What exactly is music therapy

Music therapy

Therapy of premature babies

With the use of music, Professor Harald Schachinger, who was head of the premature babies' ward at the Berlin Forest Hospital until 2004, achieved great success in the development of his little patients. He played specially selected music tracks for them through headphones. And occasionally he made music for her himself - on the cello. With music, he was able to determine, the heartbeat of premature babies becomes much more stable and steady.

An independent study was able to show that the infant mortality rate in the forest hospital is significantly lower than in other hospitals. The effect was easy to explain. If the music is at the right tempo, there is a so-called coupling effect: the heartbeat is coupled to the given rhythm.

Pain science

Music causes a lower release of stress hormones and increases the release of pain-controlling beta-endorphins. So you actually feel less pain with music. Dentists have been using this fact for a long time. And with partial anesthesia, the music naturally also shields unpleasant noises from outside.

Music is also about care and support - the patient feels that they are in better hands. It is also used in the therapy of chronic pain. For example, patients report that the music literally shields them from their pain.

It has also been shown to have positive effects in the treatment of tinnitus patients. In addition to relaxation, selected music also superimposed disturbing noises in the ears and pushed them out of consciousness.


In the rehabilitation of stroke patients, it is important to train the patient in their motor skills again. Rehabilitation training with music exercises on a keyboard and an electronic drum kit was carried out with a group of non-musicians. It was found that they made faster progress than other patients.

It is assumed that this is partly due to the fact that when making music, patients receive immediate feedback as to whether they have performed a movement correctly or not. In addition, this form of training is simply more fun for the patients and thus increases their willingness to perform during the training units.


Music is also used in Alzheimer's patients. At the University of Zurich, the brains of musicians were examined in an MRI scanner and it was found that in some places they have more mass than the brains of non-musicians. It is therefore assumed that the breakdown of brain matter can be slowed down by making music.

First attempts to treat Alzheimer's patients with music showed great success. Offers such as "Music on Wheels" are well received by those affected as well as by carers and relatives. Music therapists come to people's homes, homes or hospitals and sing songs.

In some cases, music can be the only point of access to the patient, especially if they no longer understand language. The patients are more balanced and relaxed after an hour of therapy. In addition, there are now other musical offers especially for Alzheimer's patients, such as concerts, dance caf├ęs and art events.


Music reduces anxiety and alleviates depression. In fact, it was the very first therapeutic application of music that has been handed down. King David is said to have played Saul on his harp when he was depressed. Of course, we no longer know what that sounded like today.

A more modern example are the "Goldberg Variations" by Johann Sebastian Bach. They have a simple structure but are also very variable which was perfect to help out the depressed count they were composed for. Music seems to reach areas in the brain that are inaccessible with speech.

That is why it is also used in so-called early childhood autism. In autistic people, the emotional processing is disturbed. This means that they have tremendous difficulty expressing relationships and moods. Music can help them do just that.

Therapists at the University of Witten / Herdecke communicate with their young patients through music alone. As a result, they loosen up during the lessons and slowly respond to the music themselves. After the therapy you are more relaxed and calmer.