The key to learning how to use a singing bowl comes down to how you strike the singing bowl with the mallet and how to continue the sound. On top of that, you need to consider how you’ll play the singing bowl, whether it’s in your hand or on a cushion or O-ring. Even the type of singing bowl you use will impact how you learn to play it.
Because of the number of different ways you can learn how to use a singing bowl, we’ll explain the simplest ways of each method to get you started. How you decide to use your singing bowl is ultimately up to you and don’t feel cornered into any of these four methods.
Method 1: Using the Provided Cushion or O-Ring
The easiest and one of the most common methods of learning how to use a singing bowl is to use the provided cushion or O-ring that comes with the singing bowl. Typically, Tibetan singing bowls will come with a ring-like cushion or flat silk cushion that cradles the singing bowl itself.
Crystal singing bowls almost always come with rubber O-rings that match their size. These are needed to ensure they play correctly when placed on a table as well as to not damage the surface of the singing bowl or the top of the surface you put it on.
This method of using a sound bowl (which is just another name for a singing bowl), is also the only way if you’re using a singing bowl set. Having multiple singing bowls that play at different notes makes it closer to a musical instrument.
Step 1: Place Bowl on Cushion or Attach Rubber O-Ring
The first step to playing a singing bowl is to simply place it in its designated spot. Singing bowls will almost always come with a cushion or rubber O-ring that they’re to be placed on.
Not any cushion or rubber ring will work effectively though. The ones provided ensure there’s no sound loss while using the singing bowl. They’re often tailored to the individual singing bowl’s size, so you can’t switch them out easily.
Step 2: Grab the Provided Mallet
The next step is to grab the provided mallet. Mallet material will range from wood to rubber, depending on the brand. It’s important to use the provided one, as using one not meant for your singing bowl may damage it.
It’s evident on most mallets where you’re meant to hold them, but some suede mallets aren’t as clear. If this is you, hold the mallet on the lower half where the suede isn’t present. If there’s suede through the mallet, pick either side.
You’ll want to use a tight enough grip to ensure the mallet doesn’t move too much but not too hard that you cause the mallet to stifle the sound of the singing bowl when struck.
Step 3: Strike the Outer Wall Toward the Center of the Bowl
Now that your singing bowl is in place and you have your mallet, you’re going to strike the bowl toward the center on the exterior. As for strength, imagine tapping your fork or spoon against a wine glass.
While you can also tap the rim of the bowl, it’s a little harder to get started this way compared to the walls of the singing bowl. The wider the striking area, the more likely you are to tap the singing bowl correctly.
Step 4: Continue to Run the Mallet Along the Singing Bowl Without Lifting
Now, without lifting the mallet from the singing bowl, gently run the mallet in circles around the exterior wall. This will prolong the sound of the singing bowl as well as change the tone.
When played this way, you’ll notice that the singing bowl sounds as if it’s being struck from every side, rather than just one. Circling the singing bowl actually causes very slight taps that eventually pile up on each other to create sound.
Step 5: Pull Mallet Away From Bowl
After around 5 to 10 seconds of running the mallet in circles, you’ll pull the mallet away the same way you struck it. Lifting the mallet up may cause the sound to diminish or die out completely if not done correctly.
Step 6: Relax and Resonate With the Sound of the Bowl
The sound of the singing bowl will continue for another 15 to 30 seconds, depending on the size of the bowl. This is your time to relax, connect, and resonate with the singing bowl.
Singing bowls offer the benefit of enhancing meditation and helping with energy cleansing. So don’t skip over this step and try to continue playing.
Step 7: Repeat the Process for 5 to 15 Minutes
Singing bowls may help with relaxation, but they still produce a relatively high-pitched noise when struck. Too long of an exposure to this noise can end up doing the opposite of what it’s meant to initially.
Keep the use of a singing bowl to around 5 to 15 minutes at a time. Eventually, you can move this to upwards of 30 minutes, but it’s never recommended to do more than that.
Method 2: Playing the Singing Bowl in Your Hand
If you’re looking to use the singing bowl while meditating or want to feel more connected to the singing bowl, you may want to play the singing bowl while holding it. Holding a singing bowl in your hand typically only applies to those playing a Tibetan singing bowl, as crystal singing bowls are a little too top-heavy (and heavy in general) to use in the hand.
You need to use delicate fingers and always ensure you don’t grip too tightly when using a singing bowl in your hand. As it can quickly distort the sound, or at worst, not cause any sound to play at all.
Step 1: Lay the Singing Bowl Flat in Your Hand
The easiest way to play a singing bowl in your hand is to have your hand as flat as possible. Of the types of singing bowls out there, Thadobati, Mani, and Manipuri Tibetan singing bowls are the easiest to play with this method.
While you can use the other styles this way, they may be easy to knock out of the hand when played, as the bottom of the singing bowl doesn’t provide enough area to stabilize properly.
Alternate Step 1: Cusp the Bowl With Your Fingers and Minimal Palm Contact
If you have a Jambati or Lingam Tibetan singing bowl, you’ll want to still pull the bowl into the palm of your hand. But rather than leaving it there, you’ll instead cusp the singing bowl ever so lightly with your fingertips.
You don’t want to grasp it too tightly or with all of your fingers, as it could dampen or eliminate the sound of the singing bowl altogether. If you still find yourself unable to play it effectively, some people tilt their hands forward to a 45-degree angle to eliminate some of the bowl contacts to the hand, allowing for more free vibration.
Step 2: Grab the Provided Mallet
As before, grab the provided mallet in your available hand this time. You don’t need to adjust the grip strength from the above method.
Step 3: Strike the Rim of the Singing Bowl on the Outside
Rather than striking the center of the exterior of the singing bowl, this time you’ll likely have better luck tapping the rim of the singing bowl. Specifically the outer rim. This is done for two main reasons.
The first is that the vibrations will travel for longer before hitting the fingers and causing some dampening. If you’re not holding the singing bowl with your fingers, you can try hitting closer to the center, but too much force and you may knock the bowl out of your hand.
Step 4: Run Mallet Along Rim to Continue the Sound
Nothing really changes with this between the two methods other than needing to keep it a little slower and gentler. This is simply to avoid going too fast and accidentally knocking it over.
Step 5: Connect With the Bowl While Meditating
You’re going to feel the vibrations in your fingertips and palms, which typically allows you to connect and resonate with a singing bowl more effectively. While still running your mallet along the rim, connect with your singing bowl while meditating.
Step 6: Pull Mallet Away While Continuing to Meditate
After around 10 seconds of circling, pull the mallet away while continuing to meditate. The sound of the singing bowl will continue for around 10 to 20 seconds after pulling away.
Step 7: Repeat the Process for 5 to 10 Minutes
You’ll then repeat the same process for around 5 to 10 minutes. You’ll want to keep these sessions shorter than when the singing bowls are on a surface, as the vibrations from the singing bowl can cause numbness in the hand after a while.
Method 3: Placing the Singing Bowl on the Body
Sound healing sessions often have a sound healer using a Tibetan singing bowl on the body itself. Typically, this place will line up with one of the seven chakras, but for sound healing purposes, a sound healer may take liberties to place it where necessary.
It’s a little hard to place on your own body, so this is typically done by someone else on you or on someone else. It’s important to take the other person into account when using it on someone, as you can quickly make them uncomfortable or even cause pain if not done correctly.
Step 1: Have the Person Lie Down in Front of You
To best perform a sound healing session on someone with a singing bowl, you’ll typically have them lie down on their back in front of you. Depending on how comfortable you and the other person are, you may want to put a blanket or sheet over them.
Step 2: Place the Singing Bowl on Any of the Lower 4 Chakras
This is an important step, but if the person you’re performing the sound healing session on is using this for chakra cleansing, only place the singing bowl on any of their lower four chakra points.
Avoid placing the singing bowl anywhere near the head or ears, as this could cause pain from the vibrations as well as the loud noise. If someone is dealing with an energy blockage in those areas, have them visit a professional sound healer instead.
Step 3: Lightly Tap the Singing Bowl
If you used a harder strike for surface or hand playing, you’ll want to tone it down to a light tap when playing the singing bowl on someone. Too hard of a strike could not only dampen the sound but also cause a great deal of discomfort to the person.
Step 4: Continue to Run the Mallet Along the Outer Wall
Just like before, after striking, you’ll then run the mallet along the outer wall to continue the sound for around 5 to 10 seconds.
Step 5: Talk to the Person It’s Placed on to Determine Their Comfort Level
After the first initial sound, ask the person about their comfort level in regard to sound as well as vibrations. Listen to what they tell you before continuing.
Step 6: Repeat the Process for 5 to 10 Minutes
Since this is also on a body part, like the hand-holding method was, you’ll only want to play the singing bowl in the same spot for around 5 to 10 minutes at the most. If the person finds themselves still relatively comfortable, it’s still best to move the singing bowl to a different location or use your hands from here on out.
Method 4: Playing a Singing Bowl Without Striking
You don’t always need to strike the singing bowl to start playing it. Alternatively, you can simply run the mallet along the rim or outer wall to produce the vibrations needed for sound. Though this method does require a little patience to master, some may still find it easier to start here than striking.
This method will apply to any of the above places you decide to play your singing bowl. So feel free to experiment a little. You might find that you enjoy playing with this method while holding the bowl but prefer to strike first when the singing bowl is on a surface instead.
Step 1: Grab Your Mallet
Regardless of which of the previous methods you choose, you’re still going to need to grab your mallet all the same. Unlike previously though, you’re going to actually grip it tighter this time around. Too loose of a grip and you’ll deal with the mallet moving too much.
Step 2: Slowly Run the Mallet Along the Outer Wall or Rim
Depending on the type of singing bowl you’re using, you’ll want to circle the bowl slowly at either the upper portion of the outer wall or the rim itself. Slow is the key here, as too fast and you’ll have the mallet come off the wall and ruin your progress.
Step 3: Speed up or Slow Down Your Circling to Change the Tone
Once the sound starts coming out of the singing bowl, you can then speed up or slow down further to change the tone played. Just remember the above tip of not going too fast and causing a mishap. You’ll do this for around 20 to 30 seconds at a time.
Step 4: Lift Mallet and Let Singing Bowl Continue to Play
From here, you can either lift or pull the mallet away from the bowl. Lifting may stifle the sound slightly, but you should still be okay unlike when struck. You’ll likely notice the sound of the singing bowl continuing for longer compared to when struck.
Step 5: Repeat the Process for 5 to 15 Minutes
Depending on the method you chose, you’ll then repeat the process for around 5 to 15 minutes. This method of playing a singing bowl does take a little longer to get it going, so you may need a little extra time in your sound healing or meditation session.
How long should I play a singing bowl?
You should play a singing bowl for around 5 to 15 minutes depending on how you’re playing it and how much you’re used to the sound of a singing bowl. For seasoned singing bowl users, a singing bowl session can last as long as 30 minutes.
What should you not do with a singing bowl?
There are several things you can do to avoid damaging the singing bowl in the long run, including:
- Not hitting the singing bowl too hard
- Polishing the singing bowls with harsh cleaners
- Excessive touching
- Never play close to ears
How does a singing bowl work?
A singing bowl, regardless of type, works because of the vibrations they produce. The vibrations continue to amplify upon themselves until a sound is audible. The constant circling of the mallet causes friction to continue the sound, creating something known as resonance.
Are you supposed to put water in a singing bowl?
You can choose to put water in your singing bowl, but it’s not required. Singing bowls will work without water. The use of water will change the frequency at which the singing bowl plays.
Be careful using just any water, as tap water and those made with water with a lot of hard minerals in them can ruin the singing bowl. Opt for distilled or fresh spring water at the very least.