Rediscovering the Art and Science of Sound Therapy

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Rediscovering the Art and Science of Sound Therapy

John Stuart Reid and Annaliese Reid illustrate how sound is fast regaining its place as a powerful healing modality. Having first been used by the ancients, sound therapy has undergone a period of re-discovery and is now poised to reveal the intricacies of healing both at the cellular and psychological levels

"Sound will be the medicine of the future." ~ Edgar Cayce

Several ancient cultures used the seemingly magical power of sound to heal, but sound therapy had almost disappeared in the West until 1927 when Professor R. Wood and his assistant, Loomis, discovered ultrasound--high frequency sound--and its medical properties.1 With this discovery, research burgeoned and it is now established fact that ultrasound has powerful medical properties including its use in breaking up kidney stones and even shrinking tumours.2,3,4,5 In hospitals and sports injury clinics, in all parts of the world, therapeutic ultrasound is used to support or accelerate the healing of soft tissues and broken bones. In the 1980s, infrasound--very low frequency sound--and audible sound were also discovered to have healing properties and in recent years several commercial organizations have developed audible sound devices to support a wide range of physical ailments.6, 7, 8 The companies have documented many cases in which their sonic therapies benefited individuals. Audible sound is intrinsically safe and cannot be "overdosed," while ultrasound, if not properly applied, can cause severe internal burning.

The Aboriginal people of Australia are reported to have used their "yidaki" (modern name, didgeridoo) as a healing tool for thousands of years and one tradition holds that its primordial sound created the world and everything in it. Stories passed down through many generations of their culture tell of healing broken bones, muscle tears and many kinds of illnesses using their enigmatic musical instrument. To our knowledge no medical studies have been conducted in which the yidaki's healing power has been tested, although its acoustic output is in alignment with some modern audible sound therapy devices so it is not surprising that it has healing properties. Studies of the benefits of playing the yidaki instrument have been conducted and a paper in the Journal of Rural Health concluded that yidaki playing alleviated the symptoms of asthma in school children.9 Another study, reported in the British Medical Journal, concluded that it helped sleep apnea.10

Rediscovering the Art and Science of Sound Therapy
A yidaki, or didgeridoo, ancient musical instrument with therapeutic benefits. Image credit: Dan McGarry

The ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician, Pythagoras of Samos, was reported to have used therapeutic sound by using music to treat physical as well as emotional maladies. One of his biographers, Iamblichus, writes, "Pythagoras was of the opinion that music contributed greatly to health, if used in an appropriate manner…[by using] music in the place of medicine."11 Today, music therapy is an established clinical discipline widely used to assist people to overcome physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual challenges.12 There is some evidence that the ancient Egyptians used sound as medicine and a tradition exists in which Pythagoras is thought to have travelled in Egypt, suggesting that he may have gained his knowledge of this subject from their priests.13

Before discussing the mechanisms that underpin sound therapies let us take a brief look at the organizing power of sound.

Sound: primordial organizer of the universe

Many spiritual traditions speak of sound as the formative force of creation. The prophetic opening words of St. John's Gospel are a good example: 

"In the beginning was the Word, [sound] and the word was with God, and the Word was God." 

Another example is that of the Vedic Brahmanism tradition of northern India (circa 1500 BCE) in which the theme is strikingly similar to St. John's Gospel,

"In the beginning was Brahman, with whom was Vak [the word] and the word is Brahman…by that word…he created all things whatsoever."

Rediscovering the Art and Science of Sound Therapy
Shabako Stone (British Museum) 

A final example, of many, is that of the inscription on the Shabako stone in the British Museum, considered by Egyptologists to be one the most important hieroglyphic texts and second only to the Rosetta Stone. The Shabako Stone text tells of the god Ptah, the cosmic architect who created the entire Cosmos simply by uttering words. Predating the Old and New Testament by hundreds (and possibly thousands) of years, lines 56-57 of the ancient Shabako Stone text state:

"Lo, every word of god came into being through the thoughts of the mind and the command by the tongue."

The prophetic nature of such spiritual traditions has come to light due to recent studies pointing to sound (rather than gravity) as the prime organizing force of all matter in the early Universe. Sound cannot travel in the vacuum of space but sound can travel wherever matter is dense enough to allow atomic particles to collide; scientific theory suggests that the early Universe was filled with high density particles during the first 380,000 years of creation.14 It is this process of collisions between atomic particles that provides a clear definition of sound: Sound is the transfer of vibrational information at the moment of collision between any two atoms or molecules.

Sound may also have been a prime mover in the creation of life. It is generally held that life began in the vicinity of hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, places where (even today) hot, mineral-rich gases bubble up from earth's core into the seawater, making contact with molten lava. Yet, the structuring and organizing force that triggered life has always eluded theorists. Could it be that sound, one of the most potent organizing forces in the Universe, was involved? Although invisible, sound has holographic properties and has the power to structure matter at the atomic scale. In water sound acts to form "sonic scaffolding" that causes molecules to coalesce in an orderly manner. This dynamic, sonic mechanism may have sparked life.

The shape of sound and life

Rediscovering the Art and Science of Sound Therapy
Artist's impression of sonic scaffolding appearing on the surface of a microscopic bubble--image courtesy of Dustin Schmieding

The CymaScope is the world's first scientific instrument that allows us to study the visual geometry created when sound encounters a membrane or fluid medium. ("Cyma" derives from the Greek, "kyma," meaning wave). The device creates sound images called "CymaGlyphs" that are the imprint of sound on the surface and sub surface of pure water. Pure sinusoidal sounds contain many mathematical ratios, perhaps the most important of which is "phi" that is often referred to as the "Golden Mean" and is the ratio of 1 to approximately 1.618. Phi is prevalent in all living things, suggesting a link between sound and life, and Gyorgy Doczi's wonderful book, The Power of Limits, illustrates this point with great flair. He analyzes sea creatures, shells, butterflies, flowers and many other life forms to validate the phi ratio as one of the defining characteristics of life.

Geometric sonic structures, typically containing the phi ratio, are commonly observed with the CymaScope instrument and provide us with a hypothetical model for the way in which the earliest life forms may have been shaped in the ancient seas. The surfaces of microscopic bubbles, created near hydrothermal vents, could have been host to geometric patterns of sonic vibration, providing nodal points in which the building blocks of life found safe haven. Simple creatures that exhibit clearly defined geometry, such as diatoms and starfish, offer support that sound may have been involved in the triggering and/or structuring of life.

Rediscovering the Art and Science of Sound Therapy
A Starfish from the Ordovician era, 450 million years ago, with geometry overlay, illustrating the golden mean ratio 

A virus with a geometric morphology and a lineage stretching back 3.5 billion years also provides some support for this hypothesis and was discovered in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, leading to the intriguing proposal that the earliest life forms may have been viruses. 15

Rediscovering the Art and Science of Sound Therapy
A Transmission Electron Micrograph of "Sulfolobus Icosahedral Turreted Virus" found in a thermal pool of Yellowstone National Park. Above, the unique lattice of this icosahedral virus is shown superimposed upon a cryo reconstruction. Courtesy Dr George Rice, Mantana State University 

One of the greatest mysteries in understanding how life came into being concerns the helical nature of RNA and DNA. One possibility stems from CymaScope research in which vortices can be created in water by pure low frequency sounds in both the macro and micro realms, providing a form of scaffolding to which the molecules of life could have adhered. The dynamics necessary to create micro vortices in the ancient seas may have derived from the low frequency sounds generated by hydrothermal vents. The pure form of sound needed to power this mechanism may have derived from a certain class of hydrothermal vent bubbles. Pure tones have been detected emitting from hydrothermal vents and the largest vent bubbles are thought to act like Helmholtz Resonators, effectively tuning out all frequencies except those that resonate with the gas cavity formed by the bubble.16 It is intriguing to think that naturally occurring micro spiral vortices in water, created by pure sounds, may be part of the mechanism contributing to the origin of life. Although further research is needed to clarify this hypothesis it is clear that sound and life are inextricably linked. (For an expanded treatise on sound as a life-creating force, see Sound, the Trigger for Life at:

Therapeutic sound principles

If sound was the trigger for life it should not be surprising that sound has the ability to support and heal life. Put simply, sound has the almost magical power to restore order to organisms that are malfunctioning–magical in the sense that we don't yet fully understand the mechanisms at work. For example, studies have shown that audible sound in the form of music has significant healing properties in both humans and animals, inferring that music therapy is potentially healing on two levels: first as a result of the stimulation of the brain's pleasure centres, leading to hormonal secretions and "feel good" effects, and second, due to the physical effects of sound at the cellular level. 17, 18, 19

Regarding the physical effects of sound at the cellular level, two main categories exist: Destructive and Constructive sound therapies. Lithotripsy is a well-known medical technique that employs high intensity ultrasound to shatter kidney stones and gallstones and employs a destructive sonic principle. 20 However, therapeutic ultrasound can employ either a constructive or a destructive sonic effect, depending on how it is deployed. For example, ultrasound can accelerate cellular division in soft tissues and accelerate bone growth (a constructive principle) while high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) can be used to shrink tumours (a destructive principle)21.

Rediscovering the Art and Science of Sound Therapy
High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (Hifu) Professor Gail ter Haar's experimental method for destruction of cancer masses. Institute of Cancer Research, Royal Marsden Hospital, London

Therapeutic audible sound generally employs a constructive sonic principle, but an intriguing possibility exists to use audible sound destructively in order to shrink tumours22, 23. Dr. James Gimzewski, of UCLA California, has taken a novel approach to studying cellular function. He uses an atomic force microscope to 'listen' to the sounds emitted by cells. The focus of this new science, which he has named "sonocytology," is mapping the pulsations of a cell's outer membrane, thus identifying the "song" of the cell. Gimzewski's work suggests that every cell in our bodies has a unique sonic signature and "sings" to its neighbours. Sonocytology could be developed into a potentially powerful diagnostic tool for identifying the sounds of healthy cells versus those of injurious ones. It also offers an even more exciting prospect: the ability to play the destructive sounds of rogue cells back to themselves greatly amplified so that, by the simple law of resonance, the hostile cells implode and are destroyed. In this scenario there would be no collateral damage to surrounding cells since healthy cells would not be resonant* with these frequencies.

Rediscovering the Art and Science of Sound Therapy
Professor James Gimsewski and his Sonocytology research team, UCLA Berkley

The mechanism(s) by which constructive sound therapies trigger the body's healing response are unknown but one possibility concerns the fact that when a system of cells is traumatized, for example due to physical trauma or by invasion of a pathogen, they go into a form of hibernation known as the G0 phase, or quiescent phase, in which they are effectively asleep and not replicating.24 To rejoin the normal cell cycle leading to normal replication and healing, the cell requires either good nutrition or rest or both, but, hypothetically, exposing quiescent cells to audible sounds of the correct frequencies acts as a catalyst that stimulates the cell to move to the G1 phase in which cells prepare for replication.25 We monitored a healthy yeast cell's "song" spectrographically and compared it with the spectrograph of the same cell after it had been traumatized by acid. (The sound files were from Dr. Gimzewski's lab). It was clear that the traumatized cell emitted far higher frequencies, as if the cell was screaming. Applying sounds to a system of traumatized cells may stimulate the cell's Integral Membrane Proteins and imprint a cymatic pattern upon the cell that provides a form of energetic sonic nourishment, causing its frequencies to return to normal. 

Rediscovering the Art and Science of Sound Therapy
Cells immersed in therapeutic sound frequencies (artist's impression by Dean Baker)

Modern audible sound therapy devices are non-invasive and are essentially like playing music to the body; in fact many traditional sound therapy music-based instruments, such as the harp, the gong, Tibetan bowls and crystal bowls emit rich soundscapes that provide sonic nourishment for cells. The piano and harp, in particular, are important because all of their sounds are harmonically related to each other; each higher frequency created by a piano or harp string is mathematically related to the string's fundamental frequency, regardless of the choice of concert pitch. (The fundamental frequency of a given piano or harp string is called its "1st harmonic", and the same string's 2nd harmonic is twice the fundamental frequency, and the string's 3rd harmonic is three times the fundamental frequency and so on.) This natural order means that when cells receive harp or piano sounds they are better able to absorb the sonic energy. In the case of gongs and Tibetan bowls although their harmonic output is jumbled they can provide sonic nourishment for cells provided they are played at low or moderate levels; if played loudly such sounds would be a stressor for cells. However, audible sound therapy devices employ carefully targeted frequencies, unlike the broad range of frequencies provided by music and music-based instruments. This targeted approach has been found to be highly efficacious and Cyma Technologies Inc, for example, is pioneering a new era in therapeutic sound therapy devices in which specific sets of frequencies are employed, depending on the nature of the malady to be supported. We can envisage a future in which diagnostic and therapeutic beds, resembling a scene from a Star Trek sick bay, may become commonplace and in which sound therapy forms part of the clinician's armoury of healing modalities.

Rediscovering the Art and Science of Sound Therapy
Cyma Technologies Inc. "Cyma 1000" sound therapy device

The role of intention in sound healing

Sound therapy is a highly effective tool for the support of a wide range of health challenges and fortunately an individual does not need to believe in it for it to work. However, there is another factor that can greatly amplify the effectiveness of healing: creative intention. While mainstream medicine does not yet recognize the importance of a patient's intention, in contrast, most vibrational energy practitioners, including sound therapy practitioners, use a holistic approach that addresses both mind and body. When the power of intention is held, the chances of a successful outcome are intensified. Intention consists of using your focused thoughts, feelings and visualizations to attract whatever is desired, such as enhancing one's health.

American sound therapist, Jonathan Goldman, created this simple formula: Sound + Intention = Healing

The power of intention involves consciously drawing on the universal field of energy. Utilizing this potent universal force along with healing sounds has been found to dramatically accelerate the healing process. Many people fall into the trap of fear, or negative intention, particularly in regard to health issues. It is all too easy to fixate upon the possible consequences of a health challenge rather than on the positive expectation of enjoying a healthy, vital life. The Universe, it seems, is neutral and will return in kind whatever we focus upon. Whether we are aware of it or not, we use the power of intention either positively or negatively every moment of every day. Our thoughts, feelings and imaginings are the templates for the results and experiences of our lives. In this context, like attracts like.

When using creative intention, there is the sense of being deeply inspired. (The word inspiration means inspirit.) We are motivated to respond to a deeper calling with a firm belief, an absolute knowing, that our desire has already been fulfilled. When we merge the mind's energizing force with the universal field of energy for the purpose of healing and creation, our health and the quality of our lives can be transformed. One may ask how it is possible to have absolute certainty about a desired outcome before there is any apparent proof. People tend to believe things only when they see them. However, the art of creative intention calls for a new way of thinking: when you believe it, you will see it.

It is highly beneficial to the creative process when you act as if you already have what you want. See, feel, and think as if your body is currently vital and whole. When you act as if your desired outcome has already happened, the subconscious mind cannot differentiate between what is factual and what is imagined and believes your intention is actual reality. The mind holds immense healing and creative powers and will continue to work on your behalf as long as you maintain your conscious focus of intention. Perhaps the most important element in "acting as if" is to feel the experience of having already manifested your desire.

Some people have used these and similar tools of intention but have not experienced the successful outcome for which they had hoped. Generally it is not because they have applied it incorrectly or missed an important element in the process. Their lack of success usually stems from unresolved issues and detrimental beliefs that are harbored as internal fears in the subconscious mind; issues so old and ingrained that the person may not even be aware of them.

Buried fear-based issues and limiting beliefs tend to set up an internal conflict. The conscious mind may want to create a desired outcome, but the overpowering, conflicting influence of unresolved issues and beliefs block success. Nothing can become a part of your reality unless your feelings and your conscious mind are in alignment with the more powerful subconscious mind. The magnificent power of intention fully engages when all systems are in alliance, when the thinking-feeling self aligns with the underlying belief system. Intention powered by the healing energy of sound is a key to improved health and other improvements in one's life.

Sound healing case studies

Cyma Technologies Inc. has underwritten a number of documented case studies to clinically validate their therapeutic sound device. Their therapeutic technique is called "cymatherapy." Four brief Cyma Technologies examples are given below, along with links to case studies by the Medsonix company and a reference to the KKT, a sonic modality supporting spinal issues.

Only by undertaking and documenting case studies will audible sound therapy become accepted as a mainstream modality, leading to their use in hospitals and veterinary centers worldwide.

Racehorse tendon injury

A thoroughbred racehorse had sustained a major tendon lesion during a race and in such cases horses are usually put down or, at best, relegated to pasture. A return to racing after a severe injury is extremely rare. Throughout this study the horse was under the care of a veterinarian and regular sonogram imaging was used to document the progress of the recovery. The images clearly showed the return to normal homogeneous tendon cell integrity. The tendon of the horse not only healed completely using cymatherapy, but there were no traces of scar tissue whatsoever. The horse returned to racing. Clearly, while the above study refers to a horse, muscle and tendon injuries in humans are just as readily supported with sound therapy devices.

Knee injury

A 56-year-old woman was involved in a car accident that left both knees debilitated. She needed the assistance of a walker or cane to move around and her condition was worsening. She was unable to sleep more than an hour or two at a time because of severe pain. Her doctor informed her there was nothing more he could do when he found that her knee joints were worn down to bone-on-bone. He recommended that she resign herself to buying a power wheelchair and expect to use it the rest of her days. This was harsh news for a woman who had led an active, athletic life. As a last resort, she had ten therapeutic sound sessions using cymatherapy.

Her life has turned around as a result. Today, she can walk–even run. She says, "I can climb flights of steps, dance, go bowling, garden, and play golf, besides doing all of the things I used to do prior to the accident." She continues, "I have been given the extraordinary gift of having my life back, and the way I want to live it."


A woman had a case of shingles on her upper chest and back. She could hardly stand up as a result of the severity of the pain. The only help her doctor could offer was to prescribe a drug to prevent a recurrence. It took the shingles about three months to heal but two years later the shingles reappeared in exactly the same areas. After the second cymatherapy treatment she reported that the areas tingled and then began to disappear. After using cymatherapy for four more days the shingles had completely disappeared and have not recurred.

Dental abscess

A client who had a tooth extraction appointment with her dentist decided to try cymatherapy as a last resort. She was suffering from a very painful abscessed tooth and had been told that the root had disengaged from the jawbone. She was taking 15 ibuprofen tablets a day for the excruciating pain. The tooth immediately began to feel better after a few days of sound healing and she was able to cut back on the painkillers. After half a dozen cymatherapy sessions she was totally pain-free and she retained her tooth. Her dentist was amazed.

*Resonance in the context of sound therapy can be described as the frequency of vibration that is most natural to a specific, cell or organ. This innate frequency is sometimes referred to as the prime resonance of the cell or organ. The resonance principle does not necessarily require the living system to emit a sound.

Finally, here are some other case histories and stories that report on the power of sound as a healing modality:

Medsonix company case studies:

The Effects of a Low Frequency Acoustic Waveform on Osteoarthritis: A Pilot Study

KKT Spine treatment:

Sound help for Alzheimers:

Sound help for Fibromyalgia:

Sound help for impotence:

Music making may help keep mind in tune in old age:


1. Therapeutic ultrasound: some historical background and development in knowledge of its effect on healing:

2. Dyson, M. Mechanisms involved in therapeutic ultrasound. Physiotherapy 73(3):116-120, 1987.

3. Dyson, M., Luke, D.A.: Induction of mast cell degranulation in skin by ultrasound, IEEE Trans. Ultrasonics. Ferroelectrics Frequency Control UFFC-33:194, 1986.

4. Hogan, R.D., Burke, K.M., and Franklin, T.D.: The effect of ultrasound on microvascular hemodynamics in skeletal muscle: effects during ischemia, Microvasc. Res. 23:370, 1982.

5. Pilla, A.A., Figueiredo, M., Nasser, P., et al: Non-invasive low intensity pulsed ultrasound: potent accelerator of bone repair, Proceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting, Orthopaedic Research Society, New Orleans, 1990.

6. Cyma Technologies Inc:

7. Medsonix:

8. KKT International:

9. Didgeridoo playing and singing to support asthma management in Aboriginal Australians:

10. Didgeridoo playing as alternative treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome: randomised controlled trial:

11. Iamblichus' Life of Pythagoras. Inner Traditions International Ltd, page 59:

12. Music Therapy:

13. Egyptian Sonics:

14. Big Bang Acoustics:

15. Ancient viruses:

16. Hydrothermal vent resonance:

17. Music Therapy for humans:

18. Music Therapy for pets:

19. Music's feel good effects:

20. Lithotripsy:

21. HIFU:

22. General article on Dr. James Gimzewski's work in sonocytology:

23. Scholarly article on Sonocytology:

24. G0 phase of cells:

25. G1 phase of cells:


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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