Harp Music has Healing Qualities that Aid the Sick, Study Says
Kentucky Harpist, Researcher Headed Mayo Clinic Study on Harp’s Healing Qualities
We tend to connect heavenly harp music with healing and peace; Diane Schneider of Covington, Kentucky, has proven that harp music heals both body and soul.
Schneider, a vibration medicine therapist, professional harpist, and Ph.D. holder in philosophical theology, headed a new Mayo Clinic study that measured the healing quality of harp music vibrations on hospitalized patients.
The study, “Application of Therapeutic Harp Sounds for Quality of Life Among Hospitalized Patients” is published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.
The study concluded that 30 to 50 percent of patients who received Schneider’s harp therapy protocol within 24 hours of being hospitalized reported significant, positive improvement in their fatigue, anxiety, sadness, relaxation and pain.
The research indicates that certain applications of harp music could improve symptoms in patients with Alzheimer's disease, anxiety or depression relief, sleep problems or end of life care.
“Music has long been associated with pleasure and relaxation,” said Schneider. “Auditory nerve impulses respond in unique ways to sound wave frequency, amplitude and timbre in music. So it is not surprising that harp vibrations can lower blood pressure, relieve stress, soothe anxiety and depression, and promote deep sleep.”
Even if people cannot hear every tone of the harp, they still receive vibrations as ‘resonance,’ through skin, bone, muscle and the central nervous system, she said. “The whole body is positively affected by the administered music,” said Schneider.
Every cell in our bodies is vibrating, so Schneider designed a pattern and sequence of harp notes, rhythms, melody lines and chord structure to influence the body’s vibrational patterns toward homeostasis through a process called entrainment.
Relaxing music is thought to decrease the arousal of the sympathetic nervous system, which aids relaxation and anxiety reduction, according to the study.
Patients selected for the study reported a quality-of-life rating of three or below on a one-to-five point Likert scale, where zero was the worst possible condition and five was best possible. Life expectancy was greater than three days; hospital stay was expected to be three days or more; and patients were 18 years old and able to complete a survey.
During the course of the study, 92 hospitalized patients listened to live solo harp pieces and improvisations for 30 minutes within 24 hours of hospital admission. The study was performed at a Mayo Clinic Health Systems hospital in La Crosse, Wis.
Most recently the director of the Vibration Medicine Therapy program in the psychiatry department at TriHealth/Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, Schneider has also worked as both a disabilities lawyer and a theology professor.
"What’s unique about this therapy is that it can be very effective without negative side effects,” said Schneider. “While playing, I’m sequencing certain harp tones, chords, tempos, and rhythms to resonate with, or entrain, a patient's own cellular rhythms. This greatly helps to soothe stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, stabilize atrial fibrillation, calm Alzheimer's symptoms, improve digestion and enhance deep sleep.”
Schneider was a theology professor in 1999, when she created a harp vibration therapy program in a Mayo Clinic hospital. She successfully used her protocol on thousands of patients over nine years serving Mayo hospitals, including five years on the Palliative Medicine Consultative Service at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. That healing protocol was the same one used in the study.
“Patients said, ‘You’d better make some CDs for us to use when you’re away,’” said Schneider. So she used the same protocol when recording the CD’s, so they would be similar to receiving a live treatment.
More than 35,000 of her healing CDs are in circulation world-wide.
Schneider is a former student of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music and has performed concerts and provided therapy in churches, hospitals, and private homes. She takes her work on tour to psychiatric hospitals and prisons in the U.S. and Canada.
A lifetime Catholic, she also plays harp and cantors at many churches in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati.
“When I play harp music for the sick or dying, I experience harmony through the vibration of the music and harmony in my audience, with nature and with God,” she said.