Harp Therapy

The harp gives forth murmuring music; and the dance goes on without hands and feet.” Kabir (1480-1518)

For people who are drawn to this beautiful instrument, an individual Harp Therapy session can be soothing, uplifting and profoundly healing.

Healing with the Harp

The historical and archetypal significance of the harp as an ancient, spiritually healing instrument opens many doors to the personal and collective unconscious and may thereby facilitate the healing process.¹

The harp has long been recognised as a musical instrument with therapeutic qualities. In the Bible, the young shepherd boy David soothed Saul’s troubled soul with his harp; likewise, instruments of the harp family were used for healing across the ancient world from Greece to Egypt. Today, there are several programmes that train therapeutic harp practitioners to serve in modern clinical settings, such as hospitals, hospices and private practice.

Alongside its mythic status, the harp’s use as a healing instrument can be attributed to its unique physical characteristics: it has a highly resonant sound with a long reverberation time. When a string is plucked, the partials closest to the fundamental note in the harmonic series are the most prominent; this gives the harp its distinctive pure sound.

What is Harp Therapy?

People come for a Harp Therapy session for a variety of reasons. These include physical, mental, emotional or spiritual pain, illness, anxiety, depression and fatigue. Some clients use it for meditation or as a means of inspiring creativity or problem solving. Some come from curiosity or simply because they love the harp. All are welcome. A typical Harp Therapy session involves live harp music specially chosen for that individual at that moment to effect beneficial change in their physical, emotional, mental or spiritual state. The music may consist of familiar favourites, or it may be improvised there and then. It may also include other supportive sounds, including singing bowls, bells, chimes, nature sounds and voice. During a Harp Therapy session there is no need to do anything at all other than relax and receive the music.

Harp Therapy Studio

Vibroacoustic Harp Therapy

People coming for Harp Therapy in my studio are invited to make use of The Ombed.  This is a vibroacoustic bed in which the frequencies from the harp are directly transferred to the body via inbuilt speakers. The sound of the harp is thus felt bodily at the same time as it is heard. These subtle sensations vibrate and resonate with the tissues of the body, providing the receiver with a “musical massage.”

As the sound of the harp continues to envelop you, hearing and physical sensation merge together in a way that can leave you feeling completely cocooned by the music. In this state, many people find themselves able to drift away, free from everyday worries and concerns. According to the founder of Vibroacoustic Harp Therapy, “Most patients who receive VAHT report responses such as deep relaxation, dream-like imagery, pain and tension reduction, increased energy and body awareness, as well as the feeling of being nurtured.”²

Individual Harp Therapy Price

£45 for 1 hour session (approx.)

I offer Harp Therapy in my High Wycombe studio. It may be possible to visit people by arrangement. Please contact me to book your session.

For further information, see Sound Healing and Therapeutic Music FAQs.

I look forward to playing for you. ¹Williams, Sarajane Good Vibrations: Principles of Vibroacoustic Harp Therapy, 2005, page 5
²Williams, Sarajane Good Vibrations: Principles of Vibroacoustic Harp Therapy, 2005, page 74

Kantele

The Kantele

The kantele is a plucked psaltery from Finland. The kantele and its cousins – the Latvian kokle, Lithuanian kanklės, Estonian kannel and Russian gusli – are known as Baltic psalteries.

Artic Circle, Finland

I play the diatonic folk kantele. Most folk kanteles range from 5-11 strings, but mine is a large 19 string kantele. The additional bass strings are meant to function as drone strings, but I re-tuned them for extra harmonic possibilities.

I have loved Finland since I spent time in Helsinki and Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle. The first time I heard the kantele, I was moved to tears. The soft, metallic sound with its incredible sustain is, to me, what snow falling on birch trees would sound like if I could hear it. This characteristic sound occurs because (unusually for a stringed instrument) the kantele lacks bridges. Instead, the metal strings are simply wound around metal pins at each end, resulting in some complex acoustics.

I have since come to appreciate more about the origins of this ancient instrument.

THE MYTHIC ORIGINS OF THE KANTELE

The story of the kantele’s creation is told in Finland’s national epic, The Kalevala – a huge collection of Finnish folklore and mythology that originated between 500 B.C. and A.D. 1000. Its many thousands of verses were compiled in its current form by Elias Lönnrot in the 19th century, from the singing of Finnish and Karelian peasants.

The Kalevala tells us that the wizard Väinämöinen makes the first kantele from the jawbone of a giant pike and a few hairs from a magic stallion. Many people try to play it and fail until Väinämöinen himself begins to play music of such beauty that it draws all the forest creatures near to listen and wonder. However, Väinämöinen loses his fish-bone kantele when it returns to the sea. After grieving over it for many months, he is persuaded to make another. This time, he crafts it from the wood of a birch tree and strings it with the hair of a willing maiden: the magic of this second kantele proves equally powerful.

In the final section of The Kalevala, immediately before Väinämöinen sets off in a copper boat to go between the earth and the sky, he leaves his birch-wood kantele behind to become the grandmother of all kanteles, including mine.

In his last words, he vows to come back some day, saying:

Let the time pass, let days go
and needed will I be again,
needed will I be, longed for, looked for
To make the New Kantele
to move the new moon, to change a new day.

VÄINÄMÖINEN – RUNE SINGING SHAMAN

In Finland, the verses of The Kalevala are known as runes. Rune means song or poem. It could also be translated as a secret thing – something that contains hidden and powerful sacred knowledge. Rune singing has its roots in antiquity and is believed to be connected to the practice of shamanism. During the singing of runes, the shaman is able to enter a trance state whereupon their soul can journey to other worlds.

Rune singing was accompanied by the kantele. In The Kantele Traditions of Finland, Carl Rahkonen writes:

The kantele may have served a function similar to that of the Lapp shaman’s drum, as a source of sound upon which the shaman could focus to help achieve a trance state. Undoubtedly, the kantele held special symbolic significance to the shaman, as the magical object mentioned in the runes, which also existed in tangible reality. 1

The Kalevala portrays Väinämöinen as a rune singer himself, with the kantele the source of his magic power. Elias Lönnrot and other contemporaries even believed that Väinämöinen was a real-life shaman-poet who had lived sometime in the ninth century. There are fascinating parallels here with British and Irish shaman-poets, such as Taliesin and Amairgin, whom I will write about another time.

1 http://www.people.iup.edu/rahkonen/kantele/diss/Sym.htm

Ichigenkin

The Ichigenkin

The ichigenkin is a single-stringed zither from Japan. Its silk string is plucked by a tubular plectrum on the right hand index finger, while a slide on the left hand middle finger depresses the string at the desired pitch. The slide and plectrum are collectively known as rokan.

The ichigenkin was popular during the 17th and 18th centuries, but by the 20th century, it was in decline, with much of its tradition lost and forgotten. It is now very rare, even in Japan.

Like the better known shakuhachi, the ichigenkin comes from the Zen Buddhist tradition and is intended not to be played as a performance instrument but as a tool to teach the student about Ultimate Reality.


The ichigenkin should be played with the consciousness anchored in the hara. The hara is considered the physical and spiritual centre of one’s being. Many Japanese arts are executed from the hara, including the martial arts, archery, ikebana, the tea ceremony and Usui Reiki. With the ichigenkin, this anchoring is particularly important because of the inherently weak sound of the instrument. The player needs to use the energy of the hara to send forth the sound of the ichigenkin, lending it power and volume from the core of their own being. As I began haltingly to develop my hara, I stumbled across a paradox: not only was the hara the source of the ichigenkin’s sound, but it was also a source of stillness and silence. Peter Wilburg’s words began to make sense:

The hara is not only a still point of inner silence. It is also the gateway for a descent into silence which leads us into a world of inner sounds or “sounds of silence.”¹

As I learned to play from the hara, I became aware of these sounds of silence that Wilburg refers to. Moreover, I began to experience the inner sensation that I am playing the ichigenkin above what I can only call a continuous drone of silence. My perception of the silence is that it is in continuous flow, dynamically moving forward with the melody line, supporting it, as if it were both a musical and a metaphysical ground. I believe that this “drone of silence” is similar to what Hazrat Inayat Khan calls the “undertone of existence²” that goes on continuously and with which, eventually, all will merge.

Once the ichigenkin player has reached a certain level of spiritual attainment, they are able to transfer this to their audience. My teacher, Randy Raine-Reusch, calls ichigenkin concerts “a meditation in action and non-action, sound and silence and one note and many notes. Audiences gently slip into another world, another reality.³” The other reality of which he speaks is, of course, Ultimate Reality, where the audience members experience action/non-action and sound/silence as the two aspects of vibration from which all things emerge and re-merge.

For more on the ichigenkin see Randy Raine-Reusch’s website Zen of One String.

¹Wilburg, Peter The Little Book of Hara, 2011, ebook location 374
²Khan, Hazrat, Inayat The Music of Life, 1988, page 57
³Raine-Reusch, Randy The Zen of One String, http://www.asza.com/zenone.shtml

Tuning Forks

The tuning fork was invented in 1711 by John Shore, Court Trumpeter and Lutenist to Queen Anne. Originally intended as a pitch standard for tuning musical instruments, the accuracy, constancy and purity of the tuning fork’s tone has led to it becoming a valuable tool for healing and the development of spiritual consciousness.

The tuning fork is used in two complimentary ways:

1. The stem of the activated tuning fork is applied to the body so that the sound vibration is received directly by the body’s tissues and bones.

2. The tuning fork is activated away from the body so that the vibration is received as audible sound waves.

I work with tuning forks in both ways and will usually combine them during a treatment session.

ON BODY APPLICATION

Disharmony can manifest in the body as stress, tight and sore muscles and fatigue, creating blockages to our Qi or natural energy flow. These blockages can lead to illness. The sound waves created by the tuning forks work like kinetic energy to move disharmony and tension from the body, remove Qi, stagnation and helps to restore a sense of balance and well-being.¹

Osteophonic – or Otto – tuning forks feature a weighted prong which is designed to strengthen the fork’s vibration as it is transferred to the body. Osteophonic means “to vibrate bone”. During a treatment, the recipient can feel their body vibrate in resonance with the tuning fork: it is a very relaxing and pleasurable experience.

In a typical session we will apply one or two otto tuning forks to acupressure points, including Heavenly Gathering (SI11), Bubbling Spring (K1), Central Treasury (LU1), Sea of Qi (REN6), Primordial Child (REN17) and Gathering Bamboo (UB2). This opens up the body’s energetic pathways, removing energy blocks and allowing the Chi or Qi to flow freely.

It is a feature of tuning forks that their sound naturally decays into silence. In a healing context, this silence is vital because it allows the sound to be absorbed fully by the body.

Off Body Application

Accompanying the Otto tuning forks are a range of forks that are designed to be sounded away from the body for a range of different purposes. Here are the main sets that I use:

Brain Tuner Tuning Forks

Brain tuners use sound to shift the brain into different states of consciousness. They work through brain wave entrainment, which alters the frequencies of brain waves. For example, experiencing the slower alpha, theta or even delta brainwaves can bring about healing for the typical stress-ridden “Type A” personality who is normally dominated by the faster beta brain waves associated with peak concentration and heightened alertness.

Solar Harmonic Tuning Forks

This set is tuned to the Pythagorean scale – a scale built on the naturally occurring overtone series. It is ideal for exploring the healing effects of natural musical intervals and can also be used in meditation. Musical intervals can have a powerful effect on our mind-body. For example, tuning fork expert, John Beaulieu, believes that the interval of a perfect 5th triggers the release of nitric oxide, antibacterials, antivirals and free radicals:

Research suggests that vibration transferred to neuronal, endothelial and immune cells through tuning forks stimulates nitric oxide and sets off a cascade of physiological events which directly influence our health, well-being, state of mind and consciousness.²

Fibonacci Tuning Forks

This is an extension of the Solar Harmonic Tuning Fork Set, based on the Fibonacci number sequence. Their main purpose is to open gateways into alternate realities and to explore higher states of consciousness in order to empower a creative healing response. They are intended for work on a deep level and therefore, we would approach this tuning fork set once you have worked with the Solar Harmonic set.

The Solar Harmonic tuning forks work well in conjunction with other Sound Healing treatments. Likewise, if we are struggling to unwind, the brain tuners can be used to induce a slower brain wave pattern, helping us to be in in a better place to receive the sounds of the gongs and other instruments.

¹ De Muynck, Marjorie Sound Healing: Vibrational Healing With Ohm Tuning Forks: A Practical Application Manual 2015
² Beaulieu, John Human Tuning Sound Healing with Tuning Forks 2010

Reiki Drum

“Drumming provides solace, retreat from anger, courage when afraid, even ecstasy.”
Michael Drake – The Shamanic Drum

The Reiki Drum Technique is a transformational combination of Reiki* healing and shamanic drumming: both are gentle and non-invasive, yet deeply powerful. The two were brought together as Reiki Drum™ by the American, Michael Arthur Baird, in 1999: the technique is still relatively new to the UK.

I am a fully qualified Reiki Drum Master Practitioner. My Reiki drum is a vegan Buffalo Drum that has been specially attuned for the purpose of healing body, mind and spirit. I offer Reiki Drumming as a stand-alone treatment.

The Three Reiki Drum Techniques

There are three Reiki Drum techniques from which you can choose, depending on your needs and interests. The first two treatments are available to all clients:

1. Reiki Drum Healing

Receive a Reiki healing session enhanced by the energy of the drum.

Healing Reiki energy is channelled through the drum while it is softly played over the body. The gentle, yet powerful, sound of the drum directs the Reiki energy to where it is needed, promoting the release of blockages on all levels.

The session concludes with a traditional Reiki treatment. Here, we use the hands to encourage the integration of the drum sounds into the physical body.

2. Reiki Drum Mental & Emotional Reprogramming

Make lasting changes to your life with the transformative power of sound.

This technique uses positive affirmations to actualise a desired life change. We work together to verbally formulate the desired change. Then, supported by the gentle Reiki energy, the repetitive rhythm of the drum influences your subconscious mind, helping to permanently programme the new positive intention.

A series of three – four sessions are recommended for maximum benefit.

The third technique is open to clients who are ready for this level of spiritual work:

3. Reiki Drum Journey

Set off on your own healing journey to the beat of the drum.

For thousands of years, shamans have known that rhythm is an effective way to alter consciousness. Rapid repetitive drumming at 180 beats per minute – known to shamans as the Eagle Beat – slows down the brainwaves and take the listener into a trance state. In this ecstatic state, the shaman connects with spiritual dimensions and accesses healing knowledge on behalf of their clients. In a Reiki Drum journey, you yourself undertake your own journey for healing or insight into any questions you may have.

The drum guides you on your journey deep into the knowing reality of your subconscious mind, while the Reiki energy gently and safely supports you throughout the process.

You will need to make an initial journey to meet your power animal, if you do not already have one. Your animal will then accompany you on future journeys. This initial journey to meet you power animal may take one or more attempts.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the Reiki Drum techniques.

*Reiki

Reiki can be translated as universal life energy. It is a gentle healing energy that can be channelled through the practitioner to dissolve blockages and bring relaxation and balance to the recipient, allowing Ki/Qi, or life force, to flow unhindered once again.

I have been trained in the original Japanese style of Reiki, as re-discovered by Mikao Usui in the early 20th Century. This is a simple, uncomplicated style of Reiki, that was intended as an aid to spiritual development and places emphasis on intuition, rather than strict method.

The Gong

Welcome to the Gong Space

Welcome to the gong space
A space of rest and renewal
Of harmony and wholeness
Of being held by sound and healed by sound

Welcome to the gong space
A space of loving acceptance
Of safety and non-judgement
Of letting go and letting be

Welcome to the gong space
A space of unlimited possibility
This is your space for receiving
Whatever it is that you need

© P Tait 2017

Meet the Gongs

There are five gongs in my studio space: a 34” Paiste Symphonic gong and four Paiste Planet gongs: Mercury, Chiron, Nibiru and Uranus. I work intuitively and, depending on what is needed, I will play any combination of these gongs in any order.

Symphonic gongs contain the fullest range of tones of any of the Paiste gongs. My symphonic gong has a warm, gently compelling, feminine energy, which balances the more masculine energy of my Planet gongs.

The Planet gongs were created specifically for Sound Healing work and have been given sound characteristics that evoke the planet they represent.

Mercury is the Divine Messenger of the Gods and Master of Healing. Associated with speech, communication, intellectual prowess and creativity, he supports the throat and thyroid. Mercury comes into his own when we have been denied our right to speak our own truth or think for ourselves, as so many of us have. I have seen clients undergo profound changes after Mercury has played for them, often surprising themselves with their new-found confidence in their own truth and ability to speak up. As a Master of Healing, it is appropriate that Mercury should be a very effective healing gong.

Chiron is the Wounded Healer. He is associated with alchemy, vision, wisdom, compassion and healing. He “stands for the deep karmic wound in the subconscious that we have come in this life to heal¹.” He also brings these wounds to the surface so that they can be healed.

It has been my experience that Mercury and Chiron work together as a team. Mercury goes first and then Chiron will step in if a wound is very deep or undetected. Together they make a deeply powerful pair of healing gongs.

The second pair of gongs are Uranus and Nibiru. These gongs are especially concerned with change and transformation.

The planet Uranus is an ice giant, named for the primordial Greek god of the sky. In astrology, Uranus rules Aquarius and is the harbinger of change. Associated with revolution, liberation and spontaneity, Uranus moves against the flow, inspiring originality, free thinking and discovery. The Uranus gong can also help with problems of the reproductive system. If there is something specific you want to change, Uranus is the gong for you.

Nibiru is the hypothetical tenth planet², also known as Planet X. Some believe that it has a 3,600 year orbit and is about to cross paths with the Earth once more, causing widespread destruction. Others believe that its very existence is a fantasy. Either way, by taking their inspiration from such an enigmatic planet, the master gong makers at Paiste have created a gong like no other.

Some gong players choose not to play Nibiru because of its association with destruction. Yet, for me, this gong acts in a similar way to Shiva, the Cosmic Destroyer, clearing away that which is no longer needed and allowing new consciousness to emerge. At the same time, is it not a gong I approach lightly, but with full composure and respect. As with Uranus, Nibiru is all about change. Here, however, we are looking at deep transformation on the evolutionary or quantum level. This gong resolves genetic and deep soul issues and facilitates our self-exploration and understanding of our true purpose for being on the Earth.

“Now is the time of Nibiru, now is the time for us to recognize our timeless connection to our home planet and to heal her ravaged wounds as a transit to healing ourselves.” Acutonics Website

Read a description of the Benefits of Sound Healing with Gongs.

¹Whittaker, Sheila In the Heart of the Gong Space: The Gong as a Spiritual Tool, 2015
²If you include Pluto, which has since been officially downgraded to a dwarf planet.

The Voice

When improvising pure vowel tones and overtones, the voice is used as a non-verbal musical instrument. When chanting, the voice is the carrier of The Word, which is, itself, a facet of vibration. R J Stewart has this to say about chanting with the voice:

The most important asset of the human voice is that it acts directly upon the physical organism in some very distinct ways, which have been the subject of study and practice for many thousands of years in magical and spiritual disciplines around the world. The results of this art of empowered voice may heard not in classical music or opera but in liturgical chant or plainsong, shamanistic chants, epic magical narrative singing, temple chants throughout the East and in the truly immense protean collection of ritual chanting that permeates all cultures worldwide. Remnants of such ritual chanting are even found in Britain, in outlying areas. (From Music and the Elemental Psyche)

During a sound journey, you may hear both improvised pure vowel tones and chants from around the world, including the British Isles.

Native American Flute

The Native American Flute

This native American style flute in western red cedar with a stylised bear claw block was made for me by David Cartwright of Second Voice Flutes.

I often play it during a sound journey or a words and music performance. It song is evocative, mellow and soothing for the listener.

The origins of the native American flute are lost in the mists of time but there are many legends of how the flute came to be. Some say that people heard the music of the wind when it sang through the holes in branches made by woodpeckers and fashioned those branches into the first flutes. Others say that there was once a man with holes in his body which produced music when the wind blew through him. Still others talk of a young man who was directed by a kindly woodpecker how to make a flute to win the heart of his beloved.

In all these stories, the flute is born from nature, where the sounds of birds, trees and the breath of the wind are never far away. This is how the flute feels to me when I play it: sometimes it seems as if my own breath becomes the wind, my tune becomes the song of birds and the flute itself become, once more, a living branch in my hands.

Block Flutes

The Hitzaz Flute

This is my hitzaz tuned flute, made for me by David Cartwright of Second Voice Flutes. It is in spalted ash in the key of E, with an Arabian stallion carved block.

Hitzaz Flute with Arabian Horse Block

The hitzaz/hijaz scale is common in Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Jewish music and the hitzaz flute is intended to evoke the plaintive sounding ney – the traditional Arabic, Persian and Turkish reed flute.

In order for a wooden flute to suggest the sound of a reed flute, David adds a “shoe” under the block. My hitzaz flute came with five shoes in various thicknesses, to offer various degrees of “reediness.” I’m using the thickest/reediest shoe in the video.

The Tin Whistle

FOLK MUSIC

One night I was having a quiet drink with some fellow students when Manchester University’s Folk Society came in. Two things happened pretty simultaneously: I “discovered” folk music and I made up my mind to join them.

Some tin whistles

I’m no dancer and, on my student budget, a tin whistle was all I could afford: so tin whistle it was. There was quite a lively Irish music scene in Manchester and by listening to other players, I soon got the feel for ornamentation and for playing – as one whistler unforgettably put it – “as fast as trousers.”

Thus it was that I found myself in Ireland for the first time on a week’s tin whistle course. A year later, I moved there and was to stay for three years, playing regularly in many of the sessions around County Clare. Back in England, I’ve played tin whistle in several bands including The Bog Standards, The Life O Riley and Kindred Spirit. I’ve also played and recorded tin whistle for Fiona Wight, the lead soprano from Riverdance.

SLOW AIRS AND SEAN-NÓS SONGS

Sure, its fun to play fast. But its Ireland’s haunting slow airs that touch my soul. Many of these airs began life as the music of Sean-Nós (old style) songs and as a non-Gaelic speaker (and, therefore, singer), playing them on the whistle is the closest I will get to touching these profound songs.

Sean-Nós songs are “called forth” from within the singer. The traditional way is for song helpers to gather around the main singer, holding her hands, supporting her arms and back and swaying, sighing and moaning with her until the song comes.

The songs’ subject matter – usually lack or loss of love – articulates a longing that goes further and deeper than mere disappointment in human relationships. This is something that Nick Cave understands very well when he says “the love song is the desire to be transported from darkness into light, to be touched by the hands of which is not of this world. The love song is the light of God, deep down, blasting up through our wounds.”