James D'Angelo
Category: Chakra

TONES, FREQUENCIES AND THE CHAKRAS

A question that arises from time to time in sound healing workshops is:  Are there any definitive correspondences between the chakra energy centres and musical tones/frequencies.  In surveying the field of all the propositions and theories postulated, the simple answer is “no”, no matter how convincing the arguments for them might be.  If we are truly individuals and our energies are regularly in flux, then how could it be otherwise?   Perhaps there is some ideal for the fully perfected human being but how would we ever come to know it?

Harry Oldfield who has pioneered what he calls electro-crystal therapy uses the principle of resonance through sending frequencies through crystals into a person‘s energy field.. In an interview with Kindred Spirit he was asked specifically if the frequencies for the chakras vary with each person.  He answered that he uses a broad frequency range for each chakra as it is not individual to the person.  Like myself he views the increasing number of “petals “ associated with the chakras in Indian philosophy as the basic indicator of rising frequencies, Dr. Valerie Hunt of UCLA has done studies on the chakras and the human energy field.  She has measured the bioelectrical energy variations in areas of skin corresponding to the positions of the chakras.  She has taken readings for brain waves between 0 and 30 cps, muscles going up to 225 cps and the heart going up to 250 cps.  This latter figure is quite close to the frequency of middle C in music (more on this later).  Her readings were, like Harry Oldfield, in a broad frequency range.  Overall the band of frequencies from the first to the seventh chakra was between 100 and 1600 cps.  In musical terms this is a 4 octave range. 

In a similar vein researchers at the Heartmath Institute measure the vital force energy field which they label as the ‘L’ energy.  Their primary hypothesis is that  energy and information are the same thing, that everything that exists has energy, energy is full of information and stored info-energy is what makes up cellular memories.  Furthermore, the heart is the primary generator of info-energy and thus is central to our system’s recollection of its life - its cellular memory.  They understand the chakras to be transformers and relay stations used by the heart to communicate info-energy to the body’s cells. As with Dr Hunt to some extent they have measured the normal frequency for the heart region as 250 cps, roughly our middle C.

The English kiniesologist Alan Sales believes that he has determined the frequencies of the chakras and has encoded them into tuning forks.  In his article in Positive Health he does not reveal what methods he has used in his practice to come up with his frequency choices.  They consist of a scale of tones beginning on C and move step by step upwards to a B as follows:

C        D         E          F sharp      G sharp     A        B

It is an unusual scale not found in Western music although if the A were taken to be the keynote, it is an ascending melodic minor scale beginning on its third note.  Emotionally it feels unsatisfactory as the heart interval (from the root tone to the heart tone) is C to F sharp, a clear dissonance which, at one time, was known as the “devil’s interval.”  Later on we will examine another tuning fork system which has assisted my chakra toning work even though these forks are not coordinated to the chakras.

The most natural system within acoustics is that of the overtone or harmonic series.  It is produced in variant forms whenever we speak or sing and it is very much present in all tone-producing musical instruments. One of the early pioneers in sound healing was the American Randall McClellan who produced one of the first books on the subject - The Healing Forces of Music: History, Theory and Practice.  It should be required reading for anyone embarking on practicing in the sound therapy field.  In the book he gives eight reasons why the major scale, a favored one for many sound practitioners using the voice, is unsatisfactory.  In this I am in agreement as will be seen shortly.

One of the reasons given is that the fourth and seventh scale degrees of our major  scale (with C as the keynote, the tones F and B) cannot be derived from the harmonic series.  His proposition is that a correlation between tones and chakras must arise out of a natural order, namely the overtone /harmonic series.  So he has correspondences between the 2nd to 8th harmonics and the seven chakras.  He states that his choice of A as the keynote for the system has no particular reason.  Perhaps it can be rationalized that A is the note to which musicians tune in Western music.  Here is McClellan’s layout.

ChakraHarmonic numberTone name

Crown8thA

Brow7thG

Throat6thE

Heart5thC sharp

Solar Plexus4thA

Sacral3rdE

Root2ndA

The fundamental tone of this series is an A an octave below the root chakra A.  So these tones lie in the 2nd and 3rd octaves of the series.  Very satisfying in the layout is that the heart has the colour tone of the major, the C sharp. Without it we would not know whether it is major or minor. McCllellan states that persons can develop two octave ranges in their voices and thus reproduce this overtone series.  Nonetheless the average untrained voice will find this difficult.  If the series began on the low F which I use in my toning of the chakras, it might just be possible for some.  This would give the tone A for the heart, the musicians’ tuning focus. I would suggest that McClellan start this series on A flat so that the tone for the heart would become the middle C which the Heartmath people have put forward. 

For the purpose of using the voice as a resonator for the chakras, musical scales, being compact and adjustable for vocal ranges, seem best in the toning process. Almost everyone can produce a scale of eight tones starting anywhere from a F below the middle C of the piano (an octave lower for men’s voices) to middle C itself.  It is rare to meet tone-deaf people on vocal sound healing workshops.

The prime candidate among the musical scales for the Westerner is the major scale which has been at the centre of Western music for only 350 years or so..  This scale is not  universal, not even within European music.    For example, Scottish bagpipe music is characterized by the use of a mode known as the Mixolydian.  This mode is almost a major scale but its seventh note is lower by a semi-tone, e.g., in the C major scale the seventh note would be B flat,  Looking more widely, Indian musicians do recognize the major scale but only in a theoretical way. In practice they always alter the tones creating their myriad raga forms.  Such ragas employ scale material of between five and seven tones and the ascending and descending form of the scale can be different.  Vedic chanting consists of only three tones.

The case is similar for the natural minor scale also known as the Aeolian mode. This scale is more widespread than the major as it is found in the music of many indigenous peoples.  The natural minor beginning on the tone A is the preferred scale of the pioneer of toning for healing L E Keyes.  She chose it simply because it fits most voices very well and does not involve the use of any sharps or flats. 

The sound healer Kay Gardner, now deceased, chose an intriguing seven note scale for toning the chakras which relates to McClellan’s idea of natural order and, to some extent, Sales..  It is known as the overtone scale because it corresponds to the harmonics which appear sequentially in the 4th octave of the overtone series.  As follows:

C         D         E              F sharp       G             A          B flat

Root    Sacral   Solar Plexus Heart         Throat    Brow    Crown

As with Sales and his tuning forks we have the highly dissonant interval of  C-F sharp between the root and heart.  It is a question of whether these intervals matter between the fundamental and those above. The B flat for the crown chakra  with its relationship to C at the root emotionally draws the B flat on a downward path rather than upward, a phenomenon  very often observed by traditional Western composers

The choice of the simplest major scale beginning on C  (no sharps or flats) is formative and too logical.  Yes, it is the first scale anyone learns who studies music because there are no sharps or flats and thus easy to attain. But what of those learning transposing instruments?  When  clarinettists play a C major scale, it is actually in sound a Bb major scale.  Similarly, a French horn player’s C major scale is actually in sound F major and so on.  Furthermore the centrality of the tone C, although significant because of the emphasis placed upon it, is not the tone to which orchestras tune.  The orchestra sets its store on A above middle C which, at least in England, is fixed at 440 cycles per second.  

There are other reasons why the C major as a chakra toning scale, offered by a number of vocal sound healers (Ted Andrews, for example), can be questioned  First of all it has to be remembered that the rising scale is a psychological tool which gives persons the feeling of the increasing whirl of the chakras and thus a sense of uplifting themselves to a higher dimension of existence. Although there are seven tones in this scale to correspond to the seven principal chakras, there is no sense of completion or rising to the next level. When listening to an ascending major scale, step by step, the return to the next higher C, the eighth tone an octave above, has to occur to feel that completion.  In this way, psychologically, we have arrived at the beginning of that next dimension. To arrive on the tone number 7,i.e. B for the crown chakra and leave it there without moving the final semi-tone to C is wholly unsatisfactory.   And then there is the practical consideration that the vocal range of the C major scale can be somewhat high for some voices.  It is easier to begin on the A below as given by Keyes or even lower in a relaxed range of sound.

The choice of a scale for toning the chakras for this workshop leader is known as the pentatonic.  This was intuited step by step and not all at once.  The first question to be answered was what tone will be the starting point.  The sense was that somehow  the tone C had a role to play but not as a starting point for the root chakra. But where?  We Western musicians have used it as a tone of centrality.  And what is the point of centrality within us? The heart, naturally and so that is where the C was placed.  Later I discovered that Valerie Hunt had, in her research, measured the heart’s frequency as going up to 250 cps.  Furthermore, the research at the Institute of HeartMath in Colorado has reported that the heart’s normal frequency is 250 CPS.  Now this frequency is quite close to middle C on the piano, roughly 261.6 CPS. However, if our tuning system was based on C=1 CPS as the central tone, then rising up through the octaves (multiply by 2) our middle C comes to 256, very close to IHM’s measurement.  In his time the visionary Rudolph Steiner proposed that our Western tuning system should be based on A = 432 cps.  Proportionally, this tuning would, in turn, make the C =256 cps.

What would now be the next step?  For this I turned to the polarity therapist and sound healer John Beaulieu who has designed tuning forks for healing based on the overtone or harmonic series.  Because he treats his patients according to the elements of earth, water, fire and air through analyses of their voices, he categorized  three of these elements in accordance with interval types.  As follows:

Perfect 5ths/4thsAir

3rds/6thsFire

2nds/7thsWater

In this system there is no distinction made between major and minor 3rds., 6ths, 2nds and 7ths.  The earth element is treated separately and, instead of two forks creating these intervals, single low forks are used.  Beaulieu has offered no rationale for these categories but I am in agreement with his choices.

Now in the elemental correspondences with the chakras in Indian tradition, the heart is linked with air. So, using the Beaulieu system, the heart interval down to the root would be the primary air interval, the perfect 5th or C down to F.  Having F as the foundation tone has a great precedent in the history of world music. For hundreds of years the music of enlightened ancient Chinese civilizations used the approximate frequency of F as their foundation tone. To some extent F is a foundation tone in Western music inasmuch it is usually given as the lowest note for writing for the bass voice of a choir.

Assigning F to the root chakra also means assigning it to the earth element of the root.  If we equate the earth element with Nature itself, then we could turn to a piece of classical music which so powerfully expresses that Nature.  Beethoven’s 6th symphony, the “Pastoral.” which he set quite firmly in the key of F major.  For me it is a intuitive and strong connection.

I had assumed that now that I had the two key notes F and C that it was just a matter of filling in the rest of the scale tones.  But there was a problem.  It is four places up in the chakras between root and heart but, in a normal scale, it is 5 tones up between F and C (f g a b c).  Then a light dawned and I asked a fundamental question as did Randall McClellan. Why a major scale?  Are there not other sorts of scales?  And the answer came.  What is the most universal scale found in music all over the world?  The answer is the 5 tone pentatonic scale which, coincidentally, has remained the fundamental scale for traditional Chinese music.  And, referring back to McClellan, its tones can all be found in the overtone series.  As there are just four tones between the F and C in the pentatonic, the C will correspond to the heart.   As follows:

F (root)      G (sacral)     A (solar plexus)     C (heart)    D (throat)    F (brow)    G (crown)

Here, by the brow centre, the next dimension has already been reached, symbolized by arriving at a new octave with the upper F.  And we move even deeper into that dimension with the succeeding G of the crown. Also this sets up a relation between the root and brow chakras, both being F an octave apart and the sacral and crown chakras, both being G an octave apart.  Practically speaking, this set-up is easily produced in the voice by both men and women and this is so important for working with untrained voices.

Finally, I have found the letter names of the notes could stand for the qualities of each of the chakras as well:

Root                  Foundation

Sacra                lGenesis

Solar Plexus        Authority

Heart                Compassion

Throat              Declaration

Brow                 Foresight

Crown               Godhead 

At the outset of this article I was unequivocal that there are no definite correspondences between chakras and set tones.  What I have intuited about using the pentatonic scale beginning on F is not an absolute.  It is not the answer, only an answer.  Within me it feels right for toning the chakras for the reasons given.  It is important that those who work with therapeutic vocal sound find their own intuitive solution that will psychologically facilitate the ascent to a higher and purer consciousness.

 

REFERENCES:

Andrews, Ted:  Sacred Sounds: Transformation through Music & Word. Llewellyn Publications (USA), 1992.

Gardner, Kay:  Sounding the Inner Landscape: Music As Medicine. Caduceus Publications (Stonington, Maine, USA), 1990.

Gerber, Dr. Richard:   Vibrational Medicine.  Bear & Company *Rochester, Vermont, USA), 2001

McClellan, Randall:  The Healing Forces Of Music: History, Theory and Practice.  iUniverse.com, 2000

Oldfield, Harry: Electro-Crystal Therapy.  Kindred Spirit Magazine, Vol.3, No.9, pp/22-24

Pearsall, Paul:  The Heart’s Code.   Thorsons (Harper-Collins, UK), 1998.

Sales, Alan:   Tuning Forks for Healing Therapy.  Positive Health (UK), September 2000.pp 24-28

 

James D’Angelo

 

4 Sept 2009
Posted: 16 Oct 2009 By: Marline Lesh

An informative gathering of information and reasoning with regard to various systems of assigning specific pitches in sound healing work with chakras. In my work with sound healing over the past fifteen plus years, I have found that individuals are best served by a philosophy and approach that does not prescribe pitches from a static, rigid system. The breadth of overview Mr. DeAngelo has provided in this article and his conclusion are both helpful and reassuring.

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