What is the best music to be used in Hypnosis

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Below are the summarised notes from a recent talk I held at the Royal Society of Medicine entitledMusic and its use in Hypnosisfor the The Section of Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine.

Thank you for coming to listen to me today. My name is Charles Vald. and I am a hypnotherapist and a composer of relaxation and hypnosis music. My music is sold to hypnotherapists all over the world.

There are studies relating to music and its use to help patients with depression, autism, alzheimers, stroke rehabilitaion, even studies relating to the seditation needs during operations if music is played during surgery. I am sure many of you use music to relax and unwind, to help change your mood, so it’s not surprising that many hypnotherapists use music in hypnosis.

I first started to become interested in hypnosis, to help me with my neurological condition, Charcot Marie Tooth, a condition which is similar to Multiple Sclerosis, as both are muscle wasting diseases. The use of meditation and hypnosis helped me to relax my muscles and to develop skills in visualization healing techniques.

As a child I played the trumpet and I can read music, but I do not have any formal musical training or qualifications in this field. In fact my degree is in computing, so you might be interested to know how I got into this field of hypnosis and music.

It all started when a elderly neighbour of mine came to see me as he was suffering from a condition called Tinnitus. Tinnitus is when you hear sounds, or in some cases music, in one or both ears.

I tried to help my tinnitus patients to habituate to the sound, to make it less of a threat. Most habituate to their sound over time even without help or intervention, but I do believe the time taken to habituate can be sped up with hypnosis.

It was then that I realized my tinnitus patients needed a CD to take home with them. This way the patient could listen to a specific hypnosis Induction related to tinnitus over a period of time, rather than see me in person. And it just felt natural to add some music in the background to help the patient relax.

When patients saw me I used classical music from the baroque period to help them relax during the induction. I used this music simply because that�s what I’d used myself many years earlier when practising meditation and self hypnosis. However, for my own CDs I needed un-copyrighted music. The baroque music I used was always of a slow tempo but sometimes that style of music has a swell of emotion which I didn�t always like. I also noticed that some people associated the music even relaxation music with good or bad things in their lives, so some care was needed.

Although I did learn to play music as a child, my neurological condition makes it difficult for me to play instruments, so I compose music on the computer.

Once I’d created the hypnosis tinnitus CD I gave it away to patients.

I then refined my musical work, composing and buying more musical equipment. I didn�t have much income at the time, so I tried selling some of this music to hypnotherapists on ebay. Customers were able to listen to a small audio samples of my work through a hyperlink. I wasn�t expecting my music to sell but it did and that was how it began.

I improved and enhanced my music. Some of this knowledge I have obtained I will be discussing with you today.

So why use music in hypnosis at all?

Now of course not everyone uses music when hypnotizing a patient, however there maybe many reasons to do so.

Firstly, it can help to the relax the patients, and for some patients it is what they expect to happen during a hypnosis session. They expect relaxation music to be part of the experience and may feel more at unease without it.

The therapist might be working in a noisy environment and may need to use some music to help in blocking, or to use the correct term to mask outside noise, such as traffic.

Most importantly the therapist might use this music as part of their induction, as will be discusing later.

Although, there are many scientific studies on music and on its use in helping with many health and medical condition, alas I do not know of any studies of the effects of hypnosis in music, a trial would be fascinating (at the talk one of the hypnotherapists did mention one current study occuring at a British University)

The origins of using music in hypnosis are not easy to find, but there are a few hints.

Before the general use of music players like the record player and now of course the CD player, and MP3, hypnotherapist were limited to more visual induction aids such as the pocket watch or the pendulum. The only audio related device that was around at a the time was the humble metronome. In some religions rituals drums were used to get people in a relaxed or trance state, but that isn�t what we would define today as hypnosis in a clinical setting.

Now I don�t know if any of you have tried to use a metronome in hypnosis, I can�t say I have but it does have one important feature that should be used in any hypnosis music.

The sound I am about to play is a recording I made to sound similar to a metronome. It�s played at 140 clicks a minute or beats a minute. And I will try and talk over it with a simple relaxation induction.

Play first track

Metronome sound at 120 beats per minute

(Please speak the below aloud)

Listen to my voice, focus on your left hand, its feeling relaxed and now focus on your left arms up to the shoulder and now down to the left hand and the fingers. And as you listen to my voice you feel calm.

Lets stop this track.

Obviously it�s not very effective at all.

Now if I play another track, reducing the number of clicks, the tempo to 60 beats per minute

Metronome sound at 60 beats per minute

(Please speak the below aloud)

Close your eyes, listen to my voice, focus on your left hand, its feeling relaxed and now focus on your left arms up to the shoulder and now down to the left hand and the fingers. And as you listen to my voice you feel calm.

Let’s stop the track.

I am sure you will agree the second track was a lot more pleasing. I automatically started talking slower to match the tempo, there are pauses and gaps. It feels calmer, more comfortable on the ear. The tempo in music normally relates to the length of quarter notes

A slower tempo enhances relaxation.


Well I feel it helps to slow down the heart rate, in relation with the mind and body connection.

Alas there isn�t actually much proven research I can find relating to tempo and slowing the heartbeat one of the latest studies was by Dr Luciano Bernardi and colleagues, from Italy’s Pavia University who conducted a study in 2005 which was recorded in the Heart Peer Review Journal.

One of the main finding was that,

�Passive listening to music accelerates breathing rate, increases blood pressure, heart rate, proportional to the tempo and perhaps to the complexity of the rhythm. The music style or a person�s music preference seems less important. �

So what I presume this means is that slow tempo music is more effective in helping you to relax, which I am sure most of you instinctively felt already, and it doesn’t seem to matter what the style is. However, most slow music we know of in the western culture tends to be classical music. Although, the findings in the study did seem to state say slow tempo jazz music, or a pop ballad would be just as effective.

It is important that the therapist is relaxed and comfortable as well. The tempo of the music can also help the therapist with his or her induction script. The music should help to keep your voice calm and at a steady rhythm as shown with the metronome at 60 beats per minute.

The music should be at a complimentary pace to help induce a patient’s hypnotic state. If you have ever made up the lyrics for a song you haven’t heard before you tend to automatically sing at a specific speed, and I feel a similar thing happens when you talk to music as well.

What is the best speed, the beats per minute or tempo for hypnosis music?

I feel that there might be some synching of the heart rate to that of music hence that is why I prefer to create my music at 60 beats per minute, but it doesn�t matter, simply music at any slow tempo will do. Say 55-70 beats per minutes.

I don’t feel it would be a good idea to have singing voices on hypnosis music. It’s too hard for the patient to concentrate on both the words of the hypnotherapist and the lyrics in the music. However, I must say that, although singing is generally not conducive to achieving a hypnotic state a choir or a voice singing a single consonant or a vowel say an �AHHHH� is more acceptable, just make sure it is kept at a low volume so it doesn’t drown out the sound of the hypnotherapist’s voice during the session.

As well as music there are other sounds used by a therapist. Lets look at nature sounds as these sounds can be very effective in helping the patient relax, but they can cause problems as well.

Nature sounds are used by some therapists for example, the sound of birds, the rhythmic sound of the ocean waves, or running water, although be careful as it may make the patient want to go to the toilet.

Nature sounds can be particularly effective if the hypnotherapist is trying to set a particular scene as part of the induction, such as enhancing the sense of being in a garden, or by the seashore. However, there are times when nature sounds don’t work, for example, here is the sound of a rain which I will try to talk over

Play Track 3

Track 3 – Rain Demonstration

(Please Speak the Below Aloud)

Close your eyes, listen to my voice, focus on your left hand, its feeling relaxed and now focus on your left arms up to the shoulder and now down to the left hand and the fingers. And as you listen to my voice you feel calm.

Stop track

Not very easy it?

A sound frequency is a the number of waves in a second. When we are born we can normally hear between the range of 20 to 20,000 of these waves known as HZ and alas as we get older the higher part of the ranges goes a bit.

The audio demonstration of the sound of the rain we just heard masks my own voice, I have to talk over it and I have to talk louder. This is because the sound of rain, I would classify as pink to white noise.

White noise is a sound that cover all sound frequencies, an untuned static radio is a perfect example of this sound, pink noise is slightly kinder on the ear with the frequencies at the lower end heard more than than the higher pitched frequencies.

When we speak it is roughly around 300-3500 hz. As the rain sound we heard covers all of these frequencies, it masks out the voice.

When you listen to some modern music you might find it hard to understand the lyrics, of course the singer might not be singing clearly or they aren’t singing loud enough, but another reason why it can be difficult to hear the voice is because the instruments may be playing at the frequencis of the voice and mask the sounds.

This masking happens more often at a live venue when the singers voice is not amplified enough in comparison to the instruments covering the same sound frequencies.

Rain is great for masking annoying sounds, like noisy neighbours but it’s not great for talking over. The rain is constant and it is hard for our brains to manipulate it into any kind of rhythm. No one would classify rain as music. Ocean waves in comparison, which also works well as a masker has a slow rhythm with gaps between the crashing of the waves, this makes it more effective for relaxation. The sound of ocean waves is more similar to a pink noise and is less harsh on the ear.

In fact one of my CD’s does use ocean waves however the volume of the waves is reduced significantly in comparison to my voice to help the patient hear me and not be masked by the sound, while still inducing a relaxing effect.

If you wish to play music, it is best to have music that doesn’t covers all the sound frequencies at once, otherwise it becomes harder to hear what the therapist is trying to say.

Music with a lot of varied instruments playing at the same time but with different sound frequencies will do this e.g. say a bass, cello guitar, strings and high pitch harp. However saying all this our brains are fantastic at filtering out music from speech, but we don�t want to make it hard for the patient to hear the therapist, we want the music to compliment the therapist.

It’s a good idea to vary the music. If you play the same music for every patient, you might find there is a variation of its effectiveness in helping with the induction. This is simply because we all like different music and what one person finds relaxing someone else might find very unappealing. Also, the same music every session, every day will fast become boring for the hynotherapist. If possible you might want to give the patients a choice of music.

Music is all about personal taste and what you’re use to. If someone had never heard rock music, then suddenly in their later years heard the Beatles, Bowie, Blur or Pink Floyd they might find it harder to appreciate it than someone who had grown up listening to such styles. And of course even though you may like a certain music style you still might not like a particular artist.

I remember many years ago on a small visit to Beijng listening to Chinese opera, I found it very unappealing. I wasn�t used to hearing music in that key. Obviously if I had listened to that style of music from a younger age or even if I now exposed myself to the music, I am sure that over time I would find it much more enjoyable.

Another thing you need to be aware of when choosing hypnosis music is that some patients who wear a particular type of hearing aid or suffer from Hyperacusis- (a sensitivity to certain sounds or frequencies) may find music quite difficult to listen to. We are all of course different and so are our patients.

I feel in many cases it is best to use music that is not known by the patient. Even classical music that you may feel lacks emotion could be known by the patient and have a negative associations for them. Also, if the hypnotherapists treatment is related to very emotional situations, the patient might make a connection with that music being played during the treatment and the emotions that are released, they then may form unwanted attachment to the music. This could result in emotions being aroused at a later date if the patient hears the music again.

Here is some music that I composed myself, entitled silk blanket, this is an examples of music that hasn�t much emotion attached to it.

Silk Blanket

It is played at a low volume, A low cello type sound mixed with high pitch bells and a rhodes piano. I made a point when creating the music to leave the voice frequencies we hear untouched. This is an example of music which I feel is easy to talk over in therapy. The track length is very long to keep the music consistent. Sudden changes in music may disturb the patient, especially if they are in a light hypnotic state.

Stop Track

You can also use music to help in the induction in a more active way. It can work as a focus point. In the same way as you might get a patient to countdown to relax them, you can ask the patient to listen to one of the instruments in the music, and to breathe in time with the rhythm.

In the below track entitled Breath Of Time we use the chimes of the music as a focus point for breathing. The patient is asked to breath in and out with the chimes, in this case the chimes are set to 5 breaths per minute. The previous audio examples I have played you were passive. The patient was listening to the music but wasn�t actively asked to focus on it. The music was to compliment the session, to help the patient to relax.

Using music that is active in the therapy, I feel can help in speeding up the induction as it gives the patient a focal point, to help clear their mind as they focus on breathing in time with the chimes. However, different people breath at different rates and it can become a problems if the patient cannot breathe at the rate of the music. This is why I have different tracks with different breathing rates on my CD. Obviously, the music should be used as a focus at the beginning of an induction and then to help keep a pace through out.

So lets have a listen. Simple breath in through your nose on the first chime and out on the second chime

Breath of Time

Breathe in again and out again

The above music is a particular favourite of mine and I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from many therapists about it.

Music can be used as a focus point for the therapist. It is a good idea to play the music as soon as the patient comes in as it will help them become familiar and at ease with it , and it will hopefully relax them. It also gives the patients a chance to say before the therapy starts if they dislike the music or it makes them feel uncomfortable.

Hypnosis Music has evolved and now takes many forms. A lot of music on the market is categorised as hypnosis music, even though the composer has not put much thought into what is needed for this particular field. But, maybe they don�t need to, maybe any relaxing music will do, but I hope I�ve given you a guide of what I feel might be useful and what might not be.

To summaries I feel slow tempo music that doesn�t vary much and hasn’t got too much emotion is best.

Always ask the patient if they like the music, or if they wish there to be no music at all.

You the therapist might find playing the same music day in and day out rather monotonous, vary the tracks you use but it might be useful to keep list of what music you have played to what patients to ensure continuity.

Using music that the patient is familiar with has advantages and disadvantages. Caution should be used if it is music your patient currently enjoys especially if the therapy will bring up emotional issues.

The sound frequencies of the music is best if it isn’t the same as your speech, but if they are, remember to lower the musical volume even more than you normally would. You can test this out by simply playing the music and talking over it.

Thank you again for listening to me. If have any additional questions please ask.

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