Ever listen to one of the playlists for a spa or relaxing music and wonder, what makes those relaxing sounds in the background? And then once you find it’s a singing bowl, you then run into, what is a singing bowl? To make it short and sweet, a singing bowl is a metal or crystal bowl that vibrates and produces deep, soothing sounds when struck.
Singing bowls can also be referred to as sound bowls or even healing bowls, so we’ll use those interchangeably throughout this article. Here’s a deep dive into what a singing bowl is, how to use it, and how it correlates with the rest of the metaphysical world.
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What Is a Singing Bowl?
A singing bowl is a type of instrument that comes from spiritual and religious practices dating back to even around the time of Mesopotamia. Though this doesn’t necessarily mean that it started there, as the simple design and usage may even predate those times.
It’s thought that the singing bowl and the sound it produces could be used for a long line of healing and cleansing properties. While this is surely left up to the individual when it comes to helping, it’s almost certainly a pleasant sound to sit down and relax to at the very least.
Traditionally, singing bowls are thought to be made of pure copper, as it was the first true metal to be worked on. Though as they made their way into spiritual practices and time gave way to new metalworking abilities, regions such as Tibet or Nepal increased the types of metals to start including copper, tin, zinc, iron, lead, silver, and gold.
What Are the Different Types of Singing Bowls?
There are two main types of singing bowls, Tibetan singing bowls and crystal singing bowls. From there, these singing bowl sets come individually or in sets, representing chakras or notes, depending on the brand.
Tibetan Singing Bowls
Traditionally, Tibetan singing bowls, sometimes referred to as Himalayan, are composed of metal and can be used individually. These singing bowls are often used for religious or spiritual practices related to these regions. They use a wooden or sometimes rubber mallet when playing the singing bowl, though this does depend on the brand and what type of noise you’re looking to create.
The sound of a Tibetan singing bowl is a little sharper and more metallic, which tends to give it that Southeast Asian cultural sound. Think closer to what individual wind chimes would sound like if they were being struck.
Tibetan singing bowls range in size from as little as 2” to upwards of 12” commercially. Though you’ll find them as large as a couple of feet in diameter and are relatively the size of an old school witch’s cauldron (think movie big).
Crystal Singing Bowls
Crystal singing bowls are a relatively newer addition to the singing bowl world that focus more on sound baths and spiritual healing, rather than for religious purposes. You should only ever use a rubber mallet with crystal singing bowls and they’re often made of quartz crystal.
When you’re playing a crystal singing bowl, it’s a deeper and richer sound than Tibetan singing bowls, making it closer to the sound of spa room and meditation-style playlists. Unlike Tibetan singing bowls, it’s more often that you purchase crystal singing bowls in a set, as the different sizes often correlate with different notes.
These sets will also represent the seven chakras, making them more in line with Reiki energy healing. Each size crystal singing bowl represents a different note that coincides with a specific chakra. For those who need a quick refresher, the seven chakras are (from the head down):
- Third eye
- Solar plexus
The size of crystal singing bowls will range from 4” to upwards of 24” on average. It’s much easier to find larger crystal sound bowls commercially than it is Tibetan style.
How Do You Use a Singing Bowl?
To use a singing bowl, you’ll need to use a rubber or wooden mallet, depending on the type of singing bowl you’ve purchased. The type of mallet you use will depend on what’s included with your singing bowl, but typically, wooden mallets go with Tibetan singing bowls while rubber mallets are made for crystal singing bowls.
Both are relatively similar in how you play them, but with minor differences in where you strike and how you circle the bowl with the mallet. For the most ideal sound possible, it’s best to leave the singing bowls flat or on a non-sound-dampening cushion. Holding the bowl in an improper way can not only rattle your hands but also cause the singing bowl to not vibrate and play any sound.
Playing a Tibetan Singing Bowl
Tibetan singing bowls have a more round shape to them, similar to a serving bowl of rice, making it more beneficial to tap the bowl at the edge with the mallet. This is the most simple way of playing it.
From there, you can either run the mallet around the outside of the bowl in circles to change the frequency of the vibrations, altering the sound. Moving the mallet up and down will further change the tune. You can also simply start the process of playing the sound bowl in the manner, of striking it in the first place.
Playing a Crystal Singing Bowl
Since crystal singing bowls are more of a pot shape, it’s best to start by tapping closer to the middle with the rubber mallet rather than at the edge. It spreads the vibrations out evenly, elongating how long the sound bowl will play for. Though it will still play softer tones when tapped at the edge, so don’t feel shy to try it out.
Just like with Tibetan singing bowls, you can then use the mallet to circle the outside of the crystal bowl, further extending and adjusting the sound. Just be sure to only run the rubber piece of the mallet along the bowl, avoiding the wooden or plastic portion from touching it.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Singing Bowl?
The benefits of using a singing bowl range from stimulating brain waves that may impact our mood, sleep, and overall health. To helping cleanse negative energies that you’ve been carrying by bathing you in a sound bath.
At the very least, it’s a lovely sound to listen to and may help you relax after a long day’s work. It creates one of the sounds that simply gives you chills. You may even find the sound and aesthetic of a singing bowl aiding in meditation.
Do Singing Bowls Interact With the Metaphysical and Divination World?
Because of the cleansing properties of a singing bowl, regardless of whether it’s Tibetan or crystal, there is a crossover into the metaphysical world. In fact, it’s often best to pair incense meant for cleansing with your singing bowl to really eliminate any harmful auras and energies surrounding you.
As for divination, unless you’re using meditation in the form of I Ching for divination, there’s not much crossover. Meditation is usually done as a form of not thinking or reflection, making it not ideal for divination. Though singing bowls are relatively good for enhancing meditation.
When should I use my singing bowl?
It’s best to use your singing bowl as the sun rises or as the sun sets for around 5 to 15 minutes at a time. This practice can be done every day.
Of course, because of work, school, and other obligations, it’s not harmful to use a singing bowl when you can. In those instances, doing it before you head off for the activity and before you head to bed will still fall under best practices.
When should you not use a singing bowl?
For the most part, don’t use a singing bowl when experiencing ear pain or a headache. Depending on the person, this may only aggravate symptoms further. You can try striking the singing bowl once to see how you feel, but don’t force yourself and cause further discomfort.
When using a singing bowl for its healing properties, don’t simply rely on it to get you through everything. While it may help in certain scenarios with sleep and relaxation, it doesn’t necessarily fix the causes of those issues. Always consult a physician when symptoms persist for more than a couple of days.
Lastly, don’t use a singing bowl when it’s late at night and it will cause a disturbance to others in the home. Substitute for an online sound bath instead to help clear your mind. Waking up someone for your own benefit will put you into bad karma.
Do you put water in a singing bowl?
Singing bowls can be played with or without water. Adding liquid to a singing bowl will cause the vibration and frequencies of the singing bowls to change, giving off a different sound than without liquid.