Singing bowls have been used for centuries by Buddhists, monks, healers and yogis. The deep vibrational sounds the bowls produce generate healing energies that promote relaxation, calmness and other therapeutic benefits.
In this article, we’ll share how to play the Tibetan singing bowl using the most common methods, and give you some tips to make playing even easier! Amplify your yoga and meditation sessions and discover the healing power of sound therapy: a guide to playing Tibetan singing bowls for yourself.
What are Tibetan Singing Bowls
Humans have long used the power of music for its energetic and therapeutic properties. Early versions of singing bowls date back to over 3,000 years ago and are thought to be one of the first known instruments used for their healing properties.
The exact origins of the modern-day Tibetan singing bowls are unclear, but the overall consensus is that they have been used in Tibet and the surrounding regions since around 560 BC.
Also known as Himalayan singing bowls, or ‘singing bowls’, they are most commonly made from bronze or brass metals (different from crystal singing bowls). The Tibetan singing bowl symbols are often Tibetan script or an image of the Buddha.
When you strike or rub a Tibetan singing bowl with a wooden striker or mallet, the bowl vibrates creating a sound that’s felt throughout the body, bringing peace within and a sense of calm. For a sound therapy example, you can listen to a recording of a sound bath meditation here.
What sounds do Tibetan singing bowls produce?
A singing bowl is a kind of idiophone that creates a deep, vibrational tone when it’s played. Tibetan singing bowls are made up of three different overtones - fundamental, mid-tone and female tones. The fundamental tone is the deep, low sound heard when the striker is rubbed around the bowl. The mid-tone occurs when the striker is rubbed around the rim of the bowl. Medium and large bowls create this tone. The female overtone is produced after the vibrations have started when the bowl is ‘warmed up’.
Who uses Tibetan singing bowls?
Musicians, healers, yogis and people of all ages utilise their relaxing sounds and positive energy. Singing bowls are frequently used at the beginning or end of yoga and meditation sessions, chakra balancing, energy healing, or as part of any relaxation ritual to help cleanse the mind. They’re used alone or in a communal setting.
Sound Therapy Explained
Sounds have a huge impact on our emotions and overall wellbeing. We don’t just hear music, we ‘feel’ it too. That’s why we become so affected by the sounds around us.
Just like everything in the world, our mind and body operate at a particular frequency. According to Bruce Tainio (researcher and founder of Tainio technology), a healthy human body operates at a frequency of between 62-70 MHz. If our frequency drops below 58 MHz our immunity becomes compromised and we are more susceptible to illness and disease.
This is where sound therapy can help calm, heal and repair the body, returning it to an optimal frequency. So when you play, you might like to think of there being an exchange between the bowl and your energy.
Benefits of Tibetan Singing Bowls
Although there is limited scientific evidence, many studies have found that the vibrations produced by the bowls bring many beneficial changes to the body.
Some of the health benefits of Tibetan singing bowls include:
- Relaxation and calmness
- Reduced anxiety and depression
- Relief from tinnitus
- Improved memory and concentration
- Better sleep
- Boosted immunity
- Lower blood pressure
How to Play The Tibetan Singing Bowl
Just like any musical instrument, it takes time to learn singing bowls. But with patience, the bowl is going to sing for you each time you play.
There are two main methods of playing your Tibetan singing bowl. One is to simply strike the side of the bowl with a mallet or striker. The other is to rub the striker around the bowl in a circular motion. We’ll explain the two options below.
First, place your Tibetan singing bowl on a cotton pad, cushion, tabletop or floor. Alternatively, you can hold the bowl on your palm or fingertips.
This is the easiest option and a great starting point for beginners.
- With the bowl in a steady position, ensure nothing is touching the sides of the bowl. Then, hold the striker straight up and down like a baton, and simply hit the side of the bowl to make it sing.
- Let the vibrational sound ring out before you strike it again. The singing is going to fill you from head to toe.
- Begin with the striking method to get the vibrations going. Before they dissipate, hold the striker with your thumb and forefinger like a pen, and start circling the bowl with firm pressure in a clockwise direction. Make sure you start circling as soon as you touch the bowl or the vibrations will die out.
- Alternatively, skip the first step and start circling the bowl without striking it first, building up vibrations as you go.
- For a small bowl, keep your shoulder and forearm steady, and circle the striker around the outside at roughly a 45-degree angle. Always play it on the outside (if you play it on the inside it won’t work).
- Circle the bowl at least five times. Work up firmer contact with the bowl as you slow your speed.
- Experiment with what sounds resonate with you the most.
Water bowl sound method
Another method is to add water to your singing bowl. Adding water is a more advanced method of playing the bowls, producing a unique, softened sound for a mellow healing session.
- Pour around ¾ cup of water directly into the bowl. Make sure there is no water on the rim or outside of the bowl.
- Circle the striker around the rim of the bowl.
- When the bowl starts to sing, move the striker away from the bowl and allow the sounds to continue.
- Slowly tilt the bowl so the water begins to swirl.
Tips to Play a Tibetan Singing Bowl
Here are four essential tips to help make your bowl sing.
1. Hold the bowl in your non-dominant hand and the striker in your dominant hand. So if you’re right-handed, hold the bowl in the left hand which gives you more control with the striker.
2. If you’re holding the bowl, make sure your hand is flat, or that you are only holding the bowl with your fingertips underneath the base. It’s the walls of the bowl that make the sound, so if your fingers are touching the sides this interferes with the vibration on the walls of the bowl and it will stop playing. Also, if you have any rings it's best to take them off or keep them away from the bowl, otherwise it can cause a chattering sound!
3. Use the right size striker for the bowl. If the striker or mallet is too small or large you’ll find it hard to get the bowl singing. Use one that’s perfectly sized for the bowl.
4. If the bowl gets too energetic, it’s going to vibrate too much and push the striker off the bowl and make a chattering sound. If this happens, that's a sign you need to slow down and hold the striker firmly against the bowl so it starts to sing again.
Sound Therapy for Yoga and Meditation
When choosing a singing bowl for use in yoga and meditation, pick one with a sound that helps you feel calm and connected.
1. Start by sitting in a comfortable position, either on the floor, a cushion or meditation mat. Begin your meditation or yoga session by playing the bowls for 5 to 10 minutes. This allows your mind to drift into a meditative state so you get more out of your session.
2. Playing the bowls at the end of a yoga session helps ground you before returning to your day. Enjoy your healing meditation with Tibetan singing bowls until you’re ready to stop.
3. During the session, have a yoga buddy play it during your warm-up, asanas or at the end of the practice.
4. Placing the bowl on your body during yoga and playing it allows the vibrational sounds to reverberate through your body. Applying a soothing eye pillow over the eyes helps you to deeply focus on the sounds.
Sound vibration frequency for chakra healing
For chakra healing, many people like to use a variety of bowls in different sizes. That’s because there is thought to be a direct link between singing bowls and the main chakra points.
Different sizes and the tuning of bowls produce distinct frequencies and healing vibrations which correlate to each of the chakras. The tones and sounds that you hear from a singing bowl reach blockages in your body, rebalancing areas that are ‘out of tune’, helping you feel calmer and more connected.
Time to Use Your Tibetan Singing Bowl
We hope this article has inspired you to discover the beautiful sounds and therapeutic benefits of Tibetan singing bowls for yourself.
Try your own singing bowl, and you’ll start bringing the magic of vibrational healing into your life (or gift it to a loved one!).
Discover our Tribe Tibetan singing bowls, handcrafted with care in the traditional Himalayan way. The size of this bowl fits in the hand and tucks away easily. The sound is peaceful and meditative, perfect for times when you just want to chill out