The Marriage of Touch Therapies and Music

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We already know that the power of touch can register on so many levels of our physical, emotional and spiritual bodies. Touch therapies are the connection between matter and etheric levels of our energy. The greatest expression of acknowledgement can be as simple as the laying of hands on another to comfort, to love and to heal.

Adding music and its therapeutic aspects, can bring together the power of heighten awareness, moving the healing process to another level.

As a massage and music therapist, I have had the pleasure of having both in my life for over 20 years. In a massage session, it is a part of the ritual to have soothing music playing during a session. But how many of us have any awareness of the music as it applies to your massage work?

Working with the power of music can add another level of transformation for the patient. They may not even realize what the connection was, once they get off the table, but are acutely attuned to how much stronger, aware and better they feel.

Knowing some basic music terminology is not really necessary as a massage therapist, but I know on some level, you can be astutely conscious of when the music crescendos (gradually rising in volume) or decrescendos (gradually lower in volume). You can here the tempo or pacing of the music and understand how to work within this tempo.

Bringing the music into your hands and allowing it flow out through your instrument can translate through the patients body into the most moving and therapeutic journey they can experience.

Know your music. Be aware of its tempo, its highs and lows and how it is build by phrase and chorus. Knowing your music allows you greater interpretation of its flow as you give your massage.

Tips for the Marriage of Massage with Music:

1. Flow and rhythm are the two most important aspects of a massage.

2. These are two of the most important elements in music, as well.

3. Relaxation has an average tempo of 30-60 beats per minute. This is a musical composition in adagio tempo. When choosing music for your sessions, this is a good thing to look for.

4. Working with the music gives a sense of being in sync with the body. For example, as the music crescendos or rises, your hands can follow, moving up the body or moving up the scale (a selection of related notes placed in ascending order by pitch).

5. As the music decrescendos or descends, your hands can follow by moving down the body or moving down the scale (a selection of related notes placed in descending order by pitch).

6. If you have music playing and the next song changes in tempo, speeding up, you can move your hands not with the tempo but by decreasing your movement by moving in half time (half the tempo of the beats in one measure or phrase).

7. Sometimes, when your music is moving on to the next song, there is silence between the musical tracks. This silence can be awkward unless, you continue your hand movements as though they are expressing the same music. It is as if your body takes over for the rhythm of the silence and can be very moving to the therapist as well.

8. Starting on a new muscle group immediately after the above silence between songs can be very affective if you start on the down beat of the music. (The first beat; given by the conductor with a downward stroke or the “and” of a new phrase).

9. In some portions of the music you may be playing, there are accents or a Marcato (an emphasized note; or heavily accented phrase). Utilize this with your massage technique. This works well on the extremities such as hands or feet.

10. An Arpeggio (describing notes in a chord played individually (one after another) as opposed to simultaneously) coordinates beautifully when working on the spine or hamstrings.

11. In Italian, Camminando (following easily and gently) or in Spanish (meaning to walk) can be a free and easy technique when transitioning from one muscle group to the next.

12. And Harmony (the sounding of two or more tones simultaneously; or the vertical aspect of music) is our ultimate goal in any touch therapy.

So, next time you are giving a session to your patient, don’t just put on some music and expect it to do the work for you. Engage along with the music to enhance the power of your touch and to bring your patient to yet another level of their healing journey, and yours!

About the author

Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac. - Therapies for healing mind, body, spirit

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