Tibetan Singing Bowls Article

According to Tibetan oral tradition, existence of singing bowls dates back to the time of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni (560 – 480 B.C.). The tradition came from India to Tibet, along with the teachings of the Buddha, by the great tantric master Padmasambhava in the 8th century A.D.

Singing bowls produce sounds, which invoke a deep state of relaxation which naturally assists one in entering into meditation, the goal being enlightenment. They are a quintessential aid to meditation, and are found on private Buddhist altars, and in temples, monasteries and meditation halls throughout the world.

A metallurgical analysis, done by the British Museum in London, reveals that the instruments are made of a 12-metal alloy consisting of silver, nickel, copper, zinc, antimony, tin, lead, cobalt, bismuth, arsenic, cadmium and iron. Now a lost art, it seems that this quality of bowl cannot be reproduced today.

In addition to their traditional usage for meditation, Tibetan singing bowls are used for deep relaxation, stress reduction, holistic healing, Reiki, Chakra Balancing, and World music. Many people find that the rich blend of harmonic overtones which the bells produce have a direct effect upon their chakras.

Playing the bowls usually causes an immediate centring effect. The tones set up a “frequency following response” that creates balancing left/right brain synchronization. Meditating on the subtle sounds of the Tibetan singing bowl tunes one in to the universal sound within and without.

Previously used in Tibet for meditation and ceremonial purposes, Tibetan Singing Bowls are struck with a padded mallet or rubbed around the rim with a playing mallet to produce a fascinating blend of harmonic resonance’s and rich overtones.

Tibetan singing bowls or Himalayan “singing bowls” are dynamically resonant producing soothing overtones…called singing bowls because when rubbed in a circular movement along the outside lip with a striker, a clear and beautiful sound is released. The sound is definitely soothing. The sound frequency is definitely richer when the cushion is used with the bowls

Imagine using the singing bowl to free up the tensions of stressed children or for us busy adults. Each bowl is cast from a secret formula of metal alloys, and then hammered into shape. Exact dimensions and shape vary somewhat from bowl to bowl.

Playing Instructions and Tips:-

  • Technique 1.
      • Hold the singing bowl on the palm of one hand. For smaller bowls, seven inches and under, hold on your fingertips.
      • Grasp the rubbing stick about mid-length, with all the fingertips pointing downwards and touching the wood. Palm down.
      • Gently tap the rubbing stick against the side of the bowl to “warm-up” the bell.
      • Now gently tap the bowl once in a clock-wise direction from the further point from you. Then at the right side once, again at the closest point to you, then finally at the most left point of the bowl. You will make four taps.
    • Technique 2.
      • Following on from the first three points above…
      • Now, with an even pressure, rub the rubbing stick clockwise around the outside edge of the rim of the bowl. Use a full arm movement, just like stirring a big kettle of soup, and keep the mallet straight up and down! Again, it’s not a wrist movement, but a full-arm movement.
      • Remember to apply pressure– the mallet friction against the
        outer rim produces vibrations which result in sound.

Experiment with your speed. Usually people go too fast! Let the sound build up slowly as the singing bowl picks up the vibration.

Breaking in Your Rubbing Stick

The rubbing stick that comes with your Tibetan singing bowl is handmade of Himalayan hardwood. When you play the bowl, using the stick-around-the-rim technique, the friction of the stick produces vibrations which result in the sound. In the beginning the stick is relatively smooth, but as you continue to use it, it will develop “micro-grooves”, shallow grooves which help to grab more of the playing edge of the bowl. Allow about five minutes for initial break-in of a new rubbing stick. As you use it more the micro-grooves become impressed in your rubbing stick and you will get better sound and easier playing from your bowl.

The Wah-Wah

Most all Tibetan singing bowls have natural wah-wahs which you can amplify and bend by using the wah-wah technique.

  • Get the bowl singing by using the mallet-around-the-rim technique described above. Pull the mallet away from the bowl and let the bowl continue to sing.
  • While still holding the bowl in your hand, raise the bowl up to your mouth so that the outside rim is just above the opening of your mouth and about an inch away.
  • Open and close your mouth while thinking of the sound wah-wah. You are not actually making any sound with your mouth, but simply changing the shape of the oral cavity so as to allow the sound of the singing bowl to bounce around inside of your mouth and then be reflected back. By changing the size of the oral cavity you are modulating the sound!

Experiment with the relative position of your mouth to the outside bowl rim. Also, if you turn the bowl, while experimenting with the wah-wah effect, you will find “hot spots” where the bowl is naturally louder.

Water Bowl Sounds

A special sound effect can be produced by adding a small amount of water to the bottom of the singing bowl. The sounds produced using this technique sound like dolphins singing!

  • The amount of water to use varies with the individual bowl. Start by pouring about 3/4″ of water into the bowl. Be careful NOT to get the outside rim of the bowl wet.
  • Now, play the bowl using the stick-around- the-rim technique. Bring up the sound by using a steady even pressure. Pull the rubbing stick away from the bowl rim and let the bowl continue to sing.
  • Still holding the bowl in your hand, tilt the bowl so that the water inside gently laps up toward the inside rim. Continue to gently swirl and tilt the bowl and the water.

Experiment with the amount of water used. Usually the best effect is produced with a minimum amount of water. Keep a towel handy for when spills may happen. This can be especially interesting if you add some fragrant flowers such as Gardenia, or frangipani to the water and allow the fragrance to “float” through the air. Remember not to keep the water in the bowls whilst not attending to it as it can become corrosive to the bowl.

However and above all, enjoy, respect and play your singing bowl with the love that you have from The Universe and it will reward you richly.

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Bright Blessings

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