1. Music is a core function in our brain. Our brain is primed early on to respond to and process music. Research has shown that day-old infants are able to detect differences in rhythmic patterns. From an evolutionary standpoint, music precedes language. We don’t yet know why, but our brains are wired to respond to music.
2. Our bodies entrain to rhythm. Our motor systems naturally entrain, or match, to a rhythmic beat. When a musical input enters our central nervous system via the auditory nerve, most of the input goes to the brain for processing. But some of it heads straight to motor nerves in our spinal cord. It’s how we dance to music, tap our foot to a rhythm, and walk in time to a beat.
3. We have physiologic responses to music. Every time your breathing quickens, your heart-rate increases, or you feel a shiver down your spine, that’s your body responding physiologically to music. Qualified music therapists can use this to help stimulate a person in a coma or use music to effectively help someone relax.
4. Children (even infants) respond readily to music. Children learn through music, art, and play, so it’s important (even necessary) to use those mediums when working with children in therapy.
5. Music taps into our emotions. For many, listening to certain music makes them feel a certain way. The ability for music to easily access our emotions is very beneficial for music therapists.
6. Music helps improve our attention skills. Even from an early age, music can grab and hold our attention. This allows music therapists to target attention and impulse control goals, both basic skills we need to function and succeed.
7. Music uses shared neural circuits as speech. listening to or singing music with lyrics uses shared neural circuits as listening to and expressing speech. Music therapists can use this ability to help a child learn to communicate.
8. Music enhances learning. The inherent structure and emotional pull of music makes it an easy tool for teaching concepts, ideas, and information. Music is an effective mnemonic device and can “tag” information, not only making it easy to learn, but also easy to later recall.
9. Music taps into our memories. Music is second only to smell for it’s ability to stimulate our memory in a very powerful way.
10. Music is a social experience. Music makes it easy for music therapists to structure and facilitate a group process.
11. Music is predictable, structured, and organized–and our brain likes it! Music often has a predictable steady beat, organized phrases, and a structured form. Even sound waves that make up a single tone or an entire chord are organized in mathematical ratios–and our brains really like this predictability and structure.
12. Music is non-invasive, safe and motivating. We can’t forget that most people really enjoy music. This is not the most important reason why music works in therapy, but it’s the icing on the cake.