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How to Play Your Singing Bowl: Various Techniques

There are various techniques to play your Himalayan singing bowl. This post will focus  on the technical aspects of playing the bowls and is intended to be for beginners who have just purchased their first singing bowl.

Thonla playing large Tibetan singing bowl

1. Rubbing the Rim technique

This is the most basic way of playing any singing bowl. It involves rubbing the playing mallet around the singing bowl to produce sound. You can meditate on the sound it produces by noticing the volume, range of notes produced, sustain of the notes produced and its eventual decay.

  • Place the singing bowl on the palm of your hand. Make sure your fingers do not cover the circumference of the bowl as they will dampen the vibrations. Smaller bowls can be placed on the centre of your flat palm
  • Hold the mallet with the felt side pointing down and touching the rim of the bowl. I suggest that you hold the mallet with the same grip as you would normally hold a pen
  • Gently rub the outer surface of the rim in a clockwise direction. This should involve your entire arm as opposed to just the wrist. For beginners, you can also tap the bowl gently before rubbing the rim.
  • Note that the bowl will start resonating at its natural frequency and you might also get harsh sounds from the mallet striking against the rim as your rub the rim. We recommend that you apply pressure and vary your speed (go slower). As you continue to practice, you should be able to get cleaner sounds
  • If you would like to get a higher 'female' sound, you can rub the bowl with the wooden end of the mallet.

2. Striking the Bowl with a Mallet

Self explanatory really. You can play the bowl by simply striking with various kinds of mallets, especially during sound therapy and meditate on the volume and range of sounds produced. You can strike 1-2 inches below the rim. If using a mallet, we would recommend an upward motion once you strike the bowl. This will produce a warm and clean sound, whilst allowing the bowl to produce its range of notes naturally.

3. Striking the Bowl with a Fist

This is effective for larger bowl (say 20 cms and over). Simply the hold the bowl with one. Next, make a fist and strike the bowl close to the rim with the pinky end of your fist. Allow the bowl to ring out and notice the sound that the bowl produces. The range of notes produced will also vary from what you get with a wooden or felt ball mallet.

4. Wah-wah

Your bowl can also produce a 'wah-wah' sound. This involves opening and closing your mouth slightly to modulate the sound as the sound waves enter and bounce of. The simplest way to do this is as follows:

  • Bring the singing bowl to face level
  • Tap the bowl on the rim with a mallet on the side directly opposite to your mouth
  • Open and close your mouth while trying to emulate the sound 'wah-wah'. Changing the size of your mouth allows you to produce different sounds with your bowl

4. Singing Bowl with Water and 'Dolphin Song'

Fill a bowl with water to about a quarter or half of its level. Next rub the bowl to see the effect its vibrations have on the water. We have a few videos available in our post Healing Vibrations and Singing Bowls.

Singing bowls can also produce an interesting 'dolphin song' when filled slightly with water. This is again fairly straightforward but takes a lot of practice.

  • Fill the singing bowl with water to half or 3/4 of an inch from the base
  • Strike the bowl with your mallet or rub the rim
  • Let the sound ring clear. Once this happens, stop playing and swirl the water inside.  This will give you the desired effect.

Good luck and happy playing.