Many of the comments on my YouTube channel describe how the calming music of the harp helps them sleep through the night. While this may seem to be a natural result of the music, I decided to do a little research to see if there might be some scientific studies that better explain how this happens.
One study set out to determine if it takes more or less time to fall asleep using music. In the study, women with symptoms of insomnia, played a self-selected album when getting into bed for 10 consecutive nights. Before adding music to their evening routine, it took participants 27 to 69 minutes to fall asleep; after adding music it only took 6 to 13 minutes.
Johnson J. E. (2003). The use of music to promote sleep in older women. Journal of community health nursing, 20(1), 27–35.
Over the years, many people have commented on my YouTube channel. www.youtube.com/peregrinnatti Most of them tell me that they found the music to be very helpful in getting to sleep. Some have claimed to be plagued by insomnia before finding my harp music but were now sleeping through the night with no disturbance. Some also tell me that playing my harp music while trying to get their children to take a nap has been very successful at getting them quiet so they can actually fall asleep.
This should not be surprising. From time immemorial, the softly sung lullaby has been used to bring wide-eyed toddlers into a dreamy sleep state. No matter the culture, or the language, the lullaby has been employed countless times for the benefit of both mother and child. We probably don’t even need a “scientific study” to convince us of this fact because of its universal application and observation.
But scientific studies have been done and are being done, so let’s look at a few more.
In a study conducted by László Harmat 1, Johanna Takács, Róbert Bódizs, they used a three-group repeated measures design. Ninety-four students (aged between 19 and 28 years) with sleep complaints were studied in 2006. Participants listened for 45 minutes either to relaxing classical music (Group 1) or an audiobook (Group 2) at bedtime for 3 weeks. The control group (Group 3) received no intervention. Sleep quality was measured using the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index before the study and weekly during the intervention. Depressive symptoms in experimental group participants were measured using the Beck Depression Inventory.
At the end of the study, it was determined that group 1, listening to classical music, had a significant improvement in sleep as well as reduced depression. At the same time, the other 2 groups had little change. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18426457/
Another paper reported on a meta-analysis conducted to evaluate the efficacy of music-assisted relaxation for sleep quality in adults and elders with sleep complaints, with or without a co-morbid medical condition. The results suggested that music-assisted relaxation can be used without intensive investment in training and materials and is therefore cheap, easily available. Also, it can be used by nurses to promote music-assisted relaxation to improve sleep quality. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19456998/
In a previous article I wrote, one of the factors that music provides is a slow constant rhythmic beat that our heart tends to entrain to which is beneficial for sleeping. If you remember, entrainment is the phenomenon in which a strong dominant beat is gradually matched by surrounding devices or organisms. A Dutch clockmaker was the first to notice the feature as his clocks would gradually fall into the same rhythm, tic-tocking in unison. In the same way, our heart tends to slow (or speed, depending on the music chosen) to the rhythm of the music that is surrounding us. Obviously, a slowing heart rate will assist in relaxing, and help to bring us into a sleep state.
Another study I found very interesting was conducted in China by On Kei Angela Lee 1, Yuet Foon Loretta Chung, Moon Fai Chan, Wai Ming Chan. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of music on the anxiety of patients on mechanical ventilation, as assessed by objective parameters and a subjective validated anxiety scale. Mechanical ventilation, although sometimes lifesaving, is often associated with levels of anxiety requiring sedatives, which has inevitable implications on costs and complications.
“A total of 64 subjects were randomly assigned to undergo either 30 minutes of music intervention or a rest period. The subjects were asked to answer the Chinese State-Trait Anxiety Inventory scale before and after the study period. Physiological indices and resting behaviors were recorded before and after the study period in both groups. The subjects’ satisfaction with music was also obtained after music intervention.
Results: The findings indicate that patients on mechanical ventilation that listened to a single 30-minute session of music appeared to show greater relaxation as manifested by a decrease in physiological indices and an increase in comfortable resting behaviors.
Conclusion: Music can provide an effective method of reducing potentially harmful physiological responses arising from anxiety in mechanically ventilated patients.”
While this study was not specifically designed to access sleep assistance, it is easy to infer that this reduction in anxiety would contribute to better sleep, even when a person is undergoing a radical medical intervention such as mechanical ventilation.
We will look at one more study by Jespersen KV, Pando-Naude V, Koenig J, Jennum P, Vuust P. Cochrane. It is a meta-analysis study designed to see if insomnia can be positively affected by music. “Insomnia is a common sleep disorder in modern society. It causes reduced quality of life and is associated with impairments in physical and mental health. Listening to music is widely used as a sleep aid, but it remains unclear if it can actually improve insomnia in adults.”
The study was designed to assess the effects of listening to music on insomnia in adults and to assess the influence of specific variables that may moderate the effect. The results suggested that music does indeed affect the amount and quality of sleep. The exact quantification is difficult to arrive at since there are so many variables involved. However, it is at least agreed, that music has a positive effect on sleep.
As I read through the different studies, a common theme emerged. First, music doesn’t cost anything to listen to on electrical devices, or at least the cost is low. Second, good music doesn’t have the harmful side effects that drugs do. Finally, music is available no matter where you are on the planet. Music is everywhere, in every culture, and in every language. From the sounds of nature, a quietly sung lullaby, to a professionally played harp or orchestra, there is no end to the possibilities of music that can bring a quiet, peaceful atmosphere that helps bring on sleep.
I am excited to announce a new offer from Calming Harp. Over the past few years I keep having people ask me for the sheet music for the Psalms that I play on this website and on YouTube. Since I play by ear, I do not have sheet music as people are used to using. I have been trying to find a computer program that can convert mp3 files into sheet music but there are none that I have found that work very well. I have found one program that I can play one note at time and it will transcribe that into sheet music and then I can write the chords that accompany the melody line in.
This limitation has given me the idea of beginning to provide specific harp lessons for specific songs. Many people have used my free lessons I offer on YouTube and tell me how much they appreciate them. I still recommend that if you want to take advantage of these paid lessons, you start first of all by going through the free lessons to get up to speed. As I have considered providing these more private lessons, I have been encouraged to place a price on them as they are of great value to many musicians that are wanting to learn to play the Psalms of David that I present with my harp.
I have asked music teachers what they are charging for private lessons and the range usually comes in at $50-$100 so I have settled on the lower amount. I have also decided that I will offer unlimited access to each lesson so that you can go back as many times as needed to master the song. As an added bonus, I am giving out my email and phone number so that you can contact me with any specific questions that may come up during the course of the lesson.
It is my design to offer one lesson per month. You can purchase a lesson by going to the marketplace on this website and clicking the lesson that you choose. That will take you to the checkout where you will receive a PDF that has the link for the lesson to watch on my YouTube private channel. The sheet music for the lesson can be downloaded from the bottom of the Collaborate page on the website.
I have struggled with the idea of charging for these lessons because I believe that my harp playing and the subsequent music from the Psalms of David are a gift from God to me and those I share with. I have been encouraged to let people know that this charge is actually a donation to our ministry that helps keep us on the road and put diesel in the truck. We are on the road about 10 months of the year sharing this music and the stories that Shirley so skillfully tells and your contribution helps keep us out there.
It is my hope and prayer that more and more musicians will learn these beautiful Psalms of David and be able to share them to a wider audience than I could ever reach on my own. A friend of mine once told me that the best thing that I could do with my talent was to multiply it – teach others to do it as well. That is what I am trying to do here. Please come join me on the journey!
It is my pleasure to announce the release of my latest harp music album titled – “The Keys of David”. This has been recorded in 528 Hz and is a selection of the Psalms 23, 27, 51, 91,103, 118, and 136. It is 54 minutes of beautiful soaking music to use for reflection or just fall asleep with; as many people tell me my music helps them do! I got the idea for the title of the album from Isaiah 22:22 where it says:
“And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.”
As I have studied the frequencies especially as they relate to the Tabernacle of Moses and worship, thus representing an integral part of coming into the presence of God/YHVH, I have sensed that an understanding of these frequencies is a major key to our restoration and returning back to the original plans and purposes that our Heavenly Father designed for us from the very beginning.
The word used for key in Isaiah actually means “something that opens” like a key does, and provides the way for us to enter in. I think there is definitely a linking going on here. We must enter into the presence of YHVH/God and one of the most effective ways to do that is through the act of worship. As my wife and I have mentioned in our book on the Tabernacle Frequencies, these frequencies facilitate our approach into the presence of God/YHVH.
Another interesting side note is the understanding we have discovered about the musical “key” that accompanies each of the frequencies. Each single frequency is accompanied by a harmonic musical scale that we refer to as a “key”. For example, the key of C major has all the natural notes without any sharps or flats and accompanies the frequency of 528 Hz.
One more interesting connection that I would like to introduce is the verse from Amos 9:11 which states:
“In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:”
This is a promise for “in that day” which is a Hebrew idiom for the last days of earth’s history. This is a promise that the Tabernacle of David will be restored. So, we must ask, what does the Tabernacle of David mean – what is it referring to?
I believe that it is once again referring to worship – coming into the presence of YHVH/God. If we remember that David brought up the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and built a tent for the Ark of the Covenant to be placed in where worship could go on for 24 hours a day continually. I Chronicles 16:1 records:
“So, they brought the ark of God, and set it in the midst of the tent that David had pitched for it: and they offered burnt sacrifices and peace offerings before God.”
Later on, it is recorded in the same book that David makes instruments and appoints Levites as instrumentalists and singers to “prophecy” on the instruments and praise YHVH/God through the Psalms. All this occurs in this “tent” that David specially builds for the Ark of the Covenant to be placed in and for worship to take place in. I can’t prove it, but I believe that this “tent” was a replica of the wilderness Tabernacle of Moses. I also believe that David understood the frequencies of the Tabernacle and that this understanding was codified into the Psalms he wrote for the singers and instrumentalists of the Tabernacle of David.
I’m not trying to give a Bible study here, I just wanted to provide some context to the release of this album. I firmly believe that the Psalms of David contain the music of worship that was released through the singers and instrumentalists of the Tabernacle of David. I also believe that we are just starting to understand these frequencies and their link to some of the music. I know that we are not completely sure of how this music that I offer compares to what David played, but I do think there is a relationship and that we are getting closer to the worship that he intended.
Remember, David was the one who danced with all his heart to the point of being considered ridiculous by his wife. He was passionate about worship in all its forms. I invite you to worship in whatever style and form you choose as you listen to this music. It is my prayer that it may be instrumental in bringing you into the presence of YHVH the Most High.
I am pleased to announce the re-release of our CD set titled “Harp and Cello”. This is a 2 CD set that has music of the Psalms presented in 2 formats. The first CD is an instrumental only presentation with harp and cello harmonizing together in a delightful arrangement for beautiful background music. The second is the same music but has narration of the words of the Psalms recited by my wife, Shirley Rees. The CD set is a delightful combination of words and music creating a powerful listening experience.
The cellist, John Maskel, is a brilliant cello virtuoso and plays first cello position in several symphony orchestras in his area and I have had the privilege of playing with him on several occasions. When I proposed the recording project to John he jumped at the opportunity and was a key player in bringing the mix together.
I had prepared chord progression charts for each of the Psalms we recorded and John followed along on the first composition but then he came to me and asked if I would be willing to try letting him feel the music as I played the harp portion. We proceeded with that idea for the next composition and it went so well that we continued with that process throughout the remainder of the recording session.
My good friend Gene LeSage is the sound engineer and has helped Shirley and I record several of our albums. His technical ability and purity sustained this project through its development to make sure that it came across with boldness and sincerity.
Shirley’s skill in bringing the words of Scripture alive for her hearers also adds to the presentation of this CD. We have tried to interpret these Psalms according to the message that David has written into each of them. Someday, I want to ask him what he had in mind as he wrote these Psalms. Probably what is here is different than David played, yet I believe that there is something of the essence that he wrote into these works, in praise to God. It is our prayer that you are brought into the presence of Most High God as you listen and participate with the music of these Psalms.
Why does music affect our emotions? In our stressful lifestyle, how can we use sounds and music to calm and relax?
Music is the key to a thousand emotions. We associate music with the places we have been, the times we have experienced and the people in our lives. Music is all around us. There is no denying the effectiveness of music, so why not use it to affect our own emotions and enhance our personal environment? Relaxing music, relaxation music, meditation music… call it what you will. There is no question that it can help us to shape our environment effectively and can be changed to suit or influence our mood.
In today’s society, wherever there is radio, television, cinema or the internet, we will be exposed to music. Music is all around us and is a commodity so important that is used by virtually every company on the planet to sell us their products and services. Very often we are completely oblivious to the sounds drifting out of those in-store speakers or the impact and drama of an action-movie soundtrack placed in a car advert. Music is a complex language that can convey any emotion or conjure a response from any audience. At the same time music is simple and universally understandable.
We are used to others using music to influence our emotions and therefore decisions. However, we rarely use music’s benefits to help ourselves. Relaxing music or relaxation music (also known as new age music) can be used to relieve stress, unwind after a hard day at work, promote good sleep or as a focus of concentration during yoga or meditation. As a composer, the idea of music for relaxation has fascinated me. For a long time, I have researched the benefits of music for health and well-being. Music is just a part of relaxation, but can be the key to calm and relax mind and body.
Positive healing effects of music have been suggested since ancient times. In the beliefs of Ancient Greece, Apollo was God of medicine and music. It was believed that music had the power to penetrate the soul. According to Plato, Pythagoras practiced a system of sound and music used to cure disease and encourage spiritual health. The Egyptians also believed in the link between medicine and music. The relationship between sound and healing was held sacred.
I am not a healer and I make no claims of the medicinal power of music. To me, music is a powerful tool which can shape emotion and influence moods in ourselves and others around us. It is a powerful positive force that you can harness to aid relaxation and provide a release from stress. Relaxation techniques often rely on music as a spark. Which technique you use depends on your lifestyle and the time you have to yourself.
A good habit can be built; find a quiet room, put work worries to one side and allow yourself time to unwind – dim the lights, light some candles or incense or whatever you find calming. Close your eyes and focus on the sound of your breath. Take in the same amount of air but breathe slightly longer breaths, less often. Relaxing music is a great focus for an exercise like this or any relaxation technique. Listen to relaxation music at a volume level that is high enough to mask any background noise but not so high as to be overbearing. In a busy workplace or home, headphones are useful.
The music should not be too distracting and should be carefully composed to be easy to listen to. I recommend that you use music that is slow and preferably without a heavy beat. However, it should be interesting and different enough to capture the imagination and become a suitable focus for relief. Nature sounds enhance the experience as they help you to imagine a place of peace, calm, tranquility and serenity. It is best to use music written specifically for relaxation, although you could use any music that you find particularly relaxing. This technique is most useful if it can be practiced for a significant amount of time – more than half an hour. However, it can be effective if used for just a few minutes at break times.
Having said all this, no two people are the same. Relaxation and the way we achieve it is different for every one of us. Whatever music you choose should enable you to escape from the stress of everyday life. It should help you to put your worries aside and recharge; physically and emotionally. Whether this is relaxing, new age music, folk, pop or rock is up to you. The simple act of making time to absorb the music is most important. The music also helps to build a barrier between you and the distractions around you. The music becomes a shield and backdrop for your relaxation.
About this Contributor: Martin Mayer is a media composer and owner of Sounds That Soothe, producing music to calm and relax. His new CD, Silver Streams is available now – instrumental pieces developed to relieve stress and aid the body in relaxation.