Shanti Bowl

My Account

Blog

Tongue Drums: Complete Guide (Updated 2020)

Tongue Drums: Complete Guide (Updated 2020)

In this article, we reveal everything you need to know about tongue drums, including their history, how they work, and how to play them. Let's get started!

Introduction

Music is one of the oldest art forms on our planet. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors fashioned instruments out of logs, bamboo, sticks and even animal bones. Today, we are still being creative and finding new ways to make beautiful melodies. One example of a recently developed instrument is the tongue drum. Tongue drums are percussion instruments made from propane cylinders and have become increasingly popular since their creation in the late 2000s due to their relaxing sounds, ease of playing, portability and their unique UFO-like appearance. There is also another version of the tongue drum made from wood. These tongue drums resemble long, rectangular boxes. Tongue drums are charming instruments which can be played by anyone and are found in many different environments, from a therapist's office to a classroom to a meditation session. If you are new to tongue drums, we have created this ultimate guide discussing and exploring the ever-expanding world of tongue drums and their peaceful notes. 


Source: 
Wikipedia 

In this guide, you will learn the following:

  • What are tongue drums? 
    • The history of tongue drums 
    • How do tongue drums sound? 
  • Are there different kinds of tongue drums? 
  • What are the different uses of tongue drums? 
  • Where can tongue drums be purchased?
    • How much, on average, do tongue drums cost? 
  • How to choose the right tongue drum
  • How to care for your tongue drum
  • How are tongue drums played? 
    • Exercises for beginners 
    • Advanced playing
    • Where to find drumming patterns and sheet music for tongue drums 

What are Tongue Drums?

The tongue drum, also referred to as a steel tongue drum, a tank drum, or a hank drum, is a relatively new instrument belonging to the idiophone family of percussion instruments. An idiophone is an instrument that produces sound via the vibration of the instrument itself. Tongue drums are similar to, and were inspired by, other percussion instruments like the hang drum, slit drum, whale drum and tambiro. Today, however, they are well-known in their own right as they have become very popular for meditation music, yoga practice and sound therapy. The drums, which look a bit like UFOs, are not from another planet, but the music they can create is otherworldly! Tongue drums are an excellent instrument for anyone wishing to get creative, jam, enjoy beautiful melodies and relax. They can be enjoyed by anyone at nearly any age. 

The History of Tongue Drums

Idiophones are one of the oldest types of musical instruments based on archaeological finds. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors throughout Africa, Southeast Asia and Oceania carved or constructed these instruments out of bamboo or wood. These “slit drums” look like a box and have one or more slits on the top. Two examples of this type of instrument are the African log drum and the Aztec teponaztli drum, the oldest ancestors of the tongue drum. 

 
The African slit drum and the Aztec Teponaztli. 
Sources: Wikipedia and Wikipedia

So, while some tongue drums of today are handcrafted from various types of wood, the most popular tongue drums on the market are made from steel or metal alloys. In this way, tongue drums are more similar to Caribbean steel drums, hang drums, whale drums and Felle Vega’s tambiro. In fact, it is the tambiro and whale drum that inspired tongue drum inventor Dennis Havlena to use an empty 20-pound propane tank to construct his version of a drum that sounds similar to a hang drum. 

 

A tambiro, whale drum, hang drum and Caribbean steel drum. 

In 2007, Havlena cut the bottom of a propane tank off and then created a circular cross pattern on the bottom where he cut the “tongues” out in a radial fashion. Depending on the manufacturer, there are generally seven to ten tongues, though there are models which boast eleven to thirteen tongues. The bottom of the tank then becomes the top side of a new instrument. This is how Havlena created the instrument he named the "Hank Drum", named from a propane tank that was repurposed as a drum inspired by the tone layout of a hang drum. In contrast to rare and expensive hang drums, steel tongue drums are smaller, more portable and more accessible to a wider array of people (hang drums are extremely hard to find and usually cost thousands of dollars). 

Inventor of the tongue drum, Dennis Havlena. Source: Odd Music

The tongues, of course, are where the tongue drum gets its name, but what do the tongues do exactly? In a way, the tongues are like the individual strings of a guitar or the keys on a piano. They are what allows the instrument to create rhythms or melodies. Each tongue is tuned to a specific note. The weight, width and length of the tongue determines the sound and pitch of the note. To play a note, you must hit a tongue with your fingers, hands or a mallet. The drum itself amplifies the sound and is released through the slits of the tongues. When you hit more than one tongue at a time, you create a chord. By mixing and matching the notes and chords on the steel tongue drum, you can create beautifully sounding melodies. The best part is, you need little to no musical instrument experience or knowledge to make your steel tongue drum sound good! This is because of the special way steel tongue drums are tuned. 

How do Tongue Drums Sound?

So, how can an instrument be described as “so easy anyone can play it”, as some have described tongue drums? The usual pentatonic scale used with steel tongue drums makes that so! The pentatonic scale is a musical scale with five notes per octave. A scale is “a series of notes differing in pitch according to a specific scheme.” With the pentatonic scale, each note within the octave pairs well together and you can play them in any order to create a pleasing melody. In other words, there is no bad note or chord that can be produced. Each note will seamlessly flow together in harmony, making it a very easy instrument to pick up and start playing, even with zero musical theory knowledge or experience playing an instrument. 

It is important to note that tongue drums can also be made to have different scales. The most popular scales for tongue drums, in addition to the pentatonic scale, are: the diatonic scale, the chromatic scale, minor or major scales of all notes or Akebono. Tongue drums tuned to the diatonic scale have a scale that includes five whole steps with two half steps (semitones) in each octave. A chromatic scale is a twelve-tone scale with twelve pitches. The Akebono scale is a musical scale used in traditional Japanese music and is most similar to the diatonic scale. Although these scales involve more notes, the instrument does not become increasingly more complicated or harder to play. Instead, it gives the drum a wider array of new note combinations.

Generally speaking, the manufacturer will indicate which scale the drum is tuned to. These tunings tend to be static; however, if you do possess some understanding of music theory and can work a chromatic electronic tuner, you also have the option of purchasing a tuneable tongue drum. Tuneable tongue drums allow the player to change the scale of the instrument. This is often done so by adding weights, usually neodymium magnets, beneath the tongues. Having a tuneable tongue drum, or even a double-sided tongue drum, gives you a wider range of notes to play and create with. 

Some tongue drums are also associated with a specific pitch, or the degree of highness or lowness of a tone. Most frequently if a tongue drum has a specific pitch, the drum will be manufactured to possess a 432 Hz frequency, also known as the Verdi pitch. The 432 Hz frequency is said to be the vibrational frequency of the universe. Tongue drums with this pitch are normally tuned to the C Major scale. Other common pitches you might find with tongue drums are 440 Hz and 444 Hz. These pitches can mean different things for the musician and we will elaborate on this later on. 

Different manufacturers and artisans premake tongue drums tuned to any scale or pitch they wish. However, many of these manufacturers and artisans are happy to work with customers to tune drums to the wishes of the musician. 

Are There Different Kinds of Tongue Drums?

There are a few different types of tongue drums which differ due to what they are made out of. They can be made from metal, steel, alloy steel or wood. Metal, steel and alloy steel drums are the most similar in sound, size and shape. Metal tongue drums are often sealed with corrosion-resistant coatings that protect the drum from getting scratched. Metal drums are also more customizable, as they can be painted different colors and have different designs etched into them.

On the other hand, wooden tongue drums usually have a more natural appearance and are shaped like a box rather than a round circle. They can be made from many different types of wood, such as red elm, spruce, canarywood, mahogany, cedar and more. Artisans tend not to paint the wood, but instead seal the drum with natural oils and beeswax to protect and show the natural beauty of the wood used. When choosing which kind of tongue drum you would like, try listening to different YouTube videos and choose the one that sounds most appealing to you. Whether it is steel or wood, they will all sound beautiful. 

 

A decorative steel tongue drum and a wooden tongue drum. 

What are the Different Uses of Tongue Drums?

There are many different situations and reasons why one might want to play a tongue drum. Not only is it a great instrument, but it is also a tool for finding inner peace. Whether you are headed to a jam session with friends or a therapy session with a healthcare professional, it is possible you will encounter the soothing, mystical tones of a steel tongue drum.

Tongue drums have gained such popularity largely due to their calming, peaceful notes. Their soft melodies have branded them as a wellness instrument. As such, tongue drums are great musical companions to meditation practice. Their pleasant and relaxing sounds create a calming environment. The combination of meditation and tongue drums can be restorative. While playing the drum, you should be able to regulate your breathing to the rich melody you are playing. As you play with intention, you are able to breathe with intention as well.

The sounds also provide focal points for your attention, allowing you to concentrate as your mind and body relaxes, losing yourself within the tones of the drum. As you meditate and play, feel free to chant a mantra or harmonize with your voice. This method of meditation can bring you peace and enlightenment as you get to know yourself and the world around you better. If you are interested in meditating with tongue drum music before you invest in your own drum, there is lots of free tongue drum music available on the internet. This two-hour meditation video from Greenred Productions on YouTube is a great introduction to the relaxing melodies tongue drums can provide. 

Tongue Drum Music from Greenred Productions

Another way to cleanse the mind and spirit with tongue drums is to incorporate them with yoga practice. Listening to tongue drums while doing yoga is healing for your mental, physical and spiritual health. Like with meditation, adding a tongue drum to your yoga practice helps improve intentional breath and gives you a focal point for your attention. 

Another way to use tongue drums is with chakra cleansing. Chakra cleansing is very popular with instruments like Tibetan singing bowls, tuning forks and now with tongue drums. Not all tongue drums are perfect for chakra cleansing, however. Most of the time, people will purchase a special chakra tongue drum that has been designed with chakra healing and cleansing in mind. To use a tongue drum to cleanse your chakras, you should play the note associated with each of the main chakras. Please keep in mind that some chakras are said to have two notes, so different scales may serve the same purpose. Here are the chakras and their corresponding notes: 

  • Root Chakra - C
  • Sacral Chakra - C# or D
  • Solar plexus Chakra - D# or E
  • Heart Chakra - F or F#
  • Throat Chakra - G or G#
  • Third eye Chakra - A or A#
  • Crown Chakra - B 

To cleanse the chakras with a tongue drum, simply start by playing the C note of your drum and begin to meditate and focus on the location and wellbeing of your root chakra. Do this for each of the chakras in order from the lowest to the highest chakra. 

Another way to use a tongue drum is through the field of music therapy. Music therapy and sound baths are practices that feel both ancient and modern at the same time. Sound baths for instance, while their exact origins are unknown, have been used since ancient times across many different cultures. Meanwhile, scientists and researchers have developed a greater understanding of how sound and vibration can enhance our lives. Certain vibrations can evoke physical and emotional responses. For example, some vibrations “entrain” the brain. The frequency of the instrument and our brainwaves can synchronize, resulting in greater focus and relaxation. 

There are two types of music therapy: receptive music therapy and active music therapy. In receptive music therapy, the tongue drum will be played for the patient. As the patient listens, they may be asked to meditate, focus on something specific or close their eyes. This type of therapy will help with increasing overall mood and reducing stress, anxiety and pain while encouraging relaxation. Active music therapy, on the other hand, involves the client playing the tongue drum. This can also help with relaxation, but with the added bonus of patient participation. For this reason, tongue drums can also be incorporated into other types of therapy. For example, occupational therapists and child behavioral therapists may find tongue drums to be beneficial with their practice. Having the client play the tongue drum can help them improve coordination, overcome physical difficulties, promote self-expression and instill a greater level of confidence in their abilities. Furthermore, the soothing sounds of tongue drums make them an excellent choice for children and adults with special needs, like those with autism, who are sensitive to loud or abrupt sounds.  

Lastly, tongue drums can be used for creating new musical compositions and are a great addition to a friendly jam session or drum circles. As stated previously, the complimentary scale belonging to tongue drums ensures that no “bad” note can be played! This makes them a great instrument for getting creative, making new beats and having a great time. 

Where Can Tongue Drums be Purchased?

Today, tongue drums can be found and purchased from a great number of different places. If wishing to pick out a tongue drum in person, it is possible that your local music store either carries or can order tongue drums you are interested in checking out. Not all music shops will carry tongue drums, but if you can find a store that specializes in percussion instruments, it is likely they will have a few in stock. Another way to pick out a tongue drum in person is to connect with a nearby artisan who makes tongue drums. Many artisans and craftsmen who sell their tongue drums online are also open to visitors or appointments for those wishing to buy a tongue drum.

Lastly, of course, you have the option of buying a tongue drum from your own home whilst online shopping. Though with this method you cannot play the tongue drum before buying it, most manufacturers and craftsmen include sound clips and detailed descriptions of the tongue drums they sell so that the buyer can be as informed as possible before purchasing. You can always order directly through a manufacturer’s or artisan’s website or through a third party marketplace. If you are open to purchasing a second-hand drum, those can also be purchased through websites like Craigslist.

How Much, on Average, Do Tongue Drums Cost?

Tongue drums rose in popularity due to their affordable price tag compared to another instrument called the hang drum. Hang drums have a very similar sound to tongue drums but are often larger, louder, more expensive and harder to find. While a hang drum will cost thousands of dollars, you can find a miniature steel tongue drum for under $100 USD. However, most decent-sized and high quality drums will be closer to $200 or $300 USD, unless you find a seller that generously offers them at a lower price. Generally, good quality tongue drums do not cost more than $800 USD. 

How to Choose The Right Tongue Drum

When choosing the right tongue drum for you, there are several things to consider. For starters, scale is an important feature to keep in mind when selecting the right tongue drum for you and your needs as the scale determines the “feel” or “emotion” the instrument has when played. As discussed earlier, tongue drums are available in the following popular scales: pentatonic, diatonic, chromatic, C major, E minor or Akebono. However, there are even more options than those so it is important to do your research before deciding on which scale you prefer. There are a few general rules for judging scales:

  • Major scales are generally thought to be more uplifting and happy. For example, a C major scale is very cheerful. 
  • On the other hand, minor/sharp scales are seen as darker, sad or pensive. For example, a C sharp scale is considered very melancholic. 
  • The Akebono scale originates from Japan and is known to have a more meditative or zen tone

If you have a specific mood or emotion you would like to associate with your tongue drum, you could use the above guides to help you choose the right drum. If you do not, try listening to different scales being played in YouTube videos. With this method, choose a scale that resonates with you. If you are stuck between different scales and cannot choose just one, perhaps you should purchase a tuneable or double-sided tongue drum. Some tuneable tongue drums can play up to six scales through the use of powerful magnets. These drums can switch between scales in a matter of seconds, making them a great choice for anyone who likes to experiment with sound and different tunings. If purchasing a tuneable tongue drum, it is important that you also purchase an electronic tuner, which will help you with getting the correct notes.

Another characteristic of tongue drums you might want to consider is their pitch, or frequency. Standard tunings include 432 Hz, 440 Hz and 444 Hz. If desiring calming or grounding notes, the lower pitch, 432 Hz, would meet your needs. 440 Hz is a standard tuning for musicians, so it is the best choice if you are planning to play your drum with other instruments. Lastly, there is the higher pitch, 444 Hz. This pitch is uplifting and useful for releasing tension. 

Another thing to consider when buying a tongue drum is aesthetic. Many tongue drums come in different bright colors, antique patinas and even have beautiful and unique etched designs on the tops of the drums. Sometimes the tongues are even shaped and styled to make images, like lotus flowers. Other drums have decorated sides with rope. This can make drums easier to hold but it also makes them beautiful to look at, even when not in use. 

Lastly, you should consider who you are buying the tongue drum for when selecting the right one. If you are a beginner or purchasing one for a beginner, a simple drum with fewer notes is a great option! If purchasing a drum for a child, a small 5 to 8-inch drum should be a perfect fit. Drums can be as small as 5 inches in diameter and as large as 20 inches, so it is important to note the size of your drum before purchasing it. Weight is another consideration to keep in mind, especially when purchasing for a child. Lightweight drums are good for children and musicians who plan to travel and carry their drum often. 

How to Care for Your Tongue Drum

Caring for your tongue drum is easy! Simple precautions and being mindful of what your tongue drum can and cannot do goes a long way. When playing your tongue drum, keep the following recommendations in mind:

  • Use appropriate force with either your palm or a mallet. 
  • When playing, your wrist should provide the motion, not your whole arm or elbow. 
  • Do not play the middle of the tongue with your fingers. Instead, focus on the sides and bottom half of the tongue. 
  • Avoid wearing rings or bracelets while playing. 

When you are not playing your tongue drum, store it in a safe and dry location indoors. Tongue drums should not be left outside or exposed to the elements. When transporting your tongue drum, we strongly encourage using a padded protective carrying case. Using the case will prevent the tongue drum from being scratched or accidentally dropped. If an issue develops with your tongue drum, you should identify the issue so that you may identify the source of the problem. For example, if a buzzing sound begins to occur, it is possible that debris has been lodged in between the groves.

To clear out the slits, simply use a thick piece of paper to clean in between the tongue and the rest of the drum. If your drum falls out of tune or is no longer able to be tuned, a few things might have occurred. If you dropped your drum recently, it might have chipped, cracked or become dented, which would result in the drum losing its tuning. If this is the case, you may be able to send the drum back to the manufacturer for repairs or may need to replace the drum with a new one. Another reason that causes drums to go out of tune is improper use by playing too hard. Too much force can dent, bend or warp the tongues. Finally, to clean your tongue drum, simply dust with a soft or microfiber cloth. 

How are Tongue Drums Played?

Tongue drums are played either with your hands or with mallets/sticks. There are pros and cons to both methods of playing. When playing with mallets or sticks, the mallets rebound off the drum easily, resulting in a clearer, deeper, more resonant sound. Perhaps the most notable difference when playing with mallets is the amplification of sound. Your tongue drum will sound much louder when using mallets. Some people, however, prefer to play their tongue drum with their hands.

When someone plays a tongue drum by hand, they utilize their fingers, palms and the heel of their hand to create melodic beats. Playing with your hands can deepen your connection to your drum as well as give you more freedom in playing. Playing a tongue drum with your hands is considered to be the more technical and difficult option but with practice and patience, anyone can play with their hands! Some find using rubber finger picks, finger sleeves or finger knobs help when playing the drum by hand. These accessories increase the loudness of the drum while still giving you the agility, diversity and freedom of playing by hand. Picks can also prevent injury and soreness in your fingers after playing for prolonged periods of time. 

To play your tongue drum, you can rest the drum in your lap. A stand is not required, though some people may prefer to use one or to rest their drum on a flat surface. If wishing to use a stand or to play the drum on a table or the floor, make sure you are using a stand recommended by your drum’s manufacturer. As for playing your drum on a flat surface, some manufacturers give their drums rubber feet which make playing your drum this way easy and it does not affect the sound quality of the instrument. However, most do prefer playing the drum in their laps as they can have a closer connection to the instrument and its vibrations. 

When playing the drum in your lap, there is no “wrong” way of positioning the drum, but there is a position that will make playing the drum easier. By placing the lowest note closest to your body, you will be able to move up the scale in a circular order starting from the left hand side. If it will help you to remember the location of the notes, many tongue drums come with numbered stickers you can use to identify the notes of the drum. These stickers are also beneficial when playing music, allowing you to easily follow the “sheet” music. If you are a complete beginner for the tongue drum or any musical instrument, we have compiled a few tips and exercises for you to enjoy your tongue drum to its fullest potential!

Exercises for Beginners

When you first get your tongue drum, you need to familiarize yourself with the instrument and get comfortable holding and playing it. To do this, you can run through the following exercises: 

  • Play the entire scale by starting with the lowest note and progressing to the highest note. You can also go back down the scale when finished. 
  • Play all notes in a circular order, starting on any note you please.
  • Play only specific notes based on their position. For example, play only notes on the left or right side of the drum. Alternatively, play only notes on the top or bottom side of the drum. 
  • Create patterns and chords. Try playing notes in a specific pattern or play two notes at the same time. Experiment with different melodies and sounds. 
  • Find two notes that compliment one another. When played at the same time, this is called a chord. Play the chord repeatedly and follow it with a different chord. 
  • Experiment with force. Try playing the drum softly and then a little harder. Alternate the degree of force as you play. 

In the beginning, experimentation is key! Have fun, make noise and explore your new instrument. Practice a little bit each day and eventually you will be able to follow along to drumming patterns and sheet music and even create your own compositions! 

Advanced Playing

Once you feel more comfortable playing your tongue drum, you can begin practicing more technical and advanced playing. Here are some exercises that can help you:

  • Play with both a mallet and your hands at the same time.
  • Try dampening notes with your finger after playing them. 
  • To dampen or shorten all notes, try stuffing the drum with something soft. When notes do not resonate as long, you can play faster melodies. 
  • Experiment with mallets. Alternate between pure wooden sticks or rubber or felt mallets. If you cannot purchase a rubber mallet, one way to create your own is to add rubber bands to the end of a wooden mallet. 
  • Follow along to drumming patterns and sheet music you find on the internet. 
  • Watch a YouTube tutorial on how to play specific songs.  

Where to Find Drumming Patterns and Sheet Music for Tongue Drums 

While freestyling is certainly an option when playing your tongue drum, some may want to play specific songs or tunes. Depending on the tongue drum you have purchased, drumming patterns and sheet music may have been included in the drum’s user manual. If your drum did not come with drumming patterns or sheet music, songs can also be found online. Oftentimes, websites will offer free sheet music of well-known or nursery rhyme type songs. You should be able to find different drumming patterns for your specific tongue drum, no matter how many tongues it has. Here are some examples of tongue drum sheet music for tongue drums with different scales:


Source: Idiopan 

Lastly, you can also learn tunes by following along with YouTube tutorials. This can be especially helpful for those who want to hear how the songs should be played or for those who are visual and auditory learners. 

Conclusion

What makes tongue drums so great are the effects anyone can experience when playing or listening to their peaceful tunes. When playing a tongue drum, a beginner, a hobbyist or a professional musician can all unlock creativity, boost focus and wash away anxiety and stress. Tongue drums are great for meditation, yoga practice and even emotional healing. Whether purchasing a tongue drum from a craftsman or online manufacturer, know that what you are investing in is more than a simple instrument: it is a way to relax, play and reconnect with yourself. Pick up a tongue drum and start playing today!

Read more...

How to Get Rid of Negative Energy: The Complete Guide (Updated 2020)

How to Get Rid of Negative Energy: The Complete Guide (Updated 2020)

Have you ever wondered how to get rid of negative energy from your home? In this post, we explain the signs of negative energy in the home and explain how to get rid of it using a singing bowl and other methods. Let's get started!

Introduction

The home is a fundamental human need. It welcomes you after a tiring day and protects you from the elements. It is where you and your family thrive, and where relationships are built and strengthened. Whether you live in an apartment, bungalow, mansion or flat, it is essential that your home allows you to recuperate and rejuvenate your body and mind.

Because human beings absorb and exhibit a particular kind of energy, your home may, at certain times or during specific occasions, make you feel energized, relaxed, or even stressed. Particular areas or rooms of your house can evoke feelings of joy, or maybe feelings of gloom.

These energies are namely positive and negative. Perhaps the principles of feng shui have best tried to grasp and explain this phenomenon. The negative energy is identified as sha chi (translated as killing or attacking energy) and si chi (lifeless and dying energy). On the other hand, positive energy is referred to sheng chi and is the bright, uplifting energy that refreshes and invigorates.

There are various factors at work which create the energetic atmosphere of your home. It can be caused by the design, the cleanliness and orderliness of the objects, or the emotions and conditions that were manifested by the people living within it. There are easy and practical ways you can try to cleanse your home of negative energy, simply by opening the windows, repairing broken objects, or clearing a cluttered space.

Clearing Negative Energy with Singing Bowls

One way of clearing unwanted energy in your home is with sound. An empty and quiet house can easily absorb negative and stagnant vibes, and bells have often been used to drive these energies away from a particular space.

A special kind of bell known as the singing bowl produces a pure, resonating tone and is an effective instrument in clearing negative energy. These bowls are also valued for their capacity to bring the body’s energy levels into balance. In fact, they are used in meditation sessions and Ayurvedic sound therapy treatment.  

Tibetan singing bowls are frequently used in cleansing the home and ridding it of low and confined energy. In feng shui, singing bowls are often utilized to create positive sounds which causes negative energy to disperse. When negative energy is cleared, fresh new chi can flow through the house. Singing bowls also help improve the effectiveness of feng shui.

There are specific steps to follow when using a singing bowl for space-clearing sessions. Firstly, position the bowl on the palm of your hand, taking your time to feel and appreciate the bowl’s weight. Then, when you are ready, start to play the bowl by striking its rim gently. Hit the bowl a few more times and get familiar with the sound that is produced. This is a good time to immerse yourself in the bowl’s sound and let its purifying effects flow through your body. Another way of playing the bowl is by circling the rim clockwise with the mallet.  

Move through your home one room at a time. In each place, produce a sound from your singing bowl by striking it three times. Pay attention to the tone that the bowl produces. You may be able to notice that in some sections of your home you will hear a dull sound being emitted, while in other areas the sound may be bright and sharp. These differing tones represent the “dead” and “alive” energy of your house. Playing the singing bowl can help bring these energies into positive balance.

To release negative energy from within the walls of each room, stay near them as you play the singing bowl. You may also focus on the doors and windows as these are considered portals from which energy outside flows inward. You can do this by playing the bowl and moving it clockwise around the door and window frames several times.

For spaces within the home that you feel especially troubled and anxious, you may place the bowl on a table in the center of the room and play it for a longer duration.

Other Ways to Clear Negative Energy

Prior to playing the singing bowl during cleansing sessions, you may wish to burn some incense in each room. Good choices include sandalwood, sage, and lavender. When used for this purpose, it is believed that the aroma summons spiritual forces that facilitate the creation of positive energy.

Salt is also known to have cleansing properties, and you can pour it into each corner of the room and allow it to absorb the negative energy for 48 hours. After this time, ensure you dispose of it and not allow it to remain in your house. Crystals are also believed to possess the same capability. One of the most recommended crystals is the black tourmaline, which is used as protection from bad energy. Place black tourmalines in a jar with water and position them in the corners and entryways of your home.

With this understanding of how energies can affect your house and living space, you may wish to purchase a singing bowl of your own. If you are shopping online, make certain that the weight of the bowl is listed in the description. This way you can ensure that it will be comfortable for you to hold while you move around your home using it.

Although these practices are not easily defined in a physical manner, they do influence your well-being. If you are feeling heavy, negative vibes in your home, consider trying these easy tips to help usher in fresh and positive energy. You can also get your very own Tibetan singing bowl to use in ridding your home of negative energies.

We invite you to get your own Tibetan singing bowl or crystal singing bowl today!

Read more...

How to Play a Tibetan Singing Bowl

How to Play a Tibetan Singing Bowl

Have you ever wondered how to use a singing bowl? In this post, we provide a complete guide to playing a singing bowl using the most common methods. We also share several tips and tricks to make the singing bowl easier to play. Let's dive right in!

Introduction

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 singing 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.

We invite you to get your own Tibetan singing bowl or crystal singing bowl today!

Read more...

Singing Bowl Meditation: The Complete Guide (Updated 2020)

Singing Bowl Meditation: The Complete Guide (Updated 2020)

We think you'd agree with us when we say that singing bowls are beautiful, both visually and acoustically. But did you know that singing bowls can also help you with meditation? In this post, we discuss the importance of meditation and how singing bowls can help with meditation. Let's get started!

Introduction

These days everyone is busier than ever, and many things compete for our time, focus and energy. We do our best to divide our efforts among many responsibilities, such as family, work and school. It seems there is a heightened pressure to accomplish more tasks in the limited time that we have. Not only that, our smart phones and other technological tools often cause us to spend more of our time on things that, while entertaining, do not provide long-term beneficial value.

For some, taking a time-out to recollect and get grounded is unthinkable given the burden of other responsibilities. Unfortunately, this can create an increase in stress and anxiety. Prolonged exposure to stress and anxiety can lead to serious health risks which include irritability, headaches, insomnia, and depression. Stress and anxiety can also negatively affect the different systems of the body.

Anxiety and Stress in Today’s Modern World

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States and affect an estimated 40 million people aged 18 and older every year. The American Institute of Stress (AIS) also found that 77% of people experience physical symptoms of stress, 73% of people experience regular psychological symptoms caused by stress, and 48% have stated that their level of stress has increased in the past five years.

There are many causes of stress that may differ from one individual to another, but, for many, there are similar causes underlying stress. One of the top causes of stress, according to the AIS, is job pressure. Many people become overly concerned with tension with colleagues at work, including their superiors, and are often overworked. Another common cause of stress is money, and such stress may arise due to a sense of anxiety over the loss or potential loss of a job, reduced retirement savings, or medical expenses.

Health related stresses can include medical crises and terminal or chronic illnesses. Stress over relationships can be caused by many factors such as divorce, the death of a partner, arguments and loneliness. Interestingly, media overload (namely stress from television, radio, internet, email, and social networks) ranked the sixth most common cause of stress. Sleep deprivation and the inability to release adrenaline and stress hormones are also cited as factors that caused stress.

According to Psychology Today, there are five sources of stress and anxiety in today’s modern world: having to interact with a greater diversity of people, assessing ourselves against high and often unattainable standards, the need to specialize in a specific field, increasingly competitive marketplaces, and the speed at which innovations are emerging.

According to Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, increased levels of stress have made the nervous system continually activate the 'fight or flight' response. This can cause an increase in blood pressure, oxygen consumption and heart rate. Chronic levels of stress are also correlated with hypertension and heart disease.

What is Meditation

We commonly associate meditation with the act of keeping still in a seated position and emptying our minds of all present preoccupations. Some may even have the misconception that meditation is only for those seeking enlightenment.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic, defines mindful meditation as the “awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment non-judgmentally.” It entails focusing single-mindedly on a specific thing or focal point.  

The origin of the word meditation comes from the Latin word meditatum, and means “to ponder.” It goes beyond physical relaxation since it actively engages the mind. It is typically perceived as a heightened state of conscious awareness. Ultimately, it strives for a state of inner peace, stillness, silence, and being in union with one’s inner self.

Meditation in History

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. The religions credited for being the earliest to practice meditation are Hinduism and Buddhism. Vedantism, a school of Hinduism, held the earliest accounts of meditation and was recorded around 1500 BCE. Meditation in Hinduism is referred to as dhyana, and it evolved into other forms within Buddhism and Taoism in China by the 5th and 6th centuries BCE.

Siddhartha Gautama, who became the Buddha or the Enlightened One, and from whom the religion sprang, firmly believed he could achieve enlightenment through deep meditation. Although there are discrepancies as to the correct timeline of Siddhartha Gautama’s lifetime, scholars agree that he might have died sometime between 410 and 370 BCE. 

Buddhism’s spread in East Asia is attributed to Bodhidharma, an Indian monk who spread Buddhist principles in China that became known as Chan or Chinese Zen. Buddhism was later introduced to Japan and Korea via trade routes and different forms of it began to emerge. Japan developed its own version, which is now called Zen Buddhism. Dosho, a Japanese Buddhist monk, traveled to China to learn about Zen. When he returned home, he founded the first meditation hall in the country. He also outlined the instructions for sitting meditation, which became known as Zazen. 

By the 12th century, a Carthusian monk named Guigo II established a more methodological concept of meditation in the context of Christianity known as Lectio Divina. It involves reading scripture, reflecting on the truth, prayer, and contemplation.  

During the 1960s and onwards, meditation has attracted the attention of scientific researchers who have sought to determine its benefits objectively. The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program was developed in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts. The goal of the program is to use meditative techniques in treating patients with chronic diseases.

Meditation in Different Religions

Meditation is an integral part of many cultures and presents itself in various forms within the different religions of the world. Judaism’s version of meditation is the Kabbalah and hitbodedut, where meditators contemplate on the different names of God. In Islam, meditation comes in the form of Tafakkur, where one reflects on goodness and evil, and the lessons from the creation of Allah. Buddhists perform meditation as a means to achieve enlightenment, and their meditation has varying styles which include Zen, Tibetan, and Theravadan.

Secular Forms of Meditation

Meditation can be practiced without any religious involvement. Transcendental meditation introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is one such example. It focuses more on becoming relaxed, reducing stress and encouraging self-development. Common methods of non-religious meditation involve dedicating time to engage in deep-breathing exercises.

Another similar method of meditation is known as the 'Relaxation Response'. Dr. Herbert Benson created the concept and proposed that it could be an effective remedy for different types of stress-related problems. This process counters the body’s 'fight or flight response' and assists the body in returning to pre-stress levels. It also engages the parasympathetic sector of the nervous system which is responsible for relaxation and digestion.

Benefits of Meditation

Several studies have investigated the benefits of meditation objectively.

Researchers from Yale performed functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans on both novice and experienced meditators to observe the effects that different techniques had on them. They discovered that there was reduced activity in the default mode network of the brain when they ran the scan on advanced meditators. The prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortex were the areas particularly affected, and this effect was seen to occur no matter what type of meditation was practiced. The default mode network has been connected to lapses of attention and disorders such as anxiety, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, and even the buildup of beta-amyloid plaques seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

A study conducted by Richard, et al. explored the changes that occur within the brain and the body’s immune function as a result of mindfulness meditation. In the study, which ran for eight weeks, the researchers measured the electrical activity within the brains of 25 employees who were divided into a meditators group and a wait-list control group. The individuals in the meditators group were to perform mindfulness meditation in their workplace environment for the eight week period. After the eight week period concluded, all 25 employees were injected with the influenza vaccine. The researchers saw a substantial increase in the left-sided anterior activation of the meditator group compared to the control group. They also discovered a remarkable rise in antibody titers against the influenza vaccine among those who meditated. With these results the study suggests that meditation may affect the brain and immune system in positive ways.

Research by Lazar, et al. analyzed the connection between meditation and the increase of cortisol thickness. Cortisol is the hormone involved in a wide range of processes within the body, including metabolism, immune response, and the body’s response to stress. The researchers utilized MRI scans to evaluate the cortisol thickness of 20 subjects who had extensive insight meditation experience. The results showed that the areas of the brain involved with attention, interoception and sensory processing, as well as the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula, were thicker in meditation participants compared to a control group who did not meditate. The researchers suggested that meditating has an effect on the structures of the brain involved with sensory, cognitive, and emotional functions, and may even impact age-related declines in cortical structure.

There have been several studies that have documented the effects that meditation has on anxiety and stress. A study by Sears and Kraus focused on college students, and it was found that brief meditation which focused on love and kindness greatly reduced anxiety levels and increased hope.

Another study by Barkhe and Morgan investigated the effects that meditation, resting, and exercise have on anxiety levels. The research involved the participation of 75 adult males randomly assigned to an exercise group, meditation group, and resting group. From the data the researchers collected from the experiment, they found a significant reduction of anxiety that occurred for each treatment whether it was from exercise, meditation, or quietly resting. The study concluded that acute physical activity, meditation, and quiet rest sessions are equally effective in reducing anxiety levels.

Furthermore, another research study explored the effects of mindful meditation on stress levels. The study involved 28 individuals participating in an eight week program focusing on stress reduction and mindfulness meditation. The participants were randomly selected into an experimental group, who conducted the mindfulness meditation routine, and the control group, who did not. Upon conclusion, the researchers discovered that the experimental group had significantly reduced levels of psychological symptoms, an increased level of self-awareness and control, and higher scores of spiritual experiences. The research suggested that meditation may be a powerful cognitive behavioral coping strategy, and may also be a means to help prevent the relapse of mental disorders.

How Meditation can be Performed

There are many types of meditation, and each method has a unique way in which it is performed. However, there are various common denominators that are present in every process. Some of these include relaxation techniques, concentration exercises, contemplation, reflection, and guided imagery. 

In 'Relaxation Response', meditation methods include visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, energy healing, and breathing techniques. In Dr. Benson’s book, he outlines how one can meditate. The procedure involves sitting in a comfortable position, relaxing the muscles, and being aware of your breathing. This practice is similar to how Zazen is done, although Zazen requires specific sitting positions. It also entails focusing on the hara, or the spiritual center of the body.

Using Singing Bowls in Meditation

A great companion to have during meditation is a singing bowl, the nature of which is similar to that of a bell. In fact, singing bowls are known as “standing bells” due to their bowl-like shape. Singing bowls are typically crafted from copper or tin. They are commonly used in Eastern meditation and relaxation practices but have also become popular in the West. They are also known by a variety of names such as resting bowls, prayer bowls, Tibetan singing bowls, Himalayan bowls, Buddhist bowls, and rin gong, among others.

The sound is produced either by striking the bowl or by running a mallet around the rim, and it is believed that the sound emitted possesses healing properties. It is also believed by some that singing bowls create the sound of “void,” which is the music of the universe.

History of Singing Bowls

Many accounts explain where singing bowls originated. One report indicates that singing bowls can be traced back to the 8th century BCE during the time in which Buddhism spread to Tibet from India by Padmasambhava.  

Tibetan culture asserts that singing bowls came from the Bon Pot Shamans, who were regarded as sacred metallurgists and were able to craft singing bowls through their spiritual understanding of the metals. They created bowls that had a unique sound and vibration. Unfortunately, the sacred recipe of metals has been lost throughout the years.

Some ancient bowls are regarded as sacred relics. One such bowl is claimed to have belonged to an earlier incarnation of Buddha and was used as a begging bowl. It is housed in the Drepung Monastery, and it is said that the sound projected when one uses it is the sound of their karma.

How Singing Bowls are Made

Ancient bowls were usually crafted from high-quality bronze and a combination of different metals such as gold, silver, iron, mercury, copper, tin, lead, and meteoric iron, or thogcha. Meteoric iron is highly regarded by the Tibetans, who refer to it as 'sky-metal', which is said to represent the celestial bodies, such as the sun, moon, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. The contents of the various metals within the bowls is said to be where the multiphonic overtones originate.

Traditional methods of crafting singing bowls involved hammering the metal by hand, but this ancient process has radically declined in recent decades. Today, singing bowls are commonly made by machines.

Today’s singing bowls are typically crafted from a combination of copper and tin referred to as 'bell metal'. Ancient bowls are still believed to produce the richest, most beautiful sounds because of their material and age, but it can still be quite difficult to differentiate a new bowl that has been made to look aged from a genuine ancient bowl. Nonetheless, high-quality modern bowls are still capable of creating beautiful sounds. Very few experts are capable of determining if a singing bowl is antique or not, so one must be careful when purchasing a singing bowl that is being touted by a merchant as being 'antique'.

Singing Bowls in Healing and Meditation

Singing bowls have an important part to play in sound healing, which is often referred to as sound bowl healing. In most sound therapy sessions, singing bowls are positioned near a person’s chakra. A practitioner may also place the bowl on top of a specific area of the person’s body. The practitioner uses the resonance of the bowl’s harmonic vibrations to create balance and encourage relaxation. Singing bowls are also used as instruments for activating an individual’s chakras, and practitioners may choose different sizes of bowl depending on what they feel is appropriate in the circumstances.

Singing bowls are also used during Buddhist meditation as a means to facilitate entry into deep meditative states. Playing a singing bowl before meditating allows the brain to synchronize with the sound frequencies of the bowl and assists in maintaining focus and relaxation.

Benefits of Singing Bowls in Meditation

Goldsby, et al. conducted an observational study to determine how singing bowl meditation affects a person’s mood, tension and well-being. The researchers aimed to determine if deep relaxation and an uplifted mood could be achieved by listening to high-intensity or low-frequency combinations of singing bowls, gongs, and bells. The study involved 60 adult men and women and compared their condition both before and after meditation. The participants completed the Profile of Mood States, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual Well-Being Scale questionnaires to evaluate their condition before and after meditating.

The individuals lay on yoga mats while music consisting of Tibetan singing bowlscrystal singing bowls, gongs, ting-shas (tiny cymbals), dorges (bells), didgeridoos, and various small bells was played. The singing bowls were the main source of therapeutic sound, and they were positioned near each individual's head.

The researchers saw a significant difference between the pre and post-meditation phases of the participants. The individuals reported feeling a reduced level of tension, anger, fatigue, and depressed mood. Participants aged 40 to 59 also felt reduced physical pain.  

Although the specific cause of this phenomena is unclear, researchers believe that the sounds generate beta and theta waves and thereby propel the brain into states of deep relaxation.

How to Use Singing Bowls in Meditation

It may sound easy, but it takes practice and patience to master the art of playing a singing bowl. To play it correctly, open your left palm flat and place the bowl on top of your hand. For smaller bowls, make a cupping form with your hand and put the bowl on top of your fingertips.

To start using your singing bowl,  strike the bowl or circle the rim with a mallet. These two approaches produce very unique sounds. The 'around-the-rim' technique will produce a sustained and angelic tone, while the 'striking' technique will create a sound more akin to the ringing of a bell.

When you have successfully created a sound using the 'around-the-rim' technique, remove the mallet from the rim and let the bowl continue to vibrate and resonate, which is known as letting the bowl 'sing'.

You can also try filling your bowl with some water. The liquid creates a unique sound when you play the bowl. Once you have created a sound, try letting the bowl continue to vibrate while tilting and swirling it gently.

As you play your singing bowl, let your mind relax and try to focus on nothing but the singing bowl. This kind of singing bowl meditation involves some movement. It is distinguished from the kind of singing bowl meditation where there is no movement and the singing bowl is being played by someone else. Often, sound bowl meditation involving movement can help focus a person on the moment, which can help prevent other thoughts from cluttering the mind.

Conclusion

It can be a challenge to keep ourselves still and find relaxation in today's stressful world. Meditation is a beneficial process that can assist in stress reduction, promote health, and bring inner peace. There are many ways to meditate, and it is up to you to discover the ways that work best for you.

There are various instruments which can help facilitate meditation, and singing bowls are an excellent option. If you are having a difficult time meditating, consider incorporating a singing bowl into your routine and let the sound guide you through your meditation.

We invite you to get your own Tibetan singing bowl or crystal singing bowl today!

Read more...

Sound Therapy: The Complete Guide (Updated 2020)

Sound Therapy: The Complete Guide (Updated 2020)

Welcome to the ultimate guide to sound therapy and sound healing! In this post, we explain what sound therapy is, its history and origin, how it works, its key principles and its health benefits. We also discuss the instruments and methods used in sound therapy. Let's get started!

Introduction

It is undeniable that music and sound affect the body. Specific harmonic arrangements can cause the body to become energized or induce it to enter a relaxed state. Sound and music are deeply rooted in humanity’s psyche and manifest themselves in a plethora of human activities, including religious activities, celebrations, and entertainment.

Some cultures have even acknowledged the amazing healing capabilities of sound by using them to treat physical ailments. Today, many alternative healing practitioners tap into the same body of knowledge and use sound therapy for the benefit of their patients.

In this post, we describe sound therapy, describe its evolution throughout history, explain how it works, explain how it can benefit your well-being, and describe the different methods of performing sound therapy.

What is Sound Therapy?

Sound therapy is essentially the process of healing the mind and body through music, tones, frequencies, and vibrations. Sound therapy takes into consideration a person’s emotional, mental, psychological, and spiritual well-being and improvement.

Sound therapy can be performed in a variety of ways and can be conducted with instruments or through clapping, chanting, or humming, among other methods.

Many people claim to experience feeling rejuvenated after a sound therapy session. When a person seeks healing through sound therapy, their fundamental objective is to focus deeply on the music or sound being generated by the practitioner.

Sound Therapy Throughout History

Sound healing is not limited to only one culture. In fact, sound therapy has existed for thousands of years and has manifested itself in different versions throughout the world.

The Aboriginal Australians known as the Yolngu are believed to be one of the earliest groups to perform sound healing rituals. They play an instrument called the yidaki which they believe can heal various physical ailments including fractured bones and muscle damage.

The ancient Egyptians also valued sound healing. In fact, for thousands of years ritual leaders and priests chanted vowel tones and used instruments such as the sistra.

In ancient Greece, the great mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras is credited as a father of music therapy. He wielded the instrument called the kithara and was able to observe the calming effect of the music he played to the people and animals around him. He discovered that the seven keys in the Greek system of music were capable of triggering various emotions, and that some sounds and instruments could cause chaotic and stressful emotions. He described his discoveries as a form of “musical medicine”.

How Sound Therapy Works

How does sound therapy affect the body? In order to determine the answer to this question, we first need to understand what sound is and how it is received by the body.

Sound is essentially the energy created when an object vibrates. When an object vibrates, it causes the air surrounding the object to vibrate as well. The air’s movement allows it to carry the vibrational energy from the object to different places, including the human body.

The ears are the primary organ that receives sound. The outer ear funnels the sound. The sound is then channeled to the ear canal where it reaches the eardrum, which is a sensitive, tightly-stretched skin. The sound waves cause the eardrums to vibrate and three tiny bones (known as the ossicles) behind the eardrums move. The ossicles’ movement triggers a shift in the cochlea, liquid-filled coiled tubes that are lined with tiny hairs. When these tiny hairs move, they send nerve signals to the brain which translate into sound.

A study by Salamon et al. investigated how music lowers anxiety and stress levels. The researchers determined that the compound nitric oxide is primarily responsible for causing physiological and psychological relaxing effects. Nitric oxide has been identified to assist in developing the auditory system and the flow of blood in the cochlea.

Some studies have also explored how other organs, such as the skin, are able to receive and absorb sound. One study by von Békésy identifies the similarities between hearing and sensing vibrations, as both are stimulated by traveling waves. In addition, a study by Gick and Derrick, although in the context of phonetics, considered having their test subjects listen to audio recordings of syllables. The researchers also let out a puff of air similar to the puff that would be created when the syllables are pronounced. The researchers discovered that the participants’ level of accuracy in identifying the syllables was reduced in an absence of the air puffs.

Principles of Sound Therapy

The principles of sound healing transcend the understanding of the body’s mechanical reception of sound. In fact, the principles of sound therapy are rooted in the goal of transitioning the body’s vibrations to an optimum state. Practitioners believe that a person and his or her body parts and organs are comprised of unique frequencies. Practitioners perform therapeutic applications of sound vibrations with the intention of bringing harmony and balance.

Another key principle of sound healing is that our bodies resonate efficiently with sound waves since the majority of our composition is water. The molecules in water are denser, which allows it to transmit energy faster from one particle to the next.

Entrainment, the practice of tuning the body to a desired frequency, also plays a crucial role in sound healing. Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch scientist, is credited for the discovery of entrainment in the 16th century. In the context of sound healing, entrainment occurs when the sound coming from an external source is used to tune the body back into balance. When a practitioner produces sounds with the intention of healing, he or she ultimately aims to use entrainment to address the patient’s body imbalance by creating a harmonious resonance between the healing sound and the vibration of the patient’s body.

Another essential principle is the intention behind the sound. This is often thought of as the reason why the sound was generated. People usually create sound or music with the intention to entertain or relax. In sound therapy, the practitioner focuses his or her intention on delivering healing energy to the patient. It is believed that the sound waves become imbued with the practitioner's positive intentions. However, should the sound healing practitioner feel negative emotions, such as anger or anxiety, this can also be transmitted to the patient and may therefore adversely affect the healing process. 

According to Jonathan Goldman, a leading figure in sound healing, all music has potential therapeutic qualities. Furthermore, factors such as time, place, and the individual’s needs are essential for music to fully display its therapeutic capabilities. This is an important concept to remember since there are many ways sound healing can be manifested and performed.

When a sound healing practitioner conducts a session to treat a patient, it is essential for him or her to determine the type of sound or music that best resonates with their patient. Sound uniquely affects individuals; a particular composition may evoke memories of happiness, excitement, grief or anxiety.

What Sound Therapy Can Do for Your Well-Being

People who have undergone sound therapy sessions have reported being relieved of physical and mental aches and pains. Some of the health improvements that people have claimed to experience include the following:

  • Better joint movement;
  • Reduced muscle pain and inflammation;
  • Disappearance of kidney stones;
  • Decreased size of ovarian cyst;
  • Better sleep and deeper relaxation;
  • Reduced headaches; and
  • Enhanced positive outlook in life.

Research has also been conducted to explore the effects of music and sound therapy on a person’s health. Music therapy has been shown to have the potential to affect blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, EEG measurements, body temperature, galvanic skin response, and immune and endocrine processes. In fact, a review by Thaut acknowledges music therapy’s potential to be used in rehabilitation.  

One research study considered the influence of music therapy on anger management in forensic psychiatry patients. Fourteen participants randomly divided into two groups underwent a music therapy anger management program and aggression management program respectively. The results of the test showed that those in the music therapy group displayed greater positive coping skills. The researchers suggested that the number of hours patients are exposed to music therapy can hasten the process of adopting positive behaviors.

Ellis also explored the effects of sound therapy on children who have severe learning difficulties and profound and multiple learning difficulties. One study tested the effectiveness of a specialized sound therapy program with a uniquely high frequency. Twenty children from remedial classes were grouped into an experimental and control group. The experimental group listened to the frequency, while the control group listened to classical music without the high frequency. After a 16-week test, results showed that the experimental group showed more significant gains in auditory discrimination, reading ability, reading comprehension and spelling compared to the control group.

Instruments and Methods Used in Sound Therapy

As discussed above, sound therapy can manifest itself in a variety of forms, all of which have the potential to heal. Described below are a number of instruments that can be used to perform sound therapy.

Vocal Toning

Vocal toning is the process of creating sound with an elongated vowel for an extended period. It creates the strongest healing sound that can be performed without an instrument. It can also help deepen the breath, relax the muscles, and stimulate the body. 

In Ayurveda, vocal toning is a powerful way to balance the body’s chakras. Different vowel sounds correspond to different chakra. For example, vocal toning of the sound “uh” (as in “up”) resonates with the root chakra.

Vocal toning is probably the easiest sound healing procedure you can perform since you do not have to use an instrument and it can be done anywhere and anytime. To perform vocal toning, find a place where you will be undisturbed and seat yourself comfortably in a chair with your spine upright. Take a few deep breathes to relax. When you are ready, vocal tone the root chakra. You can then move up to the different chakras, namely the sacral, polar lexus, heart, throat, brow and crown chakra. Visualize the color of the particular chakra as you tone its corresponding vowel sound.

Chants

Chanting also uses the voice and involves repeating sacred words, names, and phrases. The goal of chanting is to trigger physical changes in the brain through sound vibrations. Chanting is said to bring about a sense of deep calm and peace.

A form of chanting that began in India is known as Kirtan. It has a religious aspect that is believed to usher in happiness and to cleanse the heart of distractions. Kirtan is performed in a call-and-response style. Those who participate in Kirtan recite ancient chants which are mostly sung in Sanskrit.

Both vocal toning and chanting can be done individually or in a group.

Singing Bowls

Also known as Tibetan singing bowls and Himalayan singing bowls, these are inverted bells made principally from copper, bronze, or quartz crystal. They are played by circling and striking the bowl’s rim with the accompanying mallet.

Playing the singing bowl can create unique rhythmic patterns and vibrational sound harmonics similar to the frequency of “aum” or “om,” the sacred mantra in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Gongs

The gong is an instrument that has been used in sound healing for thousands of years. It is a percussion instrument usually made from brass or bronze. There are different sizes of gongs, each size emitting a unique sound. The gong is played by hitting its center with a mallet. Other techniques of playing the gong include priming it by stroking and letting it vibrate, and spinning it to make warping sounds.

Gong baths are meditative and relaxing sessions where a patient lays down while a sound healer plays a set of gongs that surround the patient. The patient allows the sound, volume, and vibrations from the gong to be absorbed by his or her body. Most of those who have undergone gong baths have reported feeling more energized, less stressed, and more peaceful.

Shakers and Rattles

As noted above, the ancient Egyptians used a shaker-like instrument called the sistra. Shamans and healers have used shakers and rattles to connect with spiritual entities to aid them in treating a patient. These instruments are believed to fragment dense energy and cleanse the body of negativity.

Tuning Forks

A tuning fork is often used to correct the tones of musical instruments. The prongs of the fork are struck to create a specific pitch, to which the musician matches the tone of his or her instrument. Tuning forks have also been used in sound therapy, such as where a practitioner makes it vibrate and then places it in near the patient’s ailing area. Tuning forks can also be placed near the chakra locations to stimulate energetic healing.

Conclusion

Sound is a powerful force that affects the mind, body and soul. People of various cultures have identified and harnessed sound’s capability to bring about healing and balance. Sound therapy has evolved over the centuries and has recently been further refined to complement traditional medical treatment.

Sound healing can be a great complement to improving your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Of course, it is essential that you not subscribe to sound healing as a complete alternative to the treatment of your medical conditions. Always consult your doctor and seek medical attention for any health issues you may be experiencing.

Considering trying sound bathing? Check out our complete guide to sound bathing for everything you need to know!

Interested in trying sound therapy? We invite you to get your own Tibetan singing bowl or crystal singing bowl today!

Read more...

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Receive exclusive deals and our latest blog posts straight to your inbox!