All About Singing BowlsJanuary 7, 2022
All about Singing Bowls
Not much is known about the origins of singing bowls. Their history began at a time long before the dawn of modern civilization, with the result that written information about them is almost non-existent. The first singing bowls are believed to have been made in Mesopotamia over 5,000 years ago and are among the most ancient artisan crafts in human history.
Early singing bowls were made of pure copper and produced for both medicinal and musical purposes and knowledge about the metalwork was passed on from generation to generation. Some time later, singing bowls were made of brass, which is a combination of various earth metals, including copper.
During the Chinese invasion of Tibet in the middle of the 19th century, lamas, monks and laypeople were forced to flee, taking all of their valued possessions with them, including their singing bowls. In order to survive the crisis, people were forced to sell their singing bowls and other items of significant value. This led to singing bowls spreading around the world, also causing knowledge about them to disappear. Today, singing bowls’ mystical sounds can be heard in many places such as healing centres, yoga studios, classrooms, temples, and homes.
Singing bowls have also been traced back to villages in Nepal, Bhutan, India and other parts of the Middle East. The practice of making singing bowls slowly trickled further East to countries such as Japan and Afghanistan.
How Do Singing Bowls Work?
Singing bowls work because of sound waves that are emitted when the bowl is struck with a mallet. These vibrations are so organised that they have the ability to shift different elements, like water, into creative patterns and even ‘jump’ from the surface.
As the human body contains a large amount of water, the vibrations created when playing singing bowls could potentially have a significant effect on the vibrations of one’s body.
Playing your Singing Bowl
Playing a singing bowl often seems difficult at first. Once you have more experience, you will be able to play your bowl easily, for long periods of time without a break in sound.
- To play a singing bowl, rest the bowl in the palm of your flexed hand, keeping your palm as flat as possible. Do not hold the bowl with your fingers.
- Pick up your mallet, upright, with the top facing the floor.
- Give the bowl a small tap so that the initial sound emerges. Immediately after the tap, begin tracing the mallet around the circumference of the bowl, keeping it firmly pressed against the edge. It is important that the mallet traces only the edge of the bowl.
I like to keep my wrist still, above the centre of the bowl and move the mallet using wrist motions. The sound vibrations will increase and continue for a time after you stop.
What Materials are Used to make Singing Bowls?
The most common composition of singing bowls used seven metals with each metal believed to represent a heavenly body or a planet: Gold (Sun), Silver (Moon), Mercury (Mercury), Copper (Venus), Iron (Mars), Tin (Jupiter) and Lead (Saturn).
The use of copper and tin to create singing bowls was popular, as combining them produces a hard, yet elastic metal that creates a stronger vibration.
The manufacturing of more modern singing bowls typically involves only five metals at most, and oftentimes only two.
Singing bowls today are still handmade at a higher cost but machine-made options are widely available at more affordable prices.
Singing Bowls and Chakras
Many ancient scriptures make reference to seven major energy centres within the human body. They are the crown, third eye, throat, heart, solar plexus, sacral and root chakras.
It is believed that these seven energy centres are responsible for the balance, or imbalance, of each human being. The disruption of one or more chakras can cause imbalances to manifest in one’s exterior world.
Since chakras are energy, they are believed to be vibrations which can be manipulated by using vibrational tools such as singing bowls. Each chakra has a note at which it vibrates, and these can be matched by tuning into the corresponding sound of the singing bowl.
The table below shows the notes matching each of the specific chakras:
Quality of Singing Bowls
We, at Snow Lion typically import a range of 12 different types of singing bowls of varying size, quality, and design, the most expensive of these being handmade. Designs inside and around the bowls can be etched, embossed, debossed or hand printed and usually depict deities, mantras and other symbols.
Our less costly machine-made ranges are of high enough quality to produce consistent and pleasant-sounding vibrations.
Really cheap or “fake” singing bowls will be able to make sounds just as quality bowls can, but they won’t sound as pleasing or consistent. The bowls often sold at roadside stalls in India and Nepal are commonly those rejected by manufacturers and exporters as being of low quality. However, this is not always the case, and you might be lucky enough to find a real treasure at an affordable price.
You don’t always have to choose an expensive handmade bowl. Our advice is to play a few bowls and choose the one that resonates with you as we believe this is more important than the quality and/or price.
How are Singing Bowls Made?
There are two methods of creating singing bowls. Hand-hammering was, and still is, a common method used today, where a flat sheet of metal is hammered over a bowl form until it takes on the same shape. The edges are then bent over and hammered further until smooth, while the inside is often machine polished. Traditionalists prefer singing bowls that have been hammered and can easily distinguish them by checking for hammer marks.
The other method, often using machines involves pouring a molten metal into a mold. This method creates a more constant shape, which produces long lasting vibrations and sounds when played. This type of bowl is usually embellished with etching or enamelling.
There are many singing bowls on the market today. They differ in the sounds they produce, which can be attributed to their design and shape, thickness, smoothness, and the combination of metals used. As mentioned previously, the best singing bowl is the one that resonates with you most.
Spiritual and Meditative Uses
The calming and meditative sounds generated by playing singing bowls are often used to signal the start or end of a meditation period. They can also be played during an entire session to help the mind focus and obtain a state of pure relaxation. Hindus and Buddhists have traditionally used singing bowls in their rituals to aid in their spiritual focus, harmony, and inner peace.
Medicinal and Alternative Healing Uses
Hindus believe that the world began with a sound, and thus sound plays a very important role in our bodies and in the universe as a whole. Sound as an alternative healing method has been practiced in many cultures for centuries. It is believed that the delicate and unique sound of singing bowls can deeply affect our bodies and psychological state. Our bodies contain several energy centres, or chakras, running from head to toe, and these energy centres are believed to correspond to specific tones which the singing bowls can naturally produce.
Alternative healing practitioners typically use several smaller bowls with flatter bases which are placed on top of these energy centres. Practitioners believe that the resonance and vibration of singing bowls placed on top of these energy centres penetrate more deeply than bigger and heavier bowls which are typically placed above or beside the body.
We have a number of clients who buy these bowls for use in schools, child therapy and sound healing.
At one time, handmade singing bowls were used as common kitchen, storage and eating items. Although this use may no longer be applicable in the present day, it is worth noting that singing bowls were also used as a kind of currency in the past when coins, metals and other precious objects were the only kind of legal tender available. Traditionally, singing bowls were valued based on their thickness, weight, and purported metal composition. Typically, the heavier the singing bowl was, the higher value it would have. Moreover, singing bowls were often given as wedding gifts or as a dowry.
Singing Bowl Accessories
Singing bowls must be played with a wooden mallet or stick which is often covered with hard-wearing fabric or leather. The sounds produced differs depending on the type of mallet used.
An optional extra is a singing bowl display cushion which is available in a range of colours, fabrics and designs. We currently import ring or ‘doughnut’ shaped cushions covered in brightly coloured brocade.
In conclusion, it is important that you never drop or bump your bowl as this may affect the sound vibrations produced or damage it to the extent that it no longer plays.
See here for our Singing Bowls and Accessories.