Entrainment: How to Affect Your Mood Through Music

One of the coolest things about music is the way that our bodies respond to rhythm. Have you ever noticed your body start moving to music without conscious thought, such as tapping your toe or dancing? The act of locking in to a beat and moving is called entrainment. A great example a song specifically written for this purpose is “Working on the Railroad.” Dance music is another example- pick the era that makes you want to move- or marching band music.

Music therapists take advantage of entrainment in their work, applying the right song or rhythm to help their clients move better and more efficiently. You can also take advantage of entrainment by being aware of your mood and either heightening or altering it, depending. For example, a friend of mine used to play dance music when we were about to go out to get us “pumped up.” Conversely, many people like to play soft, slower music when they are about to go to sleep. It is easy to tell when someone else’s tempo, or inner rhythm, is very different from yours if they play music that makes you feel just wrong, such as bluegrass at 5 am.

While we all do this naturally, I am hoping to make you more aware of your inner tempo and how to use music to help you feel better. For example, I’ve found that my tempo can tell me a lot about how I’m feeling in regards to anxiety. I have noticed that when I drink too much coffee, the constant soundtrack in my head starts playing faster songs, which can amp me up even more.

If you’re interested, take some time this week to notice what you choose to play and when. Make a mental list of which music makes you feel good, and utilize it as needed.

Old Man Responds to Music From His Era

If you haven’t seen this video, it is so worth watching. It demonstrates how music can unlock memory in people with dementia and even give them moments of function and presence. I have seen this countless times in music therapy groups but it never gets old! FYI, this is not music therapy persay, but rather a demonstration of the power of music. Check out the Ipod project here.

Music Therapy with Veterans

This is a nice video shot at the San Francisco VA this last year during my Fellowship at MusicianCorps. It has some nice clips that illustrate music therapy in a number of ways, including:

-Veterans, many with Traumatic Brain Injury, working on sustained attention through drumming

-A man with Parkinson’s gait training to music (Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation)

-A veteran singing to increase lung capacity after being stuck in bed for a few months.

These guys were amazing to work with and taught me so much. Veterans rock!

So What is Music Therapy, Anyway?

imagesThere have been countless times when I’ve been at a party and someone asks what I do, and then the inevitable: What is music therapy? My very broad answer is that music therapy is the use of music to achieve non-musical goals. Here are some basics that might be helpful:

-Music therapy is research-based, looking at the effects of music on movement, communication, relating to others, and cognition.

-Music therapists work with diverse populations, from premature babies in the NICU to the elderly in hospice. Therapists work in forensics, neuro or drug rehab, schools, hospitals, and much more.

-Music therapists assess clients, create goals based on strengths and needs, and  document progress.

-In order to become a music therapist, one must attend a pretty rigorous undergrad or graduate program that includes lots of music classes, psychology, music therapy studies, and fieldwork in different sites. Students intern for six months at an approved site and take a Board Certification Exam.

-There is a good article that gives examples of how music therapists apply their skills written by Ronna Kaplan, former president of the American Association of Music Therapy (AMTA), here. The AMTA website also has much more information, here.

Welcome to my Music Therapy Blog!


Thanks for visiting! I wish I could offer you a cup of tea. But I’m hoping that there will be something in this for everyone. I am starting this blog to educate about Neurologic Music Therapy, and in doing so to keep myself apprised of the latest research and cool things that are happening in this field! I also intend to share ideas on how to use music at home to help you or your loved ones feel calmer, more connected, and have some fun.

Thanks for stopping by!