If you are looking for information on how to use singing bowls, then you have come to the right place! In this post, we offer a complete guide on the singing bowl benefits and how to produce those enchanting, haunting, healing tones!
Read on to learn everything you need to know about singing bowls as well as a brief history, how sound healing works and the health benefits of the beautiful ringing sound produced.
Chances are if you are on this page you know a little about singing bowls, maybe heard them in meditation classes or in musical recordings of Buddhist chants and prayers. So we have created the ultimate how to guide for learning to use them. As well as the esoteric guidance you will also learn the scientific properties that enable their powerful healing effects.
Singing bowls are also known as Standing Bells. Some take the name of the region in which they were created such as Tibet or Himalayas. They are percussion instruments that produce sound tones from the vibration caused when struck with a mallet or striker.
These multi harmonic and ancient instruments are usually linked with Buddhism or other Eastern spiritual practices, and often used within meditation and yoga practices. For thousands of years they were used solely by the Buddhist Monks and within temple ritual.
Over time, especially as travel between regions and countries became easier, singing bowls were taken beyond temple walls. As Eastern religious or mystical practices become more easily accessible and popular in the West so to did the use of singing bowls.
Today they are found, and used, in private homes as well as most meditation centers and yoga classes. They are the instruments, and the tools, most commonly used for sound therapy, sound healing and sound bath sessions. You will also find them in many everyday settings such as school classrooms, in local hospitals, and of course alternative therapy spa centers.
Our content is reader-supported. When you buy through links in our posts we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. We do not accept money for reviews. Learn More
What Are Singing Bowls made From?
The earliest singing bowls from the ancient world of Mesopotamia were said to made of pure copper and were used for medicinal purposes.
History then sees singing bowls becoming mainly used within the rituals and prayers of the Buddhist belief systems. This meant each bowl was required to produce a specific tone and note. To achieve this each bowl was formed using differing amounts of seven precious metals.
Historically each metal was associated with one of the seven classical astrological planets or celestial bodies important to Buddhist beliefs. These were:
- Gold (Sun),
- Silver (Moon),
- Copper (Venus),
- Iron (Mars),
- Tin (Jupiter),
- Mercury/Quicksilver (Mercury)
- Lead (Saturn)
Today most bowls are made from bronze (a combination of copper, tin and zinc), with some still being made from traditional alloys formed from 5 or 7 of the original metals. There are also extremely popular sets that are formed from pure crystal.
Singing bowls come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and styles. These factors determine the differing vibrations that produce each bowls unique sound, tone and pitch. The majority of bowls are produced to create tones and sounds that correlate with one of the 7 major chakras, or energy centers, within the body.
When you initially start learning about singing bowls, all this may seem like an overload of information. However you’ll soon discover the techniques for how to play a singing bowl are simple and incorporating this sound healing practice into your life can be very easy!
History of Singing Bowls
Singing bowls are thought to have originated from Mesopotamia over 5,000 years ago and then made their way to the regions of Tibet, Nepal and India. These 3 regions have recognized links to the usage of singing bowls in both history and culture dating back at least 2,000 years.
The majority that are found in Tibet, Nepal, and India are clearly linked to Buddhist belief.
There is very little recorded history of singing bowl use outside of Buddhist practice. Much of the recorded history is thought to be lost to us because it was destroyed when the Chinese invaded Tibet in the 1950s.
The history we do have comes mainly from religious ritual or it was handed down via oral traditions. Within oral history we have singing bowls being evidenced back to the time of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni (560 – 480 BCE).
Singing bowls during this time were strictly used for religious purposes within the monasteries and temples across Tibet, Nepal and India. They were used for leading chants or prayers, for guiding meditation, or used by Monks as their “offering” or “begging” bowl.
We see bowls used by Japanese and Vietnamese Buddhists also. However they mainly use the singing bowls when performing funeral rites and when worshiping their ancestors.
Today they are used in many ways, but still mostly associated with ritual, healing and belief systems. However the manner in which they are used can be very unique to the setting and to the sound healer using them.
How To Use Singing Bowls
Regardless of history, culture and setting what has remained consistent is their use for helping to produce a calming and meditative state. Singing bowls are powerful tools for Buddhist practitioners and anyone else seeking to create a space that is conducive to peace, meditation and developing their intuition.
They are also used as tools for healing, most often within alternative or complementary treatments of various illnesses such as chronic pain or depression, to name a few!
Frequently, the use of singing bowls is associated with sound therapy, sound baths, and even some forms of therapeutic massage. The sound produced by each bowl is caused from vibration, and it is this sound vibration that can help us achieve a more balanced and healthy state of being, both physically and mentally.
The sound and tone allows us to focus on ourselves. We do this by exploring our bodies physical and emotional response to the sounds, as well as exploring and expressing any emotion or feeling that may be triggered during the session.
Because of the link to bodily emotion, singing bowls are becoming increasingly popular as a complementary treatment for anxiety disorders, depression, and even post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The vibration created is absorbed by the physical body and this has a massaging, cleansing, and purifying impact. As this occurs the sound also helps our emotional state by enabling us to achieve a calm meditative state.
In this state we can more easily look within to explore our emotional response and energetic balance. This can help us determine if there is are emotional health factors we need to resolve.
What Is It That Singing Bowls Do?
What is it that singing bowls actually do and how do they do it?
The science related to the use of singing bowls is actually quite simple! The techniques used can best be compared to the use of “tuning forks” in music. Similar also is the playing of wine glasses filled with different levels of water.
Like the wine glasses and and the tuning forks our Singing bowls “sing” by creating vibration.
The bowls vibration is caused through the use of mallets or strikers. When the mallet or striker makes contact with the side, or the rim, of a singing bowl we create friction. Friction causes vibration and vibration is then heard as a beautiful ringing sound which can be felt within our body and our energy fields (subtle bodies or aura).
There are a number of mallet and striker techniques we can use and each help us achieve different tones and sounds. The 2 techniques used for this are speed and pressure.
When applied differently the speed and pressure changes the sound created. When we apply an even pressure with a consistent speed we produce resonance. This is the note that we hear even after we have removed the mallet from touching the singing bowl.
The use of singing bowls are said to have a very powerful effect on our emotional health and well-being. Those who use singing bowls speak of their strong healing and therapeutic values, but what about the science? Is there any evidence to back up these claims?
The answer is yes. Research has shown that singing bowls and the notes and tones they produce have impact our brainwave patterns through a process known as “brainwave or acoustic entrainment.”
benefits of brainwave acoustic entrainment
What are the benefits of acoustic entrainment? The following benefits have been shown through research into sound and tone on specific brainwave functioning.
- Increased attention (gamma and beta waves)
- Healthy sleep (theta and delta waves)
- Reduced stress and anxiety (alpha waves)
- Improved memory (gamma and beta waves)
- Enhanced meditation (alpha waves)
- Mood boost (gamma and beta waves)
The tones produced by singing bowls bring about feelings of deep relaxation and as the vibrations of the bowl move throughout our bodies they help to restore our sense of balance and peace.
Singing bowl sessions are often incorporated into chakra healing. The reason is because each of the body’s major chakras respond to different frequencies of sound.
Just like other instruments singing bowls are able to be tuned to resonate with specific notes and tones. In production each of the bowls are tuned to produce specific notes.
The following shows the seven major chakras and the musical note they respond to:
- Root Chakra: C Note.
- Sacral Chakra: D Note.
- Solar Plexus Chakra: E Note.
- Heart Chakra: F Note.
- Throat Chakra: G Note.
- Third Eye Chakra: A Note.
- Crown Chakra: B Note
Benefits of Singing Bowls On Our Physical Body
There have been numerous reports about singing bowl benefits for health. These include reduction in periods of illness and improvements in overall well-being. The following is a general list of the benefits that can be realized when you learn how to use singing bowls.
- Greater physical relaxation
- Lessens the symptoms of illness
- Pain reduction
- Reduction of pain caused by cancer treatment
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved blood pressure and flow
- Reduction in anger
- Creates feelings of peace
- Improved immune system
- Boosts overall contentment
- Removal of negative energy
- Enhanced sleep
- Heightened clarity of mind
- Increased intuition
Methods When Learning How To Use Singing Bowls.
When you are exposed to the tones produced by a singing bowl you will experience a range of physical and emotional responses specific to you! You may feel a number of emotions, you may feel invigorated, thoughtful or totally relaxed.
If you wish to move beyond participation, and are wanting to learn to play the singing bowls, how do you achieve the tones and styles that enable your participants to experience their own healing?
There are several methods you will need to master when you play a singing bowl, ranging from the easy to those that are more difficult.
In this guide we will focus on the two methods that enable you to achieve 90% of all sounds, tones and notes : striking and rounding.
Other techniques, that create the remaining 10% of sounds, such as the “Wah Wah” Method or filling the singing bowl with different levels of water are more difficult when you first start. However that shouldn’t stop you experimenting with them.
We will focus on the striking and round the rim techniques to produce the healing sounds. In order to use these methods, you will need a singing bowl, a mallet or striker and an appropriate resting cushion for your singing bowl.
The Striking Method
The striking method is probably quite self-explanatory and, for beginners, is best used with metal singing bowls. You can use wooden, leather or felt padded strikers To use this technique your singing bowl needs to be stable in it’s cushion, either on a table or the floor.
You can also use this technique without the cushion and rest the singing bowl in your non-dominant hand. Once stable simply strike the singing bowl on it’s side.
A wooden striker creates tones that are high-pitched and generate a clear metallic tone. The leather or felt-padded mallets create tones that are rich, gentle and warm. When striking, do not hit your singing bowl too hard. The technique needs to be a quick crisp tap. Experimentation will allow you to discover the various sounds and tones able to be produced with a striker.
If you hold your singing bowl be sure you remove any rings or jewelry. If they make contact with the signing bowl they can create unwanted vibrations.
Also experiment by striking at different levels on the side of the bowl. Tones will be lighter and more resonant nearer the top and produce deeper, shorter tones nearer the base.
Round The Rim Method
Round The Rim is a more difficult technique than the striking method, but ultimately it produces a more melodic sound. The choice of mallet is personal however I find the Round The Rim method is best when a traditional leather or suede wrapped wooden mallet is used.
- There is no single, or correct, way to hold the mallet (the image above is a good example).
- You need to stabilize the bowl
- Make sure you are in position for your hand to remain comfortable
- Hold the mallet at a slight angle, similar to when you are writing with a pen.
- Grip the mallet with all five fingers near the end
- Gently make contact with the rim edge of the bowl
- Start by rubbing the mallet in a constant single smooth motion around the rim. Like stirring something in a pot.
- This technique is the one that will really let your bowl sing!
When starting out you may need to remind yourself to be patient. Depending on the bowl, the mallet and your grip it may take time before you are able to produce any sound at all
You might need to circle the bowl numerous times before it produces any sound, but this is okay. It will improve as you practice! Apply even pressure and move the mallet clockwise around the rim of the bowl.
Pace yourself and don’t move too quickly. As the sound begins allow the tone to build over time. This helps to create a beautiful and more peaceful sound to meditate to.
As with any new skill, you will not become a master overnight. Keep your practice frequent. Frequently playing your singing bowl will not only improve your overall skillfulness, but also improves the singing bowl’s ability to sing.
As you play your singing bowl more, the bowl actually create grooves in the side of the mallet. These grooves help the mallet form a better grip with the singing bowl’s rim, and makes it easier to play. Additionally, as bowls age, their tones mature and become mellower and deeper.
I hope you feel confident to begin and that you will use this guide for how to use singing bowls in your healing practice.