, to improving pain management, improving sleep, and even improving symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

*Coming soon to the OM Shoppe & Spa.

Tuning fork in sound therapy

Acutonics: Acutonics and other tuning fork therapies are a noninvasive practice of placing tuning forks (at specific hertz) directly onto acupressure points, trigger points, or pain points to access and open the energy pathways in the body, or relieve tension and disharmony. 

Soundwave Attunements/ Individualized Sound Healing: These individual sound healing sessions or attunements focus on chakra, energy, or meridian therapy, using the tones and textures of various instruments (most commonly, crystal singing & tibetan singing bowls, crystal instruments, handpans & other steel-tongue drums, tuning forks, chimes, frame drum, and rattles/shakers) to bring harmony to the energy body, or clear energetic blockages. As with other forms of sound therapy, this form can also work to lower the brainwaves and promote deep rest. 

*Available at the OM Shoppe & Spa.

Tibetan bells in sound therapy

Binaural Beats: Binaural beats (best when heard through headphones) are pure tones that are a few hertz apart (the exact hertz corresponding to the brainwave state they are intended for). The brain makes up the difference in oscillations, thus becoming entrained into a lower brainwave state (alpha, theta, or delta), a sort of hypnosis allowing us to shift states of consciousness for an intended intention (deep sleep, focus and creativity, etc.)

4. Facilitated Sound Therapy for Personal Change & Transformation

Facilitated Sound Therapy can also be used for altering brain patterns and shifting brainwave states. In this way, sound can be used alongside hypnosis or other forms of change therapy to more rapidly and effectively promote emotional release and thought/behavior modification. 

Various Specialties in Facilitated Transformational Sound Therapy include:

Adorable Cute Girl Playing Piano Concept

Music Therapy: Music therapy is the evidence-based use of music to accomplish individualized goals between a client and music therapist, addressing various physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs. Music therapy has been used to help “overall physical rehabilitation, facilitate movement, provide emotional support for clients and families, and provide an outlet for expression of feelings.” It has been shown to help mitigate symptoms of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia, autism spectrum disorder and learning difficulties, and other behavioral and psychiatric disorders, as well as help improve quality of life for those with life-threatening illnesses

Even within the realm of music therapy, there are several fields of specialty.  Nordoff-Robins music therapy, for example, is one school of thought that believes in the effectiveness of clients taking an active participatory role in the therapy, and creating music with their therapist, thus enhancing their skills of expression.

Guided Imagery & Music: The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery & Music combines transformational psychotherapy and depth psychology understandings of the subconscious with the use of classical music recordings to explore the inner world, and help clients work through disturbing memories, fears, losses, traumas, anxieties, and other emotional imbalances or negative thought patterns. This method is heavily influenced by the psychology of C.G. Jung, and uses music as a form of relaxation, as well as a way to evoke and access images and sensations of emotional significance stored in the subconscious mind. 

Sound Journeys: Again, the Individual and group OM Sound Journeys fit into this category, as they are designed to guide clients into a deep relaxation and to explore the images and sensations that arise in their subconscious minds. Clients are taken on an inner voyage with a variety of instruments, rich in overtones, create a progressive rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic soundscape designed to evoke depth of self-inquiry through appropriate tension, resolution, and ambience. Beyond the live performance that is both composed and customized to the audience, a significant difference between a sound journey and other inner journeying is the intention and space for integration (reinforcing a positive intention or transformational feeling in group sound journeys, and exploring a strong emotion from the experience in the individual sound journeys).

*Available at the OM Shoppe & Spa.

Exploring Sound Your Way

Whatever way you choose to explore the world of sound therapy, the one thing that unites this field is the use of beautiful tones and/or textures to put the mind and body at ease. Whether intended or not, this often allows access to vivid subconscious imagery, which can be therapeutic as a form of release, be it guided or simply self-explored. The power of music is undeniable as its hypnotic effects can quickly alter your brainwaves and shift your mood. Whether you play the music, or the music is being played for you, remember to not overlook the magic of sound as a means for emotional healing in your life. 

tibetan bowl playing

As a proponent of sound therapy practice & research, and a vendor for therapeutic-grade sound healing instruments, we, at the OM Shoppe, invite you to stop, breathe, and ask yourself, “What am I listening to?” (from your inner chatter to the sounds in your environment, sound has a much more profound effect on your life than you might realize!) 

If you are interested in sound therapy, visit our spa site and events for more information on the different types of therapies we offer. We also offer some classes in various types of sound therapy, with more to come soon! 

And, of course, if you found this article informative or helpful, please help us spread the word about the wonders of sound, and consider sharing it with those, who may be interested via our share buttons at the bottom of the page. Follow us on Facebook & Instagram and like our posts to find out more about how sound and vibrational medicine can make a positive impact on your life!

If you liked this article, you may also enjoy:

What’s the Deal With Sound Therapy? And How It Actually Works

Time to Let Go: 5 Vibrational Practices for the Waning Moon

5 Ways Sound Can Help You Reach Your New Year’s Resolution

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