The Role of Genres in Music Therapy

Music influences and impacts us greatly, it affects our mood, our minds and can even shift our perception of the world, it also has the ability to activate regions of the brain that influence things like memory, emotions, movement etc. When listening to music as a form of therapy, the genre being used can impact the outcome and response from the client.

 This explores and discusses the effects of each genre on the body and brain of a person:

The Effect of Rap Music


Rap Music is one of the most prevalent and influential musical genres of the 21st Century. With artists such as Eminem, Kanye West, J Cole and many more having a massive cult following. Rap music is characterised by its unique vocal style that emphasizes rhyme and rhythm as well as self-expression.

Rap artists often talk about topics like poverty, gang life, drug abuse and other negative things that they may have faced, it details messages of both unity and division. This is what causes it to evoke deep emotional responses from listeners, due to this the genre has slowly been gaining traction as a viable form of therapy among medical communities. 

When rappers freestyle it puts their minds into a flow state that activate areas of the brain concerning language, emotion, motivation and motor function. This suggests that the act of producing and creating music taps into complex creative reserves, this specific type of stimulation in the brain can also greatly benefit people with neurological illnesses.


Studies from Cambridge University’s Department of Psychology pose that rap music display a "Positive visual imagery", which is a psychotherapeutic technique most commonly used among athletes in which one visualizes themselves in a moment of triumph to improve their mental and emotional state. The study suggests that songs that describe people turning their lives around and diverging from lives with low incomes and difficult environments to lives with luxurious houses and an abundance of money and overcoming large obstacles in their lives have a massive impact on the listeners.

Rap is often considered a widely criticized genre, being accused of causing and spreading messages of violence, however people both the medical community and the hip-hop world are beginning to embrace the many benefits of rap music and it's likely that these barriers will be broken down further.

The Effect of Rock Music

Rock Guitarist

Rock music is a popular form of music that emerged in the 1950's, it is said that by the end of the 20th century rock was the world's most dominant form of music. In the 21st century we see the revival of rock in the form of pop punk and pop rock music,

Due to the fast and loud dynamics present in rock music, it provides energy to people and makes them feel lively and excited, this stimulation tends to boost their attention in regard to specific tasks such as workouts and other physical activity. Rock music also releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel pleasure, it is also responsible in the regulation of motivation.

Rock music is historically known for its anti-establishment lyrics and messages, apart from this rock music can discuss love, dating, as well as important issues and social concerns, this results in people finding motivation and the strength to face the harsh realities of life.

Popular rock songs such as "We will rock you" is used in music therapy, this is because the songs emphatic rhythm and powerful melody make it the optimum song for the rehabilitation of speech, language and cognitive functions following brain injuries or strokes.  

The Effect of Classical Music

Performing Ochestra

Classical music is one of the most popular genres used in music therapy, tranquil and calming sounds make it the ideal genre to reduce stress. 

Classical music has been shown to relieve chronic pain, lower blood pressure, and even reduce physical symptoms associated with depression. It has also been a popular genre for sleep therapy, as its relaxing tempo and soothing melody allow it to improve sleep quality and effectively treat insomnia. 

Classical music is linked to an improved memory, in an article published by the author of Soundtracks for Learning says that the sounds present in this genre can hold students’ attention, improve mood, and help people focus on tasks, resulting in decreased stress and increased productivity.