Shanti Bowl

How to Play a Tibetan Singing Bowl

Many of our customers who are new to singing bowls come to us with questions about how to play their bowl. Playing a Tibetan singing bowl for the first time can be challenging, but with a little practice, it can be easy, fun and rewarding!

There are two ways to play a singing bowl. The first is to strike the side of the bowl with a mallet. The second is to rub the rim of the bowl with a mallet. In this blog post we explain each method more thoroughly as well as some advanced techniques you can also explore once you become more familiar with playing singing bowls.

Method 1: Striking

Striking is arguably the easiest way to play a signing bowl. This is a great introduction to playing the bowl and is suitable for all ages.

  1. Simply hold the bowl in the palm of your non-dominant hand, and the mallet in your dominant hand.
  2. Hold the mallet like a baton and lightly strike the bowl with the padded side of the mallet on the bowl’s mid-exterior wall.
  3. Striking the bowl will produce a pleasant, rich tone.
  4. We recommend striking the bowl once and letting the sound and vibrations fully dissipate before striking again.

Method 2: Rimming

This method can be more challenging but can easily be mastered with practice. If it is your first time attempting to play a singing bowl, anticipate practicing a few times before being able to master this technique. Patience is key!

  1. Begin in a relaxed seated position with a straight spine while maintaining a natural breath.
  2. Hold the bowl in the palm of your non-dominant hand, and the mallet in your dominant hand.
  3. This time, grip the mallet in the center with your forefinger and thumb like a pen with the padded end of the mallet gently resting in the web between the thumb and forefinger.
  4. Lightly strike the bowl on the mid-exterior wall to ‘warm-up’ the bowl and before the vibrations dissipate, immediately position the mallet vertically near the rim of the bowl and begin circling the rim in a clockwise motion. It is important to start circling the rim as soon as you make contact with it to start the singing. If you place the mallet against the rim without moving it, the initial sound from striking will be dampened and you will have difficulty making the bowl sing.
  5. Circle the bowl at least five times using a full-arm movement until you begin to hear the female overtone build. The circling motion is similar to stirring a pot and it’s important to keep the mallet vertical.
  6. As the female overtone builds you can slow your speed and make firmer contact between the mallet and rim. As you continue, the female overtone will sound sweet and clear. It’s important to continue to apply pressure as the friction between the mallet and bowl produces vibrations which result in the singing sound.

You may also start circling the rim without first striking the bowl, however we find the vibrations produced by initially striking the bowl make it much easier to play for beginners. As you get the hang of it, you can experiment with different techniques.

Breaking in Your Mallet

When you receive your new Tibetan singing bowl, it comes with a mallet made of Himalayan hardwood with a padded surface. When you play your bowl with the rimming method, the friction of the mallet produces vibrations which result in sound. To start, the mallet will be smooth on both ends, but as you use it, it will begin to develop ‘micro-grooves’ which help grip the rim of the bowl better. We generally recommend playing your bowl with a new mallet for about five minutes to sufficiently break in the mallet. As you continue to use the mallet, you will notice the bowl has improved sound and is easier to play.

Video Demonstration

For a visual instruction on how to play a singing bowl, please see our video below. Like our video, you can place the bowl on a flat surface like a tabletop, cushion or carpet to play. Alternatively, you can also rest the bowl in the palm of your hand or on your fingertips as per the rimming instructions above. Holding the bowl can be easier and also feels amazing because you can feel the resonance from the bowl as it sings.

Advanced Techniques

Water Bowl Sounds

Adding a small amount of water to the bowl produces a very special sound reminiscent of dolphins singing!

  1. Add about ¾ cup of water to the bowl being careful to not get any water on the rim or outside of the bowl.
  2. Play the bowl using the rimming method outlines above.
  3. Move the mallet away from the rim and let the bowl continue to sing.
  4. Tilt the bowl slightly so the water moves towards the rim. Continue tilting the bowl until the water begins to swirl.
  5. Afterwards be sure to empty the bowl and dry thoroughly.

Try this method with different amounts of water to see the different effects. Generally the least amount of water produces the most beautiful sound but the amount needed can vary depending on the size of the singing bowl.

Rimming with a Padded Mallet

You can also circle the bowl with the padded side of the mallet for a different sound. We love the sound of a singing bowl when played with the padded side of the mallet, but it can be more challenging. Follow the rimming method outlined above but hold the mallet with the padded side facing down and use a lighter pressure when circling the rim. This method will produce a more of a bass tone that is very pleasant and relaxing.

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