Updated: Sep 11
History of sound healing
Using sound as a form of healing therapy has likely been around for thousands of years. Around 500BC Pythagorous came to understand various frequencies of music. Sound has been used throughout time as a tool to heal. Instruments such as the didgeridoo, drums, gongs, singing bowls, trumpets, various flutes, Vietnamese lithophones, the Armenian qanun and types of harps, such as the Burmese saung (Myanamar harp), have been around since the early centuries. The Aboriginal people of Australia were likely the first people to use sound to heal. The didgeridoo (yidaki) has been used as a healing tool for at least 40,000 years. In the Middle East and parts of Asia music was used as a healing therapy right through the Middle Ages and beyond. The Native Americans used songs and chants to heal the sick or wounded often without instruments – simply using their singing voices. The Minianka healers of West Africa have been using the drum to help heal a variety of ailments. The shamans of Mongolia have also used drumming for centuries to promote healing and self-expression. The people of Nepal, Japan and India have used the singing bowl to bring relief from many different ailments and stress-related conditions.
Instrumental sound healing
Tuning forks were invented in 1711 by John Shore, a trumpeter and lutenist. The tuning fork was originally made from steel and was used to tune musical instruments but soon became a musical instrument that was played in church and concert halls throughout Europe.
Tuning forks are also used a healing tools in sound healing therapy. One would hit the tuning fork against the palm of their hand or knee or a rubber mallet to produce the sound which is caused by vibrations that interact with the air due to the prongs moving back together and pulling the air molecules and forming low-pressure areas called rarefactions. The compressions and rarefactions create sound. The fork is then place on the area on the body that requires healing.
They are often used in chakra healing and balancing by using the tuning fork that is the note that resonates with the specific chakra. They are said to rebalance the nervous system and relax the muscles, as well as prep the body before treatment. Tuning forks have also been found to be highly beneficial for dealing with mental and emotional issues.
“Tibetan” singing bowls are used in meditation. The earliest bowls were said to date back to 3000BC and were said to be made from metal that came from meteorites that had fallen from space. Today they are either made from one type of metal – often asset having seven bowls all made with different metals, or an individual bowl made from 7 different metals. You can also find them made from crystal. The earliest bowls were found in Mesopotamia. There is a lot of confusion about these singing bowls and it appears that many Tibetans have no recollection of having these bowls in their culture and tourist shops claim to sell them and say that they are part of their history in order to make money of the gullible tourist. However, there are other stories that it is because the Chinese government destroyed so many ancient relics and writings that there is no information about their use in Tibet.
Singing bowl culture, however, can be traced back in Nepal and India, as well as Japan and China. In Japan they are called ‘Rin’ bowls are used or praying and worshiping in Japanese Temples. Each singing bowl has its own frequency. The bowl’s diameter, shape, material and thickness of the sides will all determine the frequency. A bowl with a large diameter will have a lower frequency, but if the sides are thick the higher the frequency will be. Singing bowls have a frequency range between 110 Hz and 660 Hz but can also reach up to 900Hz.
A singing bowl is played by either striking the bowl with a padded mallet on the bowl’s mid-exterior wall or by circling the mallet around the rim. The sound and vibrations the bowl produces are very soothing and calming and therefore very beneficial for balancing the chakras, reducing stress and anxiety.
The existence of the gong likely dates back to the Bronze Age, around 3500 BC. The gong was mostly found in Burma, China, Java and Annam. For centuries a gong was a symbol of status and success for Asian families. They were often used to announce the entrance of a political or spiritual leader. Since the time of Buddha (600BC) Chinese gongs were inscribed with the two Mandarin Chinese characters “Tai Loi”, which means happiness has arrived. Gongs have been used in monasteries for meditation and to drive away evil spirits. The secrets of gong making were closely guarded. Gongs were also used in European orchestras from 1790 onwards and are currently a part of orchestras around the world. They are made of a bronze alloy which consists of approximately 75 percent copper, 20 percent tin and 5 percent nickel. They are hand hammered and it is said that the artisan who made it has his whose soul is imbued in the gong. There are various types of gongs from mounted gongs which usually hang on a stand, large hand held gongs and wind gongs that are small and easy to manoeuvre.
Gongs are said to cleanse and clear away angry and negative thoughts. Touching a gong is believed to bring a person good luck, health and happiness; however, it is important to have permission to approach a gong. Respect for the physical gong and the spirit of the gong is extremely important. It is said to stimulate the nervous system, endocrine system as well as the whole glandular system and unblock the energy channels. They are said to resonate all the cells within our body. The sound of a gong is indeed powerful and weather you believe in all the benefits, it definitely has a wonderful effect on the body and mind.
As with a singing bowl a mallet is used to play the gong. Gentle strokes down the gong produce a gentle vibrating sound and hitting the gong in the middle produces a load bellowing sound.
Drums dates back to 5500 BC. They first came about in Neolithic cultures originating from China but later spread to all of Asia.
The Bronze Dong Son Drums came from Vietnam around 3000 BC. Sri Lanka and parts of Africa discovered drums between 1000 and 500 BC. Drums would then spread to Rome and Greece between 200 and 150 BC and to the rest of Europe during 1200 AD via Mediterranean trading routes. African drums arrived in America through the slave trade in 1500 AD, however the Native people of America had been using drums long before.
Drums were made from fish or reptile skin stretched over hollow tree trunks and were struck with the hands. Later the skin of animals were used and sticks were introduced as beating objects in some cultures. Skins were also stretched over pits dug into the ground to make large drums or over openings in pots or gourds to make small drums.
Drums were use in religious ceremonies to call upon the goddess of Fertility in the Middle East. In Africa various drums emerged that could imitate human pitch.
There are many different types of drums that can be used in sound healing ceremonies, such as African bongos, Cuban congas, Middle Eastern goblet drums (darbuka) and kettledrums, Native American healing drums, Indian table drums, and modern steal tongue drum to hang drums.
The sound of drumming aids in self-awareness as in synchronises the two cerebral hemispheres of the brain – the left side which is the logical, mathematical and linear thinking side and the right side which is the imaginative, intuitive and creative side. Once these two side are working in harmony, we are more likely to be able to tap into our unconscious.
Sound is all around us. Every atom has its own sound and vibration. Even the planets have been recorded to have different sounds. Sound is measured according to frequency. “Frequency” is a measurement of how often something occurs on a recurring basis. Music is measured in waves and according how fast these cycles occur. This is frequency. When it comes to defining pitches or tones, the frequency is defined by measuring how many cycles occur per second – which is referred to as Hertz, named after Heinrich Hertz (1857 – 1894), a German physicist who made important contributions to the scientific study of electromagnetism. Hertz was only established as a measurement in 1930. Everything that vibrates can have a Hertz measurement - sound, radiation, computers, phones, our heart - but not all frequencies can be heard by the human ear.
We hear a range of frequencies from 20Hertz to 20,000 Hertz, but as we age we start to have difficulty hearing tones above 15,000 Hertz and from the age of 60 we are unlikely to hear tones above 8,000 Hertz. Bats can hear ultrasonic sounds with frequencies up to 110,000 hertz and elephants hear sounds that are much lower than those the human ear can hear. The higher the tone, the more disturbing it is to the human ear. Most of the frequencies that are important to us are between 250 and 6,000 Hertz.
A German physicist Winfried Otto Schumann discovered that the Earth maintains a frequency of 7.83 Hertz in 1952. Years later a follower of Schumann, called Herbert Konig, created an EEG machine that showed that there was a clear connection between our brain waves and the Earth’s resonance  and various other scientists went on to further prove this connection. It has now been discovered that although the Earth does generally maintain a frequency of 7.83 Hertz, it also vibrates around 4, 20, 26, 33, 39 and 45 Hertz. All these frequencies have a direct influence of life on Earth.
Our brain consists of various frequencies which coincide with that of the Earth and correlate with a specific state of mind. These frequencies are divided in to 5 groups - delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma.
Delta: 0.5 - 4 Hz This frequency occurs during deep sleep or unconsciousness. Certain frequencies in the delta range trigger the release of growth hormone which is also important for healing and regeneration of the body. A reason why sleeping deeply is so essential to our health. This frequency may also trigger oestrogen and testosterone.
Theta: 4 - 7 Hz This frequency is related to drowsiness. It also occurs at the first stage of sleep where we are not fully asleep but we start to see mental imagery, day dream and fantasise. It also occurs during deep meditation. There is link between this frequency and creativity and intuition. When the brain vibrates at this frequency, our sodium/potassium ratios, responsible for the transport of chemicals through brain cell membranes, are balanced and our brain gets rejuvenated. Studies [A] also show that when our brain is in theta anxiety, stress and inhibitions are reduced. Further studies [B] have also showed that when our brain is in theta we are able to learn unconsciously, such as learning a language as a child or learning how to open a door, how to walk and so on.
Alpha: 7 - 12 Hz This is the frequency that resonates the most common frequency of the Earth. In this state the brain is awake but very relaxed. It is not actively processing information, however it is still gently working and is in fact associated with overall mental and body/mind coordination, calmness, alertness, motivation and learning. At this frequency we are able to access the wealth of creativity that lies just below our conscious awareness.
Beta: 12- 30 Hz This frequency is related to active processing. It occurs during normal waking consciousness. Slow beta is between 12 to 17 Hertz and occurs during everyday information processing, learning, studying and memorisation. Fast beta is between 17 to 30 Hertz and occurs during extreme alertness, fight or flight occurrences or during a bout of anxiety.
Gamma: 30 - 100 Hz This frequency occurs when we are fully focused and immersed in something and simultaneously processing information in both brain hemispheres. Whales and dolphins have brains that work in Gamma frequencies.
It is important that our brain experience all these frequencies throughout the day in order for us to feel balanced and content.
A Prussian meteorologist named Heinrich Wilhelm Dove discovered binaural beats back in 1839. The concept is that we hear one frequency in one ear and another in the other ear. When our brain hears these two different frequencies they travel separately to your inferior colliculus in our brain where auditory input is gathered. Here these two frequencies are combined together and “squashed” to form a new frequency. For example if we here 200 Hertz in one ear and 205 Hertz in the other ear, then the frequency our brain processes is 5 Hertz – in the Theta zone.
Solfeggio frequencies actually date back to ancient history as sound that were chanted by various religious groups. An Italian monk named Guido d’Arezzo (990-1050) created the system of Solmisation, using the syllables ut, re, mi, fa, sol, and la as names for the six tones, C to A. Eventually ‘Ut’ was replaced by ‘Do,’ and another syllable, si or ti, was added at the end, giving the scale of seven syllables called do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti.
In the 1970’s Dr. Joseph Puleo, a physician and researcher identified six different frequencies that could heal the body and mind and in 1988, Dr. Glen Rein, a biochemist showed that different frequencies can have varying effects on human DNA. He did so by playing various music genres and measuring the rate of UV light absorption, an essential function of healthy DNA.
The Solfeggio frequencies have such positive effects because they resonate in harmony with the Schumann resonance of 7. Hz. The frequencies start at 8 Hz and move up the scale, octave by octave, until the desired note is reached, example the C note is vibrating at the 256 Hz frequency and the A note is vibrating at 432 Hz. This is called scientific tuning.
These are the six main frequencies:
This frequency is said to drain away our fears and worries. It also helps with anxiety and liberates us from feelings of guilt and negativity.
(Frequency of root chakra and the Adrenal glands)
432 or 417 Hz
Today most instruments are tuned at 440 (note A), however before the 20th century, instruments were tuned at 432 Hz. The 432 Hz frequency resonates with the Schumann Resonance of 7.83Hz – the main frequency of the Earth and the Alpha brain wave frequency. There are disagreements if the frequency is 432Hz or 417 Hz, however both seem to produce beneficial effects on the human brain and body.
This frequency is considered to be good for meditation, yoga and gentle exercise and even sleep. Some claim that it is the frequency for facilitating change and overcoming trauma. 
(Frequency of the Sacral Chakra and reproductive glands)
Studies, although still in infancy, have shown that this frequency is beneficial for both the endocrine and autonomic nervous system as it help the body heal from stress . It has also been found to reduce the effects of ethanol, from alcohol , on cells and to increase the life span of a cell. It is the perfect frequency if you are feeling stressed and need to unwind.
(Dr. Leonard G. Horowitz (Harvard) claims that this frequency is a special sound and the ‘colour’ of love. According to Dr Horowitz this frequency is the third note MI on the scale 528, relates to the note MI on the scale and derives from the phrase “MI-ra gestorum” in Latin meaning “miracle.” He says it is the exact frequency that has been used by genetic biochemists to repair broken DNA, however I would like to see further research on this, before I can believe it)
(Frequency of the solar plexus and pancreatic gland)
This frequency is said to balance our emotions, helping us to feel more harmonious with ourselves and others. It can also help with communication and understanding. It is the perfect frequency to listen to when we are having problems in relationships.
(Frequency of the heart chakra and the thymus gland)
This frequency awakens intuition and self-expression. It is said to also help us to live simply.
This frequency helps us to awaken our innerself making it ideal when nervousness or anxiety is bringing you down. It also aids in awakening intuition and inner strength.
(Frequency of third eye chakra and pituitary, hypothalamus and pineal gland)
A further frequency is 963 Hz which is said to be the frequency that connects us to our true self – our soul or spirit energy, and feel at one with the universe. This is often called the frequency of the crown chakra, although some believe that the crown chakra makes use of all the other 6 frequencies.
(Frequency of the crown chakra and pineal gland)
The power of sound is real. One does not need to believe in chakras or even in the exact ‘powers’ of the individual frequencies to know that sound has an effect on how we feel. Science has proven that everything has a frequency and that various frequencies affect us differently. If you are lucky enough to believe that listening to 396 Hz music is going to help with your anxiety, then it will. The power of believing, combined with a frequency of music that will definitely calm you is a remedy for success.