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The Seven Tone Method - Musical Healing

by Mary Masselos(more info)

listed in sound and music, originally published in issue 20 - May 1997

Music which uplifts, transporting us to the numinous realm of the archetypes where we are comforted, nurtured and refreshed is one of our most blessed joys. In my search for the meaning of music (nay life) and a light-filled form of therapy, I wondered how this power of music could be touched in the therapeutic moment. I was led eventually to the discovery of the potentialities of each tone which, as particles of music, bear the same truth, the same magnitude and the same ascendancy.

If I could use these inherent qualities, knowing how they relate to the world of archetypes and to people’s response, I felt I would be able to compose, spontaneously, something which could be beautiful, stirring and healing.

The Seven Tone Method

The individual tones when heard alone for the first time do not carry the emotional overtones and associations of known compositions and so can go directly into the person’s psyche without the interference of the natural defence mechanism. However, the responses are far from unemotional, painting a surprisingly full picture of the whole person. I found that people had very definite responses to the individual tones when played for a few moments each. From such beginnings, over the last 17 years, I have developed a 7 Tone Method which can be used therapeutically and diagnostically. The 7 notes of the musical scale are played in random order from middle C to B, which stimulates the physical, emotional and mental bodies. The tone corresponding to the warmest response and the one corresponding to an anti-pathetic or neutral response are used as pylons of the musical bridge, usually resulting in an improvisation of deep meaning and inspiration for the patient. I have yet to experience a negative reaction when I play this way. The arousal of shadow material more often comes in psychotherapeutic techniques. What usually does occur is remembrance of happy/sad situations, sobbing/laughter for no apparent reason, actual and imagined physical pain.

People I treat cover a wide range of adults, though I occasionally work with children. The method is suitable for hospital/hospice patients, those experiencing loss and grief, lack of fulfilment and sense of purpose; those in unhappy relationships, the neurotic, but not mentally ill and those who are fascinated by sound as a spiritual path and force.

Because my research has uncovered a pattern in similarity of response to each tone which is accurate for this time, we can compare the norm with the individual to note any divergence or discomfort. Thus we have an excellent diagnostic tool made from musical means. In this short article I can only briefly describe some aspects of the method and research data to give some background and validity to this form of therapy. The method itself consists of 1) the tone test, 2) discussions of responses; analysis; diagnosis, 3) improvisation, 4) further analysis.



Emotional Release

During the further analysis period the patient will sometimes remember scenes similar to the ones evoked whilst first listening to the tones. For example, a musician who had come to me to explore my method received, in response to F, an image of a hill and blue sky, realised that it resembled the country around his childhood home. This immediately became a backdrop for significantly crucial memories of (1) walking hand in hand with his father at the age of 7 in the country of his image, and (2) his father’s death and funeral. Through his sobs he uttered that he had never really grieved for his father who had died several years before. In that moment he seemed to release years of pent-up anguish. He said later that the suddenness of this experience was a great mystery to him and a great relief.

The psyche which is preparing to heal itself will use all or any means at its disposal. If this is brought about by an awareness of great import, then the psyche will put before the mind’s eye the very situation which it has carried in its memory for a suitable appropriate release.

Physical Release

A 33 year old woman suffering severe asthma attacks was able to breathe easily without any aids after 6 months. There was, of course, no attempt on my part to act as physician.

A Bowen Technique therapist, a man of 55, felt acute pain whilst listening to the tone F (which represents in my research, the feminine principle) and had to leave the workshop, returning a few moments later with the triumphant news he had passed a kidney stone that was plaguing him. I can only take his word for this!

My theory is that the tones resonate happily in healthy areas and sourly in unhealthy – the balancing of these through musical, intuitive skill is the healing art. This is the simplest way I can put it in an article of this size.

Another intriguing case is a woman who was unhappy in her relationship with her partner, harbouring deep resentment and anger. Her reaction to tone B (the masculine principle) was acute displeasure and a buzzing in her left nostril. Over 18 months, as she recognised her own inner male, her past traumas, her need to be dominant, she became more gentle, feminine, at peace, and the buzzing stopped. B became her favourite tone. An addendum – during a group chanting of her name, her heavy menstrual bleeding which had been a problem for 3 days completely stopped – the triumphant news was reported as in the kidney stone case.

Spiritual Release

A kinesiologist of 33, Andrew, took the tone test for further self-understanding and peace. His favourite tone D evoked ‘warm, deep feelings in his heart’, and B, the one he wanted to explore evoked ‘an awakening feeling, a real, physical sensation of freedom’. After the improvisation Andrew said, “I sang and you played. I silently sang the tune that everybody has a calling to take the body. People spend years finding what they’re called to, they are really only called to sing their song. When you sing your song and someone else plays it, it’s memorable.

“Pretty amazing stuff. Very emotional. Emotional because I was happy – tears came because of that. Such an amazing gift because it touches the place where people really are. The person gets a recognition of who they are – you can’t hear my music as I can but through the music you played I and others can hear my music. It’s because of the tune that you can be in touch with me. My experience is sharing who I am with another, through the music.

“There’s a feeling of the picture of the tune – the melody you played. As my thoughts changed, so did the tune, you played my life in the tune.”

Rudolf Steiner has said that when we listen to music it is entirely our own world, so when Andrew listened to his ‘tune’, which I reflected back to him it was his own world that he was hearing. He found meaning in the music and was moved by it. He felt, as I did, that it was the sound his soul would sing, if we could only hear it. In times like these the musical bridge is all that exists, and even that gives way to the sound – gently ringing and fading by turn in our ears as we silently contemplate its echoing path, extending the breathless moment.

Mental Release

Tone therapy for professional musicians and actors can free them from mental and emotional blocks by pinpointing the precise nature of their trouble spot. For example, a violinist, unable to tune the A string, confessed he felt rage on hearing A and visualised his own black-cloaked double. From then on he played a Bach Partita like an angel.

In conclusion I would like to say that my wish is to make available a form of healing which may bring love and harmony and to let the tones in the following table speak for themselves.

One basic and simple statistics exercise I performed showed that of 160 people:–
22    experienced    solemnity for     C (Do)
    (closely followed by groundedness)
18     “    strength for    D    (Re)
23     “    serenity for    E    (Mi)
19    “    comfort for    F    (Fa)
19    “    joy for    G    (So)
44    “    happiness for    A    (La)
15    “    sadness for    B    (Ti)
    (closely followed by yearning).

However, love as an experienced feeling response was spread abundantly and equally over all tones. This naturally shows that ALL TONES HAVE LOVE IN THEM, and last, loveliest point, love, the most healing power of all, generously spreads itself over all the tones in Her divine abundance. To explain, feelings of love were experienced as responses to all the tones in fairly equal proportions or percentages. A coincidence? I think not. And does this not show that Love is truly the power of life itself?

Further information

“The above contains material from Mary’s book in preparation, Music, the Universal Fire – A Therapeutic Approach.


  1. phil ambler said..

    Manfred Clynes' work on 'sentics' would be of great assistance here, in understanding the way the tones elicit a response.
    The conclusion over love is both wise and encouraged.

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About Mary Masselos

Mary Masselos, musician, healer, concert violinist, registered music therapist, psychodynamic counsellor blends her love of music and healing in her private practice, workshops and lectures.

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