How Tai Chi Music Can Enhance Your Practice


I’m of the mind that pretty much anything is better with music. However, I normally practice tai chi to take a break and enjoy a short period of time with zero stimulus. There is so much coming at us through out the day with technology, our schedules, and demands of life. With tai chi being such a perfect break from all the craziness, why do so many Chinese practitioners use tai chi music? Are there some benefits?

As a whole, tai chi music enhances tai chi practice by creating a state of relaxation, helping create a more flowing connection between the movements, and making practice more enjoyable. Two research studies showed that using music during tai chi also improves mental health.

There are specific situations when using music during tai chi makes our practice better. I want to share two research articles demonstrating the benefits so that we know how to enhance our practice. At the end I will show you some great places to download or find free or low cost options.

Image taken of tai chi in a China Park. See whole video

Does Tai Chi Use Music?

Walking through the parks in China, if you come across a group doing tai chi you often hear them before you see them as their tai chi music streams out from a set of speakers. And definitely, during celebrations, exhibitions, or festivals, music will accompany a tai chi performance. So tai chi does use music at times and there are now documented therapeutic affects of combining tai chi and music. Check out these two studies:

In a study of 107 adults with moderate depressive symptoms, 55 undertook tai chi with music while the other half did other activities. At a 3 month follow up, a significant reduction in depressive symptoms was reported.

The impact of Combined Music and Tai Chi on Depressive Symptoms Among Community

These results were significant and the same group of researchers published a follow-up study one year later. They were asking if overall quality of life could be improved for older populations who reported depressive symptoms.

In a study of 112 individuals where roughly half participated in tai chi music activities, they recorded physical, psychological, social, and environment improvements.

Tai Chi with music improves quality of life among community-dwelling older persons with mild to moderate depressive symptoms

Like I said, most of the time I am doing tai chi outside, on my own, in the quiet. But I have come around to specific times were I have started to use music for tai chi and haver really enjoyed it. By “enjoyed it” I mean I felt better afterwards, it made me practice more, or my classes went better. There is one golden rule for tai chi practice: it should make you feel better. Music can keep us more engaged and light-hearted when things are harder for us.

After practicing tai chi you should feel better, however you define it. You should have more energy, feel warmer, be more relaxed, less stressed, happier, or in less pain. Music can help us get there when things are more difficult.

When to Use Tai Chi Music to Improve Your Practice

Here are some specific situations to get more out of your practice:

  • When you need to improve the flow between movements. After learning all the form movements, it is time to connect them into one flowing form and music can help this.
  • When you are fatigued and may not practice as long.
  • When you don’t want to practice or are not looking forward to it.
  • When your mind is scattered and you are having trouble concentrating on which move is next.
  • When you are trying to chorography movements with a large group. This can be for class or an exhibition that you want to do in front of others.
  • When you want to enjoy the form more. I am not Chinese and to be honest, a lot of the tai chi songs makes me laugh because it is so theatrical. This is a good thing when I am taking myself too seriously.
Zither music during a tai chi performance
Zither music during a tai chi performance.

Which Music Should I Choose?

This is where it gets fun. First of all, choose music that you like. When I am practicing on my own, I choose my favorite music like what I would listen to at the gym. However, if you are working out with a group, there is tons of music available. Firstly, the same rule applies, make sure you like it and that it is not distracting. Second, songs designed for tai chi uses natural instruments such as bamboo pan pipes, bamboo percussion instruments, gourds, chimes, and flutes. There are slow, quiet pieces and upbeat louder pieces. If you are really feeling it, there are even very dramatic songs that end with loud gongs!

Music For Tai Chi Relaxation and Stress Relief

You can choose any songs that you like but I want to highlight specific music if you are using tai chi for relaxation and stress relief. Anxiety and stress translate into shallow breathing and racing thoughts. For stress relief you are really going to want music that is soft and drawn out so that your body’s rhythm starts to match the music. Same thing goes for relaxation. The more dramatic compositions are shocking at times with choruses of pipes and gongs. If you are trying to relax and relieve stress, choose music that sounds more new-agey. You can also read more about how to use tai chi to relax in a separate article we wrote.

Finding Tai Chi Music on Youtube

YouTube has become a great go-to for free music. It’s a really good choice in some cases but I want to make you aware of a couple things so that you don’t spend more time monkeying with your phone than you do practicing. Here are some tips for finding tai chi music on YouTube.

  • Choose long songs, over an hour.
  • Don’t just choose the most popular. Search down to lesser known channels to find songs that are not interrupted with ads.
  • Create a YouTube account and create a library. This will give you the ability to create a playlist that you can click through.
  • Test out songs while you are driving or doing the dishes to make sure they are not interrupted by ads or performances in the middle. Then, add them to your playlist.
  • Do longer searches. Don’t just search “tai chi music on youtube.” Search for a specific instrument you like such as “tai chi music bamboo flute
  • Do searches for the form you are doing such as “tai chi sword music.”
free tai chi music to download

Tai Chi Meditation Music That is Free Download

There are some really great options for tai chi music that is free to download that might already be at your fingertips. If you pay for a subscription to Pandora, Spotify, or any other player, you can just search it. I would not use these services if you do not have a paid account because the commercials are too frequent. Here are some examples:

Spotify Tai Chi Music Playlist

Pandora Tai Chi Music Station

Another great option if you want a free download is Soundcloud. Soundcloud lets artists upload and share their music. There is also a subscription available.

Sound Cloud Tai Chi Music

Scott Prath

Scott has been practicing and teaching tai chi and qigong since 2000. He is a lead instructor for the Austin Chen Tai Chi Association. His interest in the internal martial arts began after traveling in India and Nepal, and he has since traveled to China to train. Scott has published over 100 articles on tai chi with a focus on research showing the benefits of practicing.

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