Human beings know a lot about sound and the mechanics behind it. Yet, science hasn’t come to any real solid measured conclusions on how sound directly works on the energetic and physical bodies we house or how it heals them. There are theories, data, some known facts and like any subject, our knowledge continues to expand but we still don’t really know.
Luckily, new discoveries are being made all the time. For instance, even though ‘nobody ever imagined that sound waves might also have magnetic properties’ (Joseph Heremans, 2015), just a few years ago a team of scientists offered experimental proof that sound waves do in fact interact with external magnetic fields. It’s an important discovery. Sounds technical – bestill your heart my friends – this article has a bunch of sciencey terms but as I am only bringing this science fact to light here because this is new information, and information like this can become the basis for an entirely new or expanded way for us to understand how sound works in other ways with other forms of matter.
We know that sound has the capacity to heal the body
Varying forms of sound are known to produce therapeutic effects on the body or more specifically the frequencies of sound have the capacity to heal and soothe the body. It is believed this happens through resonance and vibration since…..yes, and….
ok its time for a pause here –
What does that really mean? What are frequencies, resonance, vibration and other sound science terms? And what do they do?
This part of the series on sound will address those very questions to help us understand more about sound. My goal is to sort it out and make it as clear as possible to people who don’t fancy science or basically filed their former studies in a dark dusty file drawer in their brain – I don’t know about you but since I don’t read scientific publications regularly, I find that too much jargon loaded into condensed sentences has the tendency to overwhelm me.
I hope this can help others to have a deeper understanding of how sound works because when we discuss healing with sound (or any modalities) outside of the mainstream people sometimes consider it woo-woo and it simply is not.
“Myths, we believe, are magical explanations for things we cannot understand. Faith is when we do not understand but believe anyway. Facts we believe are ‘true’ explanations for things we cannot understand. We need facts in order to gain a perception of our world that we believe is a truer understanding of our existence, our ‘reality.’ And it seems ‘truth’ is what we come to believe as an interpretation of those ‘facts.’ ”– From Myth to Reality, M. Drohan
Sound, vibration, resonance, and other terms
The best way to start our discussion on how sound works is to explain how the human voice and hearing it works since it is relatable and can help us visualize how sound works on a personal level
“When we talk to each other, the vocal cords of the speaker vibrate, causing the air coming from his lungs to vibrate as well. This creates sound waves, which then propagate through the air until they hit a listener’s eardrums and make them vibrate as well. From these vibrations, the listener can then reconstruct the speaker’s words.”an excerpt from Magnetic fields can control heat and sound by Joseph Heremans
Because our bodies are approximately 70 percent water and water is an excellent conductor of sound, it can have a direct impact our physical bodies as sound waves travel through it. Think about how you feel when a loud truck or jet engines zooms by you can feel the sound go through you.
Studies show that sounds physically enters our bodies before being processed by the brain unlike vision which must be filtered through the centers of the brain first before we react to it physically.
Even though it has the capacity to heal, sound can hurt too !
Sound can hurt too – simply think about someone yelling at another person or repeatedly saying no to someone. The sound energy in a person’s tone is felt by another and, since sound enters our bodies before being processed by the brain we’re really hurting someone when we are unkind and yell at them. Not to mention that militaries use sound for torture too – ugly truths.
Quick links to sections
Sound fact basics
Soundis the vibration (physical change brought about due to the movement of the body) of particles that form sound waves and the particles oscillate (move back and forth) along the direction of motion of the wave.
Sound waves can travel in all directions – think of a single drop of water dropping into a larger body of water and rippling outwardly. Then think of that ripple moving upwards and downwards – all directions surrounding.
Sound waves have the ability to travel through gases, plasmas, and liquids [as longitudinal waves aka compression waves] and solids [in solids it can travel as both longitudinal and transverse waves].
Even though sound waves can move through solids, an object can block waves (it depends on the size of the peaks of a soundwave)
Sound waves can almost always travel around objects. This is why we can hear things when an obstacle is in the way but we in most cases we can’t see things when an obstacle is in the way.
The speeds that sound travels depends on the medium (gases, liquids, etc.) It travels quickest through a solid and slower through gases.
There are sound waves that are outside the range of human hearing, (i.e. sounds produced through a dog whistle)
Sound waves are not necessarily invisible but we think of them as such since sound travels frequently through
airand since air is mostly invisible we don’t see them. Plus most sound waves consist of material vibrating too quickly for our eyes to focus on them.
If you want to learn more about sound and visualize how it works, watch the video series on sound posted in the
Sound waves and sound energy
Sound waves are generated by a sound source or object, such as your throat (speaker, string on an instrument, etc.) to create a vibration. This vibration of particles continues to increase creating sound energy that travels in the form of a sound wave. Sound waves are molecules that oscillate back and forth creating higher and lower areas of pressure.
A sound wave consists of particles that move away from the source of the sound – in our example earlier we used the throat to create a vocalization.
Sound energy consists of phonons.
Phonon – a definite discrete unit or quantum of vibrational mechanical energy. Phonons are a way to describe the vibrational degrees of freedom in periodic structures or lattices.
In other forms of matter (not sound) you will find photons a quantum of electromagnetic or light energy. Remember I mentioned the new science in the introduction where experimental proof now that sound waves do in fact interact with external magnetic fields?
Vibration and oscillation exist in direct proportion to each other. As the concentration of energy increases (vibration), energy expenditure (oscillation) decreases.
Vibration and oscillation
Everything is vibration.
Experience vibration when you create the sound AH
Sound is vibration and we can feel vibrations. We hear frequencies and we feel them. Try singing AH aloud and place one hand on chest and one on your throat while creating a continuous AH. Do you feel the vibration in your throat and chest area?
vibration – is specifically a displacement or shift in space of something physical or tangible (a corporeal body), meaning it refers to the physical change brought about due to movement of the body.
A visual example of
oscillation is the definite distance of movement from a central point (usually of equilibrium and typically measured in time) Think of the back and forth motion of a clock with a pendulum that takes measured movements – each movement to – one second and fro – one second – tick tock 🙂
David Rosen, PhD in his answer to the differences between oscillation and vibration says that “oscillation is more general than a vibration. Oscillation is ANY periodic fluctuation in any field in time whatsoever.”
Resonance – Everything has a resonance.
resonance – 1. the frequency an object vibrates/oscillates, 2. when one vibrating system, force or form drives another to oscillate at the same frequency.
A visual example of resonance is shown below in an experiment video of tuning forks oscillating at the same frequency.
Particles and waves
All the particles in the universe have the properties of waves, including all the particles that we ourselves are made from.
Waves transmit energy and can encode information.
proximityof one another will tend to oscillate at the same frequency.
Watch this experiment using two tuning forks oscillating at the same frequency.
One of the forks is being hit with a rubberized mallet. Although the first tuning fork hasn’t been hit, the other fork is visibly excited due to the oscillation or vibration which is caused by the periodic change in the pressure and density of the air by hitting the other fork. This creates an acoustic resonance between the forks because the sound wave from the first tuning fork has shared some of its energy with the second one. When you place a tuning fork on an object made of metal, wood or glass the object will begin to vibrate.
Frequency and Hz
The number of waves passing through a point in one second is called frequency and is measured in Hz.
For example, 528 Hz means that in one second 528 waves pass through a single point over a period of one second. The lower the number the slower the movement.
Whereas, the wavelength is the distance between two consecutive compressions or longitudinal waves [the wave describes the probability of where the particle is located.]
Healthy bodies are said to resonate in a particular range of frequencies. When we are in a state of imbalance or disease, our frequencies are misaligned. This is the primary idea at the heart of why sound healing can work to bring the body back into alignment and be used as a healing modality.
Every sound is produced by vibration.
Cymatics (the visualization of sound)
Cymatics is the visualization of sound and the study of wave phenomena pioneered by Swiss medical doctor and natural scientist, Hans Jenny (1904-1972). in the image above we can see how
Watch this video by Nigel Stanford where he shows a series of sound experiments to illustrate this phenomenon and his music is awesome too.
The geometric shapes are created due to a well-known phenomenon called standing waves. Get all the details on how this works when you watch this video –
Summing it up
In the end, I hope this will give you a better understanding of basic sound mechanics. Sound and sound energy healing is an amazing and massive topic that I’ve tried to reign it in and make some sense of all of it – thus the series of articles that a simple sound bath meditation inspired.
If you want to explore sound energy healing related articles read all of the articles in the entire series – they will be linked as they are published over the next two weeks:
Sound Energy Healing and Sound Basics – You are here!
Trying to make sense of how sound energy heals and some obstacles to our understanding
Bringing sound into the body: Many methods of Sound Energy Healing
Share your sound experiences and knowledge in the comments, let’s #learntogether. Thanks for taking the time to read this and being here.
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Study: Cross-Modal Frequency Matching: Sound and Whole-Body Vibration
Video: Introduction to Sound Waves
General info on acoustic resonance