Tools of the Trade: A Basic Introduction to the Singing Bowl

Singing Bowl maloca

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If you have ever been on a sound healing retreat, you may have noticed some of the instruments sound practitioners play. We use the words ‘instruments’ and ‘play’ for lack of better words. But in truth, we often use objects not considered classic instruments to produce the healing sounds participants appreciate so much. Take the singing bowl.

The singing bowl doesn’t look like a trumpet or violin. It looks nothing like a guitar or piano. It doesn’t even resemble a drum. It is an actual bowl – usually made of metal or crystal – capable of emitting a resonant sound when properly manipulated. Singing bowls can emit different frequencies depending on their size, material, and whether they have water in them. As for playing a singing bowl, it requires some practice and skill.

Not Just Making Noise

One of the common misperceptions of the singing bowl is that playing it is designed to just make a noise. With that kind of mindset, any noise will do. But those of us who practice sound healing are after more. We want to produce a very specific kind of sound that participants can actually feel. We want a resonant sound that can penetrate the human body and help affect physical and spiritual healing.

That is where the practice comes in. Anybody can strike a brass bowl and get it to ring. Likewise, anybody can beat on a drum with a stick to make a noise. But the sounds we strive for in sound healing have a therapeutic effect. They have a calming and relaxing effect. Producing that kind of sound requires knowledge, skill, and plenty of practice.

Two Ways to Play

Most legitimate singing bowls come with wood or bamboo mallets. A mallet generally has some sort of soft wrap on one end. The wrapped end is the end you play with. The unwrapped end is the end you hold in your hand.

There are two ways to play:

  1. Striking – The first way to play the singing bowl is to strike it gently with the mallet. It takes practice to learn just where to strike the bowl and how hard to strike. Striking at different locations can produce different sounds.
  1. Rub – The second way to play a singing bull is to gently rub the rim using the mallet. You need to get the right angle and apply the right pressure to produce the most resonant sound. Once again, it takes practice.

Some sound healers insist that a singing bowl needs to be rubbed in a clockwise direction. Others insist they get better results with a counterclockwise motion. The simple laws of physics suggest it doesn’t matter either way. The key is the combination of pressure and angle.

If you are right-handed, you are more likely to master the angle and pressure by rubbing in a counterclockwise direction. Left-handed people will probably have an easier time going clockwise.

Adding Water to the Bowl

Singing bowls can be played completely dry. However, sound healing practitioners can also add water to their bowls to create a deeply resonant sound that has a completely different impact on participants. It is also interesting to note that there are some types of singing bowls that are best played with water and one’s bare fingers.

You dip your fingers in the water and then rub the rim of the bowl just as you would with a mallet. This produces yet another sound entirely. All the sounds are extremely beneficial whether experienced at a sound healing retreat or in your own living room at home.

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