Have you ever wondered what tone or frequency a singing bowl emits when played? In this post, we explain everything you need to know about singing bowl tones, notes, frequencies. Let's get started!
Tibetan singing bowls are unique for several reasons but one of their most outstanding qualities is the special and calming sounds they emit when played. Singing bowl sounds can be categorized in several different ways and can be measured and sorted by their frequencies, notes and octaves. Antique singing bowls, newly manufactured metal bowls and crystal bowls all possess different frequencies and tones due to their size, weight and composition.
This guide includes answers to the following questions:
- How do singing bowls create sound?
- What are singing bowl frequencies?
- What is singing bowl resonance and harmony?
- Can singing bowls produce different octaves?
- Can singing bowls produce different notes?
- How do singing bowl frequencies differ between crystal and metal singing bowls?
- How do different frequencies affect us?
- Why would you want to know the frequency or tone of your singing bowl?
- How can you measure the sound of your singing bowl?
- Apps to Measure Sound Frequency
How Do Singing Bowls Create Sound?
All musical instruments, including Tibetan singing bowls, rely on friction and vibration to create the sound we hear. According to Acoustics.org, singing bowls are idiophones. An idiophone is an instrument that “produces sound primarily by physical vibrations of the actual instrument.” In other words, the vibration of the bowl as it is being played is what produces sound. As you strike the bowl or rub the rim with a mallet, the friction that results is what creates the vibrations. We can both hear, and feel, these vibrations. The sounds produced by singing bowls can contain multiple harmonics or dominant tones, which we will discuss below.
For a more detailed discussion explaining how singing bowls create sound, see our blog post on the science of singing bowls.
What are Singing Bowl Frequencies?
Singing bowls can produce several different frequencies. ‘Frequency’ is the number of cycles, or “speed”, of vibrations undergone during one unit of time. Sometimes, frequency is referred to as “pitch.” To determine the frequency of a singing bowl, you must measure the vibration of the bowl while it is being played. Frequency is typically expressed in the unit Hertz (Hz). For a little perspective, the range of human hearing is from about 20 to 20,000 Hz according to Scientific American. Singing bowls have a frequency range anywhere between 110 Hz and 660 Hz but can reach up to the 800s or even 900s.
Generally, Hz readings for singing bowls are approximate due to the complexity of their sounds and changing frequencies as they switch between different tones and octaves. The areas of the singing bowl that are being played also change the measured frequency. A tap high on the side wall will create different waves than a low tap on the side wall. Playing the lip of the singing bowl will create different vibrations than playing the side of the bowl. Furthermore, the physical environment can also complicate a frequency reading because extreme temperatures can affect the reading.
Because of these circumstances, assigning a singing bowl a completely accurate static frequency is pretty difficult. However, there are a few general guides when it comes to identifying a singing bowl’s frequency. For example, a bowl that creates slow vibrations will have a low frequency/pitch. A bowl that has faster vibration cycles will have a higher frequency/pitch.
The frequency of a singing bowl can be influenced by several factors which include: the bowl’s diameter, density, shape, what it is made of and the thickness of its sides. There are a few general rules when it comes to guessing a singing bowl’s frequency when it comes to the previously mentioned factors. For example, the larger the bowl’s diameter, the deeper the pitch will be. Additionally, the thicker the bowl is, the higher the pitch will be.
What is Singing Bowl Resonance and Harmony?
Source: Shanti Bowl
As you rub the rim of the bowl, the continued friction keeps the sound going, which is known as ‘resonance’. Resonance is the sound that carries even after the player ceases contact between the singing bowl and the mallet. It is the built up sound of many trips around the lip of your singing bowl with your mallet. A singing bowl’s resonance is pretty complex because it comes to be via a relationship between three factors: vibrational frequencies, amplitude and time. Resonance can be experienced with almost any bowl. However, larger singing bowls, like Jambati bowls, experience resonance most easily.
Different harmonies, or chords, however, cannot be produced by every singing bowl. Once struck, a singing bowl produces a chord. A chord is a group of notes sounded together, while the harmony is the combination of different chords played together. Many bowls are tuned to a specific chord, like the flatted fifth interval. Crystal bowls, on the other hand, generally produce a third interval harmonic. Depending on the chord produced by the singing bowl, you will produce different layers of overtones. Generally, singing bowls can produce the following overtones: the fundamental, the female overtone and a mid-tone.
The fundamental tone of a singing bowl is its lower, or deeper, tone. The fundamental is the sound made when rubbing a leather mallet around the outside wall of the bowl. A singing bowl’s female overtone is its highest tone. The female overtone can be heard when rubbing a wooden mallet along the bowl’s outside lip. Medium and large size bowls have a mid-tone. This mid-tone is created once the bowl has been warmed up and follows after the female overtone is played. Small bowls, on the other hand, generally do not have a mid-tone. These harmonics make up the differing, yet beautiful sounds of Tibetan singing bowls.
Can Singing Bowls Produce Different Notes?
Singing bowls can be associated with different notes. There are seven notes belonging to the C major scale, which is the scale most singing bowl practitioners work with. These seven notes are: C, D, E, F, G, A and B.
Singing bowls, specifically crystal singing bowls, can be tuned to one of these specific notes. One might want to purchase a singing bowl that plays one specific note, either for personal preference, when purchasing more than one singing bowl or to play it with Western instruments. However, there is one more important reason why singing bowls with specific notes might interest you: they correspond with the seven major chakras! Each of the seven major chakras correspond with the seven notes on the C major scale. Using these singing bowls, you can meditate and realign or heal your chakras. To read more about the connection between singing bowls and chakras, check out our complete guide on chakra notes and singing bowls.
Source: Thai Crystal Lover
Can Singing Bowls Produce Different Octaves?
The distance between two notes is one octave, as shown in the below example using the keys of a piano:
Just as singing bowls can produce different notes, they can also play different octaves. An octave is a musical interval, or the distance between two notes. Frequency measures pitch, but an octave identifies the pitch. Octave and pitch increase concurrently; as the octave increases, the pitch gets higher. In Western music, there are many octaves, but, with singing bowls, you will generally only hear the third, fourth or fifth octave. The octave you hear generally depends on the size of the bowl or its composition (for example, metal versus crystal).
The third octave is generally the lowest octave a singing bowl can have. The fourth octave is in the middle, while the fifth octave is generally the highest octave of notes found when playing a singing bowl. Occasionally, sellers will describe singing bowls according to what octave the singing bowl plays.
How Do Singing Bowl Frequencies Differ Between Crystal and Metal Singing Bowls?
Source: Shanti Bowl
Overall, crystal singing bowls are known to produce clearer, smoother and steadier frequencies. Metal singing bowls tend to have rich and full competing overtones, known as the fundamental, female overtone and mid-tone. These three tones appear at different times when playing a metal singing bowl. On the other hand, crystal singing bowls produce one smooth, steady note. And just as metal singing bowls can create different frequencies, so do crystal bowls.
Crystal singing bowls are not manufactured to create a certain frequency or note but they do vary depending on what kind of crystal bowl is being played. Frosted crystal bowls, for example, which have very thick walls, lead to a lot of fast vibration and therefore a high pitch as well as a high amplitude (a sound’s loudness). Additionally, a thicker bowl will also produce a higher note. A clear bowl, on the other hand, will possess a lower pitch and lower octave than a frosted bowl of the same size.
How Do Different Frequencies Affect Us?
One of the reasons singing bowls are considered especially healing instruments is due to their unique frequencies.
According to many singing bowl practitioners and sound therapists, our brains and bodies operate on specific waves, or frequencies. These waves are known as Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta and Gamma. The vibrations created when playing a singing bowl are similar to the frequencies of the brain’s alpha waves. Playing singing bowls, and therefore creating these frequencies, can entrain the brain, allowing it to relax and become more focused as it transitions to a theta wave state. While in a theta wave state, you will experience a greater feeling of relaxation, openness and creative thoughts. These different frequencies, which we can create by playing a singing bowl, can affect us in very powerful and beneficial ways.
Using singing bowls to create these frequencies is a practice known as vibrational healing or sound healing. Sound healing utilizes instruments like singing bowls or tuning forks or gongs, to entrain the brain and soothe the body. According to Eryn Johnson, a guest writer for Zenned Out, this type of vibration healing has the following benefits:
- Allows you to access to a deeper state of meditation
- Provides physical pain relief
- Lowers stress and anxiety
- Stabilizes extreme moods and mood swings
- Improves sleep
- Improves creativity
- Creates clarity
Any type of frequency can help alleviate general pain and emotional issues as well as improve your overall mindset. However, some practitioners point to specific frequencies which can target and heal specific problems. According to The Daily Meditation, when the following frequencies are played they can affect these organs, systems and bodily ailments:
- 586 Hz - Circulation and Sexuality
- 492 Hz - Adrenals and Thyroid
- 330 Hz - Kidney
- 198 Hz - Liver
- 352 Hz - Bladder
- 281.6 Hz - Small Intestine
- 220 Hz - Lungs
- 176 Hz - Colon
- 330 Hz - Gallbladder
- 117.3 Hz - Pancreas
- 110 Hz - Stomach
- 492 Hz - Spleen
While we do not suggest replacing traditional treatment for serious illnesses with sound healing, we do encourage sound healing as an additional treatment for any type of disease and sickness. Adding sound healing to pre-existing treatments can help lessen the stress and pain caused by modern treatments and medicines by helping you achieve greater states of relaxation and peace.
Before partaking in a sound healing session, speak with a healthcare professional. You might also want to read our blog post about the Dangers of Singing Bowls to ensure singing bowl healing is right for you.
For a more detailed discussion of sound healing or therapy, see our complete guide to sound therapy.
Why Would You Want to Know the Frequency or Tone of Your Singing Bowl?
There are a few reasons why one might want to know the frequency emitted by their singing bowl.
Although traditionally singing bowls were not created with their frequencies, tones or notes in mind, many find it important that they know this information about their singing bowl. For example, if you are wishing to purchase another singing bowl, knowing the frequency of your current bowl can help you add another bowl to your collection that pairs nicely with the bowl(s) you already have.
Another reason to measure the frequency of your singing bowl is if you play it with Western instruments. Western instruments are tuned to specific scales and are manufactured to emit specific frequencies. Even though singing bowls are not manufactured in a similar way, knowing the frequency of your bowl will allow you to mix and match instruments that flow nicely together.
How Can You Measure the Sound of Your Singing Bowl?
In order to determine the frequency of your bowl, you will need a frequency counter or a spectrum analyzer. Sound wave frequency meters/counters use a microphone to convert sound waves into electrical signals. The peaks and valleys of the sound waves are counted in order to determine the frequency. These devices do not need to be anything fancy nor will you need to go to your local music store. In fact, there is an app for that!
Several sound frequency measuring apps are available today on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Although your smartphone’s microphone is sufficient for measuring singing bowl frequencies, researchers have found that using these apps in conjunction with external, calibrated microphones greatly improves the overall accuracy and precision of these apps.
Measuring the frequency of your singing bowl is as simple as downloading a free app, playing your singing bowl and reading the results on a graph. To measure the frequency, you must isolate it. To do this, glide your mallet around the singing bowl, letting the sound build. Once the sound peaks and starts to decay, check the reading on your app. This number should present a “snapshot” of the bowl’s frequency. Assigning “the most accurate pitch possible” to a singing bowl is pretty difficult and almost impossible. Your singing bowl generates multiple frequencies throughout the time it is being played. However, with this method, you will get a snapshot of the moving waves, which translates to an average frequency reading.
By compiling reviews and online research, we have found the Top 5 Free Sound Meter apps available today. These sound analyzing apps can be used to measure the frequency of your singing bowl.
Apps to Measure Sound Frequency
Source: Google Play Store
Spectroid is an app, developed by Carl Reinke, that is available on the Google Play Store. With over one million installs, this app has an average rating of 4.6 stars based on 7,000+ reviews. What gives Spectroid its many positive reviews is its easy to read interface and accurate measurements. Spectroid is a real-time audio spectrum analyzer that will be able to give you the frequency/pitch, as well as the sound’s amplitude, or strength of the sound wave (measured in dB). By using this app while playing your singing bowl, you will be able to measure the bowl’s frequency.
Source: Apple App Store
The Audio Spectrum Analyzer dB RTA app for the Apple App Store is our top pick for iOS users. This app is targeted towards sound and music professionals but it is an accurate spectrum analyzer that is equally suitable for amateurs. This real-time analyzer is a precise sound meter which measures both frequency/pitch and strength. With nearly 2,000 ratings giving it 4.6 stars, this is the highest rated spectrum analyzer app in the Apple App store! Some reviews complain of the frequent pop-up ads to download the premium version; however, if you are only using the app to measure the frequency of a singing bowl every now and then, this app should suit your needs quite well!
Source: Google Play Store
The next app on our list is another one available on the Google Play Store. Sound Spectrum Analyzer, developed by PC Mehanik, has over half-a-million installs and a 4.4 star rating. This app detects the frequency spectrum in real-time. It is a simple app with easy to read results and many useful features not found in other apps. This is a great option for measuring the frequency of your singing bowl(s).
Source: Apple App Store
Next, we have the Sound Spectrum Analysis app by Dmitry Kharutskiy on the Apple App Store. This is a less popular option available on the App Store, possibly due to its less user-friendly interface; however, it will get the job done! Like the other apps on this list, it is capable of analyzing any sound spectrum in real-time with your phone’s built-in microphone.
Source: Apple App Store
Our last free app for measuring your singing bowl’s frequency is SpectrumView by Oxford Wave Research Ltd., which is available to download via the Apple App Store. This high-quality, real-time spectrum analyzer measures both frequency/pitch and strength. This app also includes many different features, including Soundcloud and Playback support, which could come in handy if you need to save audio recordings of your singing bowl(s).
Understanding the differences and complexities of singing bowl frequencies, notes and harmonics can be difficult, especially if you do not have a particularly strong musical background. However, do not let terminology like “Hertz,” “perfect pitch” or “interval” deter you from investing in a singing bowl. Traditionally, singing bowls were not manufactured with these concepts in mind.
What matters most when it comes to selecting a singing bowl is finding one that connects with your spiritual self. Your physical and spiritual connection to the bowl is what allows its frequencies to heal and relax you.