Music in the Massage Room

Okay. I admit it. I really detest most "music" that you will hear in a massage and spa setting. I find that the nearly nonexistent beat, the notes just sort of flowing wherever they will, the instruments coming in and out at random times, and the apparent rule that you must use a flute and/or chanting at some point drives me up the walls, especially when I'm receiving a massage. I will be just about to fully relax into the therapist's touch and suddenly an instrument that had not previously been playing in the piece will come in without any musical introduction from its counterpart. And instantly, I'm not paying attention to the therapist's hands. I'm paying attention to how annoyed I am with the music. However, I realize that as a therapist, it can be awkward to work without music; so in the rare instance that I receive a session from someone whose music I do not care for, I just ask them to turn it down so it's not as noticeable.

Perhaps it's my background in and love of music (you should see my collection…) that makes me so sensitive to this aspect of massage music, which I more often like to refer to as "massage background noise." After all, I was taught as a music student that music has a rhythm and a logical sequence of notes that it follows, based on whether it is written in a major or minor scale, as well as other factors. But I have had enough people compliment me on my particular massage playlist, saying that it's so much better than what they're used to hearing, that I tend to think that spa music may be just a touch overrated, despite the fact that it is nearly all you will hear no matter which spa you choose to attend.

Despite seeming like a minor detail, the music that is played can make or break someone's massage session. (I once had a therapist friend tell me that she also detests spa music and can only relax to Bon Iver.) As I stated for myself, sessions I have received in the past were spoiled somewhat by unstructured "background noise" that distracted me from enjoying the work. I would infinitely prefer a classical cello suite – or at least something that retains a beat and logical note sequence – to the slow ramblings of a flute, lovely though I consider that instrument to be. I find that for me personally, a beat is much easier to tune out and make part of the background than an album that is specifically designed to be "background music." While I don't mind a piece or two of traditional spa music, I don't want a whole album of it.

As a client, you also have some freedom in what music is playing during your session. If you relax best to Andrea Bocelli, played softly of course, ask your therapist if there is a way for you to supply that music for your next session. They may have you bring a CD, mp3 player, iPod, or even your phone (with call volume turned off) if they have a compatible speaker system. Naturally, there are limits to what the therapist can play. For instance, something with a powerful bass beat that can easily penetrate through the walls and disturb someone else's session may be out of the question, unless it can be played very quietly. Another example is if the music is piped into the therapist's room from a building-wide system. You may just be stuck listening to whatever happens to be playing that day, but it never hurts to check with your therapist to see what the music arrangement is. You can even ask them about it before your appointment! As therapists, we have the responsibility to ensure that our clients are relaxing appropriately during their sessions, which means that we are happy to try and accommodate your requests.

Have you ever had a unique experience during a massage that involved music? Share your stories and thoughts in the comments below!