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How To Play A Singing Bowl

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Find out how to play a singing bowl with some great tips! Plus, what a singing bowl is, what it does and when you can use it.

Introduction

Singing bowls are ancient, sacred sound healing tools. Playing a singing bowl is both wonderfully relaxing and intrinsically healing. Whether you’re playing it for yourself, for friends and family, or for a yoga or meditation gathering. It is the gift of sacred sound vibration that you hold in your hand. 

What Is A Singing Bowl?

A singing bowl (known as a Himilayan or Tibetan singing bowl) is a musical instrument, an ancient spiritual tool, and a sacred healing tool. 

As a musical instrument, a singing bowl is classed as an ‘idiophone’, which means that it creates sound primarily by the vibration of the instrument itself. It is an inverted bell, called a ‘resting’ or ‘standing’ bell (in other words, an upside down bell). 

It is played with a mallet. Striking the side of the bowl emits a pure tone. This is called a ‘strike idiophone’. While tracing the outer circumference of the bowl creates a continuous vibrational sound through friction that builds and is more complex. This is called a ‘friction idiophone’.

As a spiritual tool, singing bowls are used by Buddhists during meditation and chanting, and by Taoists. In Chinese Buddhist and Japanese temples, they are used during prayers. They are also used in Japanese households during home worship. They are used in religious and spiritual ceremonies in Tibet.

As a healing tool, singing bowls are commonly used during sound healing and sound therapy.

Different types of singing bowl mallets
Different types of singing bowl mallets

When To Use A Singing Bowl

You can play your singing bowl any time you want to! Here are some examples of when to use your singing bowl:

Playing singing bowl for yourself

MEDITATION

Play the singing bowl as a meditation, or part of a meditation, alone or with others.

SOUND HEALING

Use the singing bowl to do a sound healing for your family, friends or clients.

Singing bowl sound healing for others

CHAKRA HEALING

Incorporate the singing bowl into a chakra healing. Play the singing bowl over each chakra to help remove blockages and rebalance the body’s energy centres.

Singing bowl with chakra crystals

HARMONISING

Play more than one singing bowl at a time, or get together with others with singing bowls. Experience the amazing sounds of the bowls harmonising their tones.

Singing bowl and crystals

CLEANSING

Singing bowls can be used to cleanse a space, object/s (like crystals) and people of unwanted, stagnant and/or negative energy.

CEREMONY

Incorporate your singing bowl into ceremony and ritual to add energy and beauty.

Singing bowl in cacao ceremony

What Does It Do?

Singing bowls are believed to have many healing benefits. You can read our article on THE HEALING BENEFITS OF SINGING BOWLS to learn more about these benefits, how singing bowls work, scientific studies, and their history. The main benefits can be summarised as:

  1. Creates a deeply meditative and therapeutic state. Singing bowls stimulate our alpha and theta brainwaves. This is associated with the body entering a deep therapeutic state, while the heart and respiratory rate both slow. 
  2. Helps ease physical pain. A reduction in tension and increase in relaxation helps reduce physical pain and discomfort.
  3. Improves mood. Singing bowls have been shown to improve mental states, providing some relief to symptoms of depression, anxiety, grief and mental illness.
  4. Increases overall wellbeing. Studies show an increase in overall wellbeing, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Thanks to increased levels of relaxation and a sense of inner peace.

How To Play A Singing Bowl

Your singing bowl is made of brass, which, being a metal, means it has a certain toughness. However, brass is quite a soft metal, and the bowl can break if dropped from a height or if too much weight is put on it.

Your singing bowl from The Mystic Cat shop comes with a traditional, solid wood mallet. If you like, you can experiment with different sounds on your bowl by wrapping a soft piece of cloth, felt or suede around the mallet. Some say this produces a more rounded, less sharp tone. We personally prefer the wood on its own.

Hold the mallet in your hand, keeping your wrist loose. 

To play your bowl, you can either hold the bowl in your hand or place it on a cushion. If holding the bowl, ensure that your palm is flat. Touching the bowl on its side will deaden the vibrations and sound.

Striking The Bowl:

One of the ways you can play your singing bowl is by striking the outside of it.

Using your mallet, gently tap once on the outside of the bowl like a small gong. Listen to the sound produced, and experiment with this technique.

  • Striking slightly higher or lower, slightly harder or softer, and angling the mallet can all produce different sounds.
  • Strike on the lip, the middle and in different places around the circumference.
  • Experiment with different taps, too – for example one firm strike left to resonate for as long as it produces sound, to three soft taps of the same pressure or building in pressure.
Playing a singing bowl hand flat
Experiment with tapping the bowl in different places

Circling The Bowl:

This creates a sustained musical note through applying friction that you can vary in volume.

Using your mallet, trace along the outside circumference of the bowl, continuously circling it. As you do so, you will hear the vibration building as the sound deepens, becoming richer and louder. 

You can tap the bowl again, then continue to circle, to build the sound even more.

Experiment with how much pressure you apply to the mallet as you circle. 

Finally, you can also experiment with water in the bowl at different heights, to hear the different sounds produced.

Tips For Playing The Singing Bowl

  • Most people unknowingly reduce pressure at the same point around the bowl every time, this is related to wrist movement (move your wrist in a circle in front of you and you’ll see and feel the point). To avoid this and achieve a smoother rotation, move the whole arm.
  • If the mallet bounces against the bowl as though it’s hitting speed bumps, there is not enough pressure.
  • If the sound starts to dissipate, this is usually an indication that pressure has varied or become too soft to sustain the vibration.
  • In both these cases, slow down and apply a steady pressure to allow the sound to build again.
  • Reduce sound by reducing speed and pressure.
  • Generally, build up speed to build up sound. Once the bowl is at its maximum sound, you can reduce speed slightly and just concentrate on maintaining pressure equally.

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