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Music to Wind Down With

By: Janie Franz - Updated: 28 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
American Indian calm doumbek flute

Music is all around us. We listen to music at work. Sometimes it's a type or genre of music we don't really enjoy and that adds to our stress levels. Music is in our cars and on our home stereos. It helps get our energy up, but it can sometimes assault us with sound, making us feel frayed. Music, however, can be a powerful tool to help us relax.

Medical Research

Pennsylvania State completed a study of the effectiveness of music in helping patients relax and heal. They found that soothing music helped people sleep, control their pain, and lower anxiety in patients who had surgery. Music also stimulates the brain to send electrical messages to the muscles and nerves and therefore helps patients with brain injuries to heal.

The calming effect of music has also been proven by dentists who offer patients headsets so that they can listen to music while the dentist works. This calms even the most nervous patient.

Soothing music, used to induce relaxation, can also be heard in hospitals, cancer centres, therapy offices, and hospices. It is also used in high stress environments.

Nature Music

The sounds of nature can have a soothing affect. Often, they are rhythmic, slow, and repetitive to a certain extent. Rain, waterfalls, babbling brooks, or ocean waves can mask out other noises that can disturb sleep. The rhythmic nature of these particular sounds is soothing and can slow the heart beat. Water sounds like these can also evoke images of the outdoors or recall memories of pleasant camping experiences.

Some people like to listen to gentle thunderstorms on CD. These sounds are not meant to present the raging power of a storm. They let the gentle thunder conjure thoughts of life-giving rain and the peace that a summer shower can bring. Bird song, wolf calls, and whale music also can make us feel relaxed. If we live in the city, hearing these kinds of nature sounds can help us feel as if we are tucked snugly in a cabin in the woods somewhere. All of these sounds can help us relax.

Any of these sounds can be paired with music. Usually, it is with flutes, harps, guitars, or synthesisers.

White Noise Machines

There are also machines that produce barely discernable sounds that can mask other sounds in our environment. Called white noise, these sounds cover up and sometimes eliminate household noises such as refrigerators or radiators or traffic sounds outside the windows. Some white noise machines also include sounds of nature as well.


Harp music can often be therapeutic. The International Harp Therapy Program conducted a study of 200 patients who listened to harp music. They found that 91% of them experienced relief of anxiety, and 72% reported lower pain levels. The range of a large concert harp is able to resonate throughout the entire body. Some say that these vibrations can reach a cellular level, producing deep calm. It is certainly true that harp music is often played at weddings, funerals, and during massage therapy sessions to induce a state of calmness.

Other strings work equally well. Music from violins and acoustic guitars are most often used for relaxation. Soothing classical violin pieces are calming, as well as some gypsy violin. Spanish guitar or classical guitar music can also relax us. As long as the piece is peaceful-sounding, this music can calm the body.


Flutes of some type have been used by nearly every culture in the world. Music from them can send the heart and mind soaring. Choices can be classical music or ethnic selections, such as flutes from American Indian or Chinese music.

Piano Music

Piano selections can also be calming, depending on the music. Though most people would reach for classical pieces first, some jazz, blues, and pop piano music can be very restful. Movie scores can often have introspective piano pieces woven within the tapestry of the soundtrack.


Finally, drums are usually considered instruments of energy, mainly because they set the rhythm for dancers, but they can also be instruments of calm. Quiet drumming can be soothing. Some people listen to the repetition of American Indian frame drums, the slow heartbeat that is often played behind native flutes, and find that it helps them relax. Other people find Middle Eastern doumbeks, though tinnier and on a higher register, or South Asian tablas, using both high and low tones, can calm them even if both forms of drumming have been used by energetic dancers. Both drums can play quieter rhythms, and those are not only soothing but they vibrate throughout the body.

Music can help us relax. We just need to find slower selections and more rhythmic pieces that speak to us.

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