What Do Singing Bowls Do?

Jane Pak


That one person in your friend group (we all know who) could not stop talking about how they should be expecting a new singing bowl in the mail. They are purposefully leaving it vague, waiting for that unsuspecting friend to ask the fatal question, “what is that?” so they can innocently respond, “oh, you don’t know?” 

Well, instead of asking the fatal question, after reading through this article on what singing bowls are, how they are used, and their benefits, you can then ask, “is it crystal or metal, and which octave?”

What are singing bowls?

A singing bowl is essentially a type of bell. Instead of being raised on a yoke and containing an internal clapper, it is — shockingly — shaped like a bowl. Typically marketed as hailing from Nepal or Tibet, the history of singing bowls is somewhat more complicated and difficult to trace, as they have been said to originate from Mesopotamia and China. Specifically, in China, a bell-like instrument called the Nao was developed from casted iron and bronze and is widely believed to be an early form of the singing bowl.

Despite not being able to nail down the exact history of singing bowls, they eventually became used within Buddhist practices of meditation and chanting, cementing their role as an instrument. Singing bowls are multi-phonic, meaning they are not limited to only producing one note at a time. Traditionally, they are made from a hammered metal alloy containing copper, tin, zinc, iron, and sometimes other precious metals, such as gold or silver. It is also rumored that some singing bowls were made from metals found in meteorites. Some of the more modern and recent singing bowls have been made from quartz crystal, as this is believed to have both musical and wellness benefits.

In addition to the types of materials used, there are many different types of single bowls. Here are a few:

  • Thadobati: These singing bowls are relatively undecorated with higher sides, flat bottoms, and can range from the 6th-octave down to the bottom of the third octave.
  • Ultabati: While more expensive, these bowls are also quite large, meaning that they can reach the lowest two octaves that the other bowls cannot.
  • Naga or Pedestal: Formed with a small stem or pedestal on the bottom, these bowls are among the smallest and can play anywhere from the 3rd to 6th octave.
  • Manipuri: A good bowl for beginners, these shallow singing bowls can play from the lower 2nd octaves all the way to the 5th.

How do you use them?

Singing bowls, whether crystal or metal, are played through two methods:

  • Striking: This method involves a mallet with a short and wide cylindrical head that is covered with a soft material, such as fabric. Players use this mallet to gently strike the outside of the bowl, producing a more mellow tone that is thought to have been traditionally used to mark time during meditation.
  • Singing: The second, and perhaps more iconic method is the use of a rubber or wooden mallet to rub the edge of the bowl, causing it to vibrate and produce a continuous note. This is similar to how crystal glasses are played. It is this method of playing that gives the bowls their common name of “singing bowls.”

While like any instrument, there is no “one and only way” of using them. So long as they are not played in a fashion that will break them, they can be used just like any other instrument.

However, due to their musical properties and their historical usage in Buddhism, they are now commonly used in meditation and relaxation.

What benefits do they have?

Singing bowls are said to have a long list of benefits. Here are some of their uses and benefits:

  • Stress relief: As with most musical instruments used in musical therapy, singing bowls can help induce feelings of relaxation and calmness in the face of stress. Depending on what works best for you and what your musical therapy looks like, a singing bowl might be a great way to help reduce anxiety in troubling times.
  • Components of other practices: Since singing bowls have historically been used in tandem with other practices, such as meditation, singing bowls are commonly used today as a musical component of other health and wellness activities, such as yoga and meditation. The benefits of both yoga and meditation are numerous and well researched, so you can enjoy your favorite wellness activity with the added benefit of singing bowls.
  • Harmonizing and balancing effects: Though not well researched, singing bowls have largely been thought to help harmonize and balance the body and mind. Relating to certain spiritual beliefs, singing bowls are thought to help regulate the flow of energy throughout the body, releasing any blockages that might be disrupting the flow.
  • Decor: Singing bowls are undeniably beautiful, making them a perfect addition to any home decor. While the crystal singing bowls are usually manufactured using industrial technology, certain metal singing bowls can be expertly handmade, adding a genuine and handcrafted element to your home office or meditation room.

Be sure to check out our range of singing bowls here at Soul Senses!