How To Play A Tibetan Singing Bowl?

Singing bowls are artificially or handmade bowls made from metal that produce a deep and rich tone when the wooden stick is rubbed around the rim in a circular motion. These singing bowls promote relaxation and offer powerful healing properties. Singing bowl therapy is a 2500-year-old Tibetan technique practised to soothe the body, mind, and soul. Today, many businesses are revolving around singing bowls. Many practitioners and ‘healers’ conduct therapy sessions all over the world. People all over the world seek comfort and an escape from their problems and anxieties through singing bowl therapy. They have also become popular as souvenirs and gifts when people visit Nepal and other south and east Asian countries.

How does it work?

Singing bowls are traditionally hand-made from seven metals: copper, tin, zinc, lead, iron, silver, and gold. The sound and vibrations made by these bowls depend largely on the size of the bowl and the proportion of their ingredient metals.

singing bowl and incense stick
Photo by Cup of Couple on

The singing bowl usually comes with a stout, wooden stick. When the stick strikes the bowl or rubs around the bowl in circular motions, a deep and rich-toned sound comes from it. The sound and vibrations work as a kind of music therapy for people. There are many theories and studies about why singing bowls are considered therapeutic. All of these usually suggest that:

  • The bowls produce vibrations that affect the mind and the body.
  • The sound of the bowls creates brain waves that induce deep relaxation in people.
  • They may give the same benefits as listening to soothing and meditative music.

Ancient sound therapy uses pulsing sounds, drumming, singing, and clapping for spiritual and health purposes. 

Today, many businesses revolve around sound therapy and healing through music in Nepal or Tibet and all over the world. The ‘healers’ believe that the music from the bowls releases pressure from various spiritual focal centres (chakras) in our bodies. It cleanses our souls and relieves stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. It also helps regulate the menstrual cycle. The practitioners usually have many students and visitors come to them to get away from their materialistic and busy lives for a day of calm and serenity.

Read: Singing Bowls and Their Uses

The sound and vibrations made by a bowl depend upon its size and the proportion of the metals used to make it.

How To Play A Tibetan Singing Bowl?

a woman using a singing bowl while sitting

Playing a singing bowl is very straightforward, but it still requires some practice to play it for healing and meditative purposes. There are two ways you can play a singing bowl. The first is to strike it with a wooden mallet and the second is to rub the mallet in a circular motion around the rim of the bowl.

Here we explain both of these methods in great detail for beginners:

Striking The Bowl

The striking method is simpler and easier to learn and master. It will not take you long to get it right. Begin by sitting in a comfortable position with your spine comfortably elongated. Take deep breaths and stay calm.

  1. Hold the bowl right-side-up in your non-dominant hand and the wooden mallet in your dominant hand.
  2. The padded side of the mallet should rest between your fingers and the bare side used to play the bowl.
  3. Lightly strike the bowl on the rim or the outside body of the bowl.
  4. This will create a rich and deep sound and vibrations.
  5. Let the sound and the vibrations linger and fully dissipate before striking again in the same way.

Rimming The Bowl

This method can be more challenging than the striking method. It will take you some practice before you can fully get the hang of it. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and tall. Take deep breaths and begin. Again, hold the padded side and play with the bowl with the bare wooden side.

  1. Hold the bowl right-side-up with your non-dominant hand and the mallet with your dominant hand. 
  2. Hold the mallet in the middle as you would grip a pen; with the mallet lying in between your index finger, thumb, and middle finger.
  3. You can strike the bowl first and let the sound and the vibration play out fully.
  4. Then rub the mallet vertically around the exterior wall of the bowl slowly and all the way around. Or do the same on the rim of the bowl. You can choose to circle around the bowl in clockwise or anticlockwise motion, depending upon which is more comfortable for you.

Note: this action is similar to stirring a pot; slow and full circles around the bowl and keep the mallet held vertically.

  1. The bowl will start making gentle sounds. Keep this going for several rounds around the bowl. Let the soothing sound build up.
  2. Increase the pressure by holding the mallet firmly against the bowl, but keep the speed gradual.
  3. As you continue, the overtone will build up and sound sweet and clear. Once you find the right tone, keep the pressure and speed intact. The pressure is necessary to keep the bowl singing and vibrating.

You can keep going to your liking and comfort. Or slowly come to a stop and let the sound and vibrations linger and dampen themselves slowly. Then begin again in the same way. You can omit striking the bowl before rimming it; although it is easier to make the bowl sing and vibrate if you strike it and start rimming immediately.

You can experiment with going back and forth between striking and rimming once you get used to playing the bowl. There are no set rules for playing the bowl; it depends upon you and what you find easier.

Holding The Bowl:

close up shot of a person using a singing bowl

You can hold the bowl at chest level or on your lap. Hold it on your palm or your fingertips as we mentioned above or you can place the bowl on a flat surface like the floor, a table, or a mat. A wooden surface is recommended for clearer sound and to let the vibrations dampen slowly.

However, holding the bowl on your hands or fingertips will let you feel the vibrations and give you a better overall experience of playing the bowl.

Holding the Mallet:

antique singing bowls
Photo by Magicbowls on

The most comfortable way to hold a mallet is to hold it like a pen or like you would hold a knife while eating. You are supposed to hold the padded side of the mallet and play with the bowl with the wooden side. However, you can play the bowl with the padded side too. It is a little bit harder to get used to and get the bowl ringing, but this method will create a kind of deep, bass tone which is equally relaxing and soothing.

Singing bowls are used to help with anxiety relief, meditation, insomnia, lowering blood pressure, stimulating the immune system, harmonizing the spiritual chakras of the body, easing migraines, and pain relief. Singing bowl therapy might not be the cure for depression, anxiety, and joint pains, but they do help people feel relaxed. Even if they don’t erase people’s pain and stress, they certainly stave off anxious thoughts and put people at ease. Even deaf people who can’t hear the music coming from the bowls can feel the vibrations and feel similar healing experiences.

There isn’t a definitive way to play a singing bowl. Once you get used to holding the bowl and the mallet, you have to play it enough to find your own style. You can feel free to experiment with the bowl and use different techniques. If you wish to buy singing bowls, Himalayan Merchandise can assist you with it. The singing bowls on our website are authentic and handmade by local Nepali artisans. We take orders and ship internationally. For more Nepal-made products, browse our selection.