Tibetan Singing Bowls: Everything You Need To Know

A collection of Tibeta singing bowls being used for massage therapy

Tibetan Singing Bowls are amazing.

Did you know that your brain actually changes when you listen to a singing bowl? How about this: People have been meditating on the sound of Tibetan singing bowls for 3000 years.. And, at health spas Tibetan Singing Bowls are actually used for sound massage. They put the bowl on your skin and the vibrations from the bowl heal the body. Seriously, these bowls are a complete mind-body healing system.

I’ve personally been using Tibetan Singing Bowls for around ten years now. I find they make a great addition to my meditation practice, and they also look beautiful sitting on a table-top as a decorative-piece.

Whether you’re looking for a Tibetan Singing Bowl for decoration or to actually use while meditating, I’ll cover everything you need to know in this guide.  If I miss anything, just let me know–write a comment at the bottom. And if you enjoy this article, please share it on Facebook / Twitter so I know to create more content like this.

Let’s get started.


What are Tibetan Singing Bowls

twitter-iconDid you know: Tibetan Singing Bowls have been around for 5000 years? #spirit #meditating

Tibetan Singing Bowls are bowl-shaped musical instruments used in Buddhism and in meditation. They are actually a type of standing bell. But instead of being inverted they are held in the hand.

If you ever visit a Buddhist temple you will likely see some antique singing bowls among the relics.

I recently visited our local Buddhist temple and was delighted by a whole shelf of the most beautiful singing bowls (along with wooden fish, Buddhist cymbals, bells and Dorje).

Attached to the cabinet was a little leaflet introducing singing bowls and explaining what they are and how they are used.

Instruments used in meditation and in some Buddhist ceremonies, Tibetan Singing Bowls are played by running a mallet around the inside base of the bowl. This produces a relaxing, whistling sound that we meditate on.

Interesting fact:

Many people believe that Tibetan Singing Bowls are made of seven metals that are astrologically related to stars and planets: Gold (sun) Silver (Moon), Copper (Venus), Iron (Mars), Tin (Jupiter), Mercury/Quicksilver (Mercury) and Lead (Saturn) (1). But actually, Tibetan Singing Bowls are usually made from a bronze alloy of copper and tin.  

Some antique singing bowls are up to 5000 years old, meaning they predate almost all other tools used in meditation.

The History of Tibetan Singing Bowls

There’s a long history to Tibetan Singing Bowls.

Bronze bells, similar to Singing Bowls, have been used since the 10th Century BC. Tibetan Singing Bowls have existed since around 5000 years ago. (1)

Many people believe that Tibetan Singing Bowls are Buddhist in origin, but they actually predate Buddhism. It wasn’t until about 2500 years ago that Buddhists began to play Tibetan Singing Bowls. The monks found the sound the bowls made to be very relaxing. It is a healing sound. And that is why Buddhist monks have meditate on the sounds ever since.   (2).  

Have you noticed how there are hundred of different tools used in meditation (just take a look at these other meditation tools).

Most of the meditation tools we have today are relatively new. Tibetan Singing Bowls, on the other hand, are traditional, and they are one of the most important (and most powerful) of all meditation tools.



Traditional Tibetan Singing Bowls 

buddhist monk tibetan singing bowl
A Buddhst monk playing Tibetan Singing Bowls

 Traditionally, Tibetan Singing Bowls were used in Asia by Buddhist monks. The monks would use Buddhist singing bowls as an auditory marker to start and stop a period of meditation.

Buddhist monks would combine Tibetan Singing Bowls with a percussion instrument called the “wooden fish,” which is struck when a specific phrase is chanted. And this would be done as part of a ritual before and after meditating.

In Japanese and Vietnamese tradition singing bowls are used a little differently. There, they are used to mark the beginning and ending of periods of walking meditation and seated meditation.

It took thousands of years, but Tibetan Singing Bowls gradually became popular in the West, and today they are used in health spas and yoga studios as a way to relax the mind.

The best way to use a Tibetan Singing Bowl, however, is to meditate on it.

Have you ever meditated on a Tibetan Singing Bowl? It is a very relaxing experience. And science proves that there are many benefits to singing-bowl meditation.

Let’s take a look.



How the sounds of the singing bowl help with meditation

how to use a tibetan singing bowl
A Buddha statue next to singing bowls

As you will know if you’ve used a singing bowl before, the rim of the bowl vibrates to produce a whistling sound.

That sound is made up of two frequencies: a first harmonic and overtones.

The frequencies of Tibetan Singing Bowls are at ranges that are very beneficial to the brain. There are also undertones that the bowls makes. Together, these sounds produce a chord that is a “flattened fifth”.

Naga Shakthi says, “Singing bowls produce layers of rich additional overtones, which, when heard binaurally, create beat frequency which alters our brain waves from a Beta brainwave state to an Alpha state”.

When you meditate on the sound of a singing bowl you switch your brain to alpha frequency. And alpha frequency is very beneficial (for more on this take a look at my guide to Alpha-brain-wave meditation).

Scientific research shows that the flattened-fifth chord the bowl makes is very good for meditation.

Th flattened fifth chord that the bowls produce is perfect for spiritual healing and chakra balancing.

As you listen to the frequency of the bowls your brain waves actually synchronise with the sound of the bowl, and at the same time the unique tones produce a deep meditative state. Not only this, but the sonic waves of the singing bowls open your mind, which can lead to spiritual awakening.

I looked for scientific research to prove that Tibetan Singing Bowls have an effect on the brain, but sadly I came up short. It appears there is very little scientific research about singing bowls. The best I could find was a fascinating article by Quart, which looks at at the physics and experience of Tibetan Singing Bowls and whether they actually work (4).



Do Tibetan Singing Bowls work? Science says yes.

twitter-icon Sound is vibration. Vibration touches every part of our physical being. Sound is heard through every cell in our bodies.

One scientist determined to uncover the secrets of the bowls is Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, [director of Medical Oncology and Integrative Medicine, Cornell Cancer Prevention Center New York].

Dr. Gaynor tells us, “Sound is vibration. Vibration touches every part of our physical being. Sound is heard not only through our ears but through every cell in our bodies.

“One reason sound heals on a physical level is because it so deeply touches and transforms us on the emotional and spiritual planes. Sound can redress imbalances on every level of physiologic functioning and can play a positive role in the treatment of virtually any medical disorder.”

It turns out, Tibetan Singing Bowls actually relate to mantras–specifically the mantra “Om”.

Sound Healing expert Diane Mandle says, “Tibetan singing bowls are ‘struck and sung’ in specific rhythmic patterns to create vibrational sound harmonics at the frequency of “AUM” or “OM”.

“This sound frequency is the sound of Perfection. It impacts the sympathetic nervous system as your brain waves synchronize to the vibrations of the bowls.

“The harmonic vibrations engage the relaxation reflex and slow down the respiratory, brain and heart rate and disrupt the pain reflex creating a deep sense of well-being,” says Mandle.

This perhaps explains how singing bowls have helped to heal disorders, including cancer.

Speaking about the first time he learned to used a Tibetan singing bowl, Dr. David Simon [medical director, Deepak Chopra Center] says, “I could feel the vibration physically resonating through my body, touching my core in such a way that I felt in harmony with the universe. I immediately intuited that playing the bowls would change my life and the lives of many of my patients.”  Simon has subsequently tested Tibetan Singing Bowls on his patients and states that sound has a powerful capacity for healing even in cancer patients.


How Tibetan Singing Bowls Heal Mind And Body

Illnesses can be thought of as a disharmony of the body, an imbalance.

All energy is in a state of vibration, including energy in the body. When that vibration is tampered with the body falls out of sync, resulting in illness.

Meditating on the sound of a Tibetan Singing Bowl restores the body to its natural frequency. And this in turn cures illnesses, both physical and psychological.

You can quite quickly test this for yourself.

Below is a video demonstrating Tibetan Singing Bowls being played.

Listen to the sounds and you will quickly feel your body and mind relaxing, unwinding, and restoring to their natural state.

Some consider the sound of singing bowls to be divine.

Bodhisattva Gwalwa Karmapa says Tibetan Singing Bowls produce the sound of nothingness, the primordial sound, resonating at the same frequency as “Om,” the frequency of creation. This is why early models of Tibetan Singing Bowls have been in use by Shamanistic cultures since as early at 560BC.




The Difference Between Binaural Beats And Tibetan Singing Bowls

Many readers have asked me if the healing properties of Tibetan Singing Bowls is similar to that of binaural beats.

Though some studies into binaural beats have given positive results, the latest Brainwave Entertainment lacks the history and culture of the Tibetan Singing Bowl.

There is an ethereal quality to the singing bowl that binaural beats lack.

Tibetan Singing Bowls hold a powerful spiritual symbolism and that symbolism can help you to get deeper into the meditation, which creates a more powerful and lasting effect than any audio recording ever will.

Because of their spiritual-aspect, Tibetan Singing Bowls also activate certain beliefs.

Countless studies have shown the power of belief and the power of spiritual influence on the mind.

The more the mind believes in the spiritual properties of an object the more effect that object will have on them. By mere virtue of their history and spiritual symbolism, Tibetan Singing Bowls are more powerful than binaural beats and other modern practices. And that is not likely to change.

Plus, Tibetan Singing Bowls are a natural, analogous sound, where more modern sound healing devices are digital. So for my money, you’re never going to see a digital recording that is as good as an actual real-life Tibetan Singing Bowl that you are playing for yourself.

Still, there are similarities between the bowls and binaural beats. For starters, both produce theta brainwaves. At 4-8Hz our self-healing, intuition, and creativity mechanisms are activated. It’s at this range that you are at your strongest, and that is precisely the range Brainwave Entertainment and Tibetan Singing Bowls put you in. It is also at this frequency that the chakras can be healed.

The Indian healing system believes that chakras, energy centres, pass energy around the body. You can discover the science and spiritual of Chakras in our Complete Guide To ChakrasHere I will just cover chakras briefly.

Essentially, there are seven chakras in the body (Root chakra, Sacral chakra, Solar Plexus chakra, Heart chakra, Throat chakra, Third Eye chakra, and Crown chakra). When one of these chakras is blocked energy is not channeled through the body correctly. This can cause illness and dysfunction.  

Chakra balancing is used to restore the natural flow of prana / chi / energy around the body, thereby restoring health. This is precisely what happens when you meditate on a Tibetan Singing Bowl. When you meditate on the frequencies of a singing bowl you put your brain in a restorative state that balances the chakras.

We have now looked at the culture, history, and science of Tibetan Singing Bowls. Let’s take a look at how to actually use a Tibetan Singing Bowl.


How To Use A Tibetan Singing Bowl for Meditation 

twitter-icon I’m learning to play a Tibetan Singing Bowl! Checkout this great guide! 


 Believe it or not, there are lots of different ways that you can play a Tibetan Singing Bowl. The following are a few of my favorite techniques:

“Around Rim” Technique

  1. Hold the bowl in your left hand.
  2. Hold the mallet in your right hand at around mid-length.  Your fingertips should point down and should be touching the wood.
  3. Tap the mallet on the bowl’s side to warm the bell.
  4. Using an even pressure, move the mallet clockwise around the outside edge of the bowl. Use a full arm movement and keep stirring the bell almost like soup.
  5. Applying pressure, continue to rub the mallet around the outside edge of the singing bowl.
  6. Try not to go too fast but rather allow the volume to build gradually.
  7. Meditate on the sound for twenty minutes.


 Advanced Tibetan Singing Bowl Meditation Technique: “Wah Wah” : 

Most singing bowls allow you to use the Wah Wah technique.

Try this:

  1. Hold the bowl in your left hand.
  2. Hold the mallet in your right hand at around mid-length.  Your fingertips should point down and should be touching the wood.
  3. Tap the mallet on the bowl’s side to warm the bell.
  4. Using an even pressure, move the mallet clockwise around the outside edge of the bowl. Use a full arm movement and keep stirring the bell almost like soup.
  5. Applying pressure, continue to rub the mallet around the outside edge of the singing bowl.
  6. Try not to go too fast but rather allow the volume to build gradually.
  7. Pull the mallet away from the bowl while it is still singing.
  8. Hold the bowl up to your top lip one inch away from your mouth.
  9. Now imagine that you’re saying “Wah. Wah. Wah.” Make the mouth shape of this sound while your mouth is an inch from the bowl.  This will change the sound of the bowl.


Water Bowl

You can produce a special effect by putting a little water on the bottom of the bowl. This makes the bowl sound like dolphins.

Here’s how:

  1. Put three quarters of an inch of water into the bowl but do not get the rim wet.
  2. Hold the bowl in  your left hand.
  3. Hold the mallet in your right hand at around mid-length. Your fingertips should point down and should be touching the wood.
  4. Tap the mallet on the bowl’s side to warm the bell
  5. Using an even pressure, move the mallet clockwise around the outside edge of the bowl. Use a full arm movement and keep stirring the bell almost like soup.
  6. Applying pressure, continue to rub the mallet around the outside edge of the singing bowl.
  7. Pull the mallet away
  8. Now tilt the bowl, causing the water inside to lap towards the rim.
  9. Now swirl the bowl. This will create  the sound of dolphins.


 This is the type of sound you can produce once you know how to use Tibetan singing bowls.

Tibetan Singing Bowl Meditation


How To Buy A Tibetan Singing Bowl

So by now it should be fairly obvious why you would want to buy a Tibetan Singing Bowl.

How do you buy one?

I’ll offer you some tips so you know that you are buying a high-quality singing bowl.

1. For starters, be aware that there are a lot of Tibetan Singing Bowls that look old but are actually new. They’re fake-antiques. Worse, they do not have the right musical tones, history or energy for a singing bowl.

2. If a bowl is being marketed as old it should be at least a hundred years old. Some vintage singing bowls in private collections are thousands of years old.

You can tell if it’s a genuine antique singing bowl by looking for specific markers. For instance, genuine antiques will have markings inside and out, be thinner on the bottom, may have a certificate saying it has been certified as genuine, and will cost from $100 (for a very small bowl) to many thousands for a large one.

Old bowls are made of different materials, too.

The new ones are typically made of a type of bronze called “bell metal”, which is made of copper and tin. Antique bowls are made of high-quality bronze and various other metals, such as gold, silver, meteoric iron (sky-metal) and thogcha.

YoWangDu has written an excellent guide that explain important facts about how singing bowls are made. Read the article here. It answers a lot of questions.

Next thing to consider:

3. What are you going to use the bowl for?

  • Healing?
  • Grounding?
  • Chakra meditation?
  • In yoga classes?
  • What type of meditation will you be doing? Zen? Mindfulness? OM? These are important considerations to make.


4. Consider the mallet

Mallets come in different sizes and weights. Some are suede. Some wood. Some felt-covered.

tibetan singing bowl mallets
A mallet to use with Tibetan singing bowls

Mallets vary greatly.

The weight, size and material of the mallet will affect the sound the bowl makes. That’s one reason why you should always try and play the singing bowl before buying it.


5. Testing sound quality

It’s very important to test the sound of the bowl by playing it yourself before you buy.

A good bowl will make a rich, resonant sound that lasts for a long time when it is struck. You should be able to hear the overtones it’s producing. If the bowl doesn’t hold its sound it is a badly made bowl. Even economical bowls should hold their sound.


6. Does the bowl sound tinny?

That’s another sign of a bad bowl. Don’t buy it.


So which is the best Tibetan Singing Bowl?

The best Tibetan Singing Bowl has a rich sound with overtones and can be held comfortably in the hand.

Which is the best Tibetan Singing Bowl?

For an economical bowl I recommend the Ohm Store Tibetan Meditation Yoga Singing Bowl Set

For a set of Chakra singing bowls, take a look at TheMelMart’s set on Amazon.


And speaking of chakras…

Tibetan Singing Bowls And The Chakras

Singing bowls are designed to help activate all chakras. This is one thing that makes them different to crystal bowls and tuning forks.


Some singing bowls are better at activating certain chakras than others.

For instance, bowls that produce low tones are good for opening the root chakra, mid tones for the heart chakra, and high tones for the third eye chakra.

That’s one reasons why some people like to buy several different singing bowls: one for each chakra.

If you are working with the chakras, remember to either buy one excellent singing bowl that will open all chakras, or to buy bowls that produce different tones, which can be especially good at opening specific chakras.



In this guide we’ve covered everything you need to know about Tibetan Singing Bowls.

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