Songs for Practicing Sound Healing at Home
Amid the mainstreaming of self-care, the definition of “healing” grows increasingly nebulous. “In a lot of cases, the term is on a runaway train that looks good, smells good, and has a great image of a glowing chakra behind it,” says Samer Ghadry, a Brooklyn-based sound healer. In his line of work, he continues, “all we’re really looking for is fortification of the human soul, of our spirits.”
Ghadry, who’s also a musician, has long been interested in the grounding effects of sound. He grew up listening to traditional Arabic music played by his parents, and went on to study various forms of percussion in college, from jazz to Ghanaian drumming. In the late 2000s, he dove into a combination of multi-genre drumming, drone, and spiritual choir music as a way to work through some tough emotions. About two decades later, Ghadry decided to harness his artistic skills to help others heal and create moments of peace.
After studying therapeutic sound—in which forms of music are used to improve physical and emotional health—in workshops and retreat-style certification courses, Ghadry founded his sound-healing practice, ToneCenter, in 2019. Today, he leads and co-leads sound meditations and sound baths at spaces such as Good Move in Brooklyn and Avalon Lounge in Catskill, New York, and uses a range of instruments—including bronze bowls, gongs, tuning forks, and his own voice—to help listeners relax.
To better understand how sound therapy works, we recently asked Ghadry to put together a playlist that could be used to engage with sound healing at home. Here, he explains the sonic and emotional attributes of each song.
Listen to Ghadry’s Sound Healing playlist on Spotify.
“Raga Basant Bahar” by Kishori Amonkar
“In Indian classical music, ragas are basic melodic forms that are associated with specific times of the day, and traditionally meant to be played only at that time. This raga is meant to be played between 9 p.m. and 12 a.m., or anytime in the spring. I can listen to it almost year-round, as it has such a strong effect on me. It’s one of the most fantastic pieces of music I have ever heard. It always moves me within the first few notes, then transports me into Kishori Amonkar’s vast spirit. I feel like I’m flying with her.”
“Phrygian Mode” by John Beaulieu
“John is one of my teachers. I love how simple this track is: It’s just a set of tuning forks, well played. It sounds almost immediately calming, interesting, and slightly emotional, even. I like the tight phase patterns that come through from time to time.”
“Ensenada” by Bennie Maupin
“This is a great, gorgeous example of music that might skirt along where sound healing meets jazz, or modern world fusion.”
“Shanti-Mantra” by Ravi Shankar
“You hear this song at the beginning of an album called Inside the Kremlin. I really like Ravi’s compositions and orchestral works. This one sonically resembles feelings of hope, joy, praise—things that are vital to health and happiness.”
“Engine of Ruin” by Earth
“My joining a doom sludge-metal band was an important precursor to developing my other musical limb, which led me to sound healing. Playing with such slow tempos gave me a taste of minimalism that would expand my horizons and set me on a path toward drone-based music, including this piece. It’s from a record where drone metal meets Bill Frisell: minimal, gradual, cathartic. It helps me feel empowered, but steady.”
“Organum: Part 1” by Peter Michael Hamel
“The arpeggios in this song grab you with a satisfying timbre. The whole piece is like a soulful journey. It has a way of connecting the mind to something useful and organic, as its title implies.”
“Raga Deen Todi” by Kamalesh Maitra
“I had one of the most meaningful listening experiences while listening to this one early morning, after a night of partying while on tour in Russia. I couldn’t sleep, so I put this on, and was completely transfixed. It’s been a favorite ever since. I find it to be a perfect blend of mellow and fascinating tones, and I love the rhythmic interplay between the two percussionists.”
“Raga Shivaranjani” by Bismillah Khan
“Bismillah Khan is a beautiful soul. He’s no longer with us, but I can find devotion, dedication, focus, playfulness, passion, and humility in his sound. I had to include him in this playlist because his music is so dear to me. This song, which is meant for midnight, is soft, sweet, delicate. The shehnai players support one another as they trade moments, echos, and drones. The piece has a mystery inside its intervals.”
“Raga Brindavani Sarang Alap” by Hariprasad Chaurasia, Anindo Chatterjee, and Roopak Kulkarni
“This is an afternoon raga played by one of the most fantastic musicians I have listened to. His work often feels magical, hearing how he crafts musical space with an instrument called the bansuri, a flute from the Indian subcontinent. The way he holds notes out with such softness is so innately comforting in tone.”
“Raga Shyam Kalyan” by Amjad Ali Khan
“Amjad Ali Khan plays this raga, meant to be played from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., with a gentleness and attentiveness to detail. It’s bright, upbeat, uplifting, and encouraging. The use of repeated phrases, which are slightly modified over time, have an encouraging quality in this musical context.”
“Choice Garden Cricket Sounds” by Cricket Sounds
“My son wanted to fall asleep to this for several nights when he was 4 and 5 years old. I thought that was enough to put it on the playlist.”
“Mountain Runoff Waterfall” by Nature Sounds
“I included this track as a nod to medieval Arab scholars like Farabi and Ibn Sina, who wrote about the importance of putting one’s medical office near running water to help soothe incoming patients before and during their visits. Lowering stress was considered vital to recovering from any number of illnesses, and still is.”
“I’ll Never Leave You” by Harry Nilsson
“This is one of the most perplexing, moving, emotional, quizzical songs I know. Clearly it touches on longing, or, some might say dependency. It’s not clear to me if the singer is exaggerating, or singing about fictional characters. But whenever I hear this song, and when I sing along, I can’t help but feel completely inside of it. It’s a 4/4 meter, yet is played as a waltz, a rhythm that’s entirely intoxicating. Then, when it gets to the harp swell, it finally kicks into a true 3/4 waltz. The singing is beyond great. It feels so crisp and wonderful. When I play this song in my car, I always cry a little.”