Antique Singing Bowls
Very little is known about the origin of Tibetan or Himalayan singing bowls and how they were used or played in the past. There are no known references to them in ancient texts from the region, and any information that may have been transmitted through oral traditions remains tenuous and elusive, at least to Westerners. Our current knowledge is based largely on recent Himalayan shamanic and Buddhist practices, and singing bowl use elsewhere in the world. There is certainly no shortage of modern applications for these beautiful and fascinating objects which now feature prominently in a wide variety of cleansing and healing therapies, as well as in meditation, religious ceremonial and ritual occasions, and musical performance. Many of today’s popular therapeutic practices have evolved from empirical research into the unique sonic qualities of antique singing bowls by alternative healthcare professionals, as well as from recent scientific and medical research into sound theory and the healing effects of sound on the human mind, body and spirit. It seems quite possible that at least some of these modern applications will exactly mirror their original Himalayan ones.
Antique Tibetan and Himalayan Singing Bowls are first and foremost musical instruments. We know this by their bell-like form, the type of resonant bronze alloy typically used in their construction, by their apparent tuning to specific frequencies, and the purity of the sounds they make. But they are musical instruments with a difference! I believe they were made specifically to accompany ritual, sacred and ceremonial occasions conducted by Himalayan spiritual leaders, healers and shamans. Little is known about their early ritual use, or whether they were played individually, sequentially or together in instrumental groups, but spiritual leaders and shaman were undoubtedly aware of the powerful effects these sounds and their vibrations had on community members, and bowl-makers of old would have been highly regarded for their alchemical and forging skills.
Himalayan singing bowls deliver many benefits over and above the beauty of their voices. Singing bowls are known to have a calming effect that can sooth pain, reduce anxiety and stress levels, and generally create a sense of wellbeing. Some people simply use them for relaxation or as a focus for meditation, but their complex harmonic overtones and vibrant energy can also influence brainwave patterns and alter states of consciousness though a process known as acoustic entrainment. They are able to put us into the peaceful alpha or theta states of mind that are believed to have powerful and beneficial healing effects. And there is a growing body of evidence that the sound frequencies produced by singing bowls can restore balance and harmony at a cellular level and improve human immune function, and lower heart rate and blood pressure. Sound therapists use Himalayan singing bowls for healing and chakra balancing, Buddhists for meditation, Feng Shui practitioners for space clearing, shaman for healing, trance induction, journeying and exorcism, while others use them purely as musical instruments.
Singing bowls are a form of inverted bell, minus the tongue and crown, made from a sonorous hand-forged bronze alloy that varies slightly from bowl to bowl. They are played by striking the wall with a padded mallet or rubbing around the rim with a wooden or leather-wrapped wand. This excitation causes the sides and rim of the bowl to change shape slightly and vibrate…producing a wonderfully complex and multi-harmonic sound that is unique to singing bowls and unlike any other musical instrument.
Unlike modern mass-produced cast or pressed bowls every hand-forged singing bowl is a one-off individual with its own unique voice. The quality of sound is determined by the precise composition of the bronze alloy used, the shape, thickness and size of the bowl and its rim, and the forging process itself…all of which affect a bowl’s fundamental note, its pitch, harmonic resonance, duration and timbre. With so many variables it is not surprising that every singing bowl is unique. Some modern hand-beaten bowls, forged in the traditional way in India and Nepal, are beautifully crafted instruments with good pitch and long sustains…but they do not deliver the sound quality or the benefits of a genuine antique singing bowl.
It is the aging process…the way in which a bowl has been used and cared for, and the molecular changes that occur in its structure over a hundred or so years of use, that refine the sound and sets an antique bowl apart from its modern counterpart. Furthermore, hallowed mantras were traditionally chanted during the forging of singing bowls…imbuing them with sacred intention and esoteric power. This power, be it real or imagined, adds potency to the efficacy of a bowl.
Put simply, old bowls are special. They FEEL different. They SOUND different and they ARE different. OLD BOWLS SING BETTER THAN NEW and it’s important that we are able to distinguish between them. Click here for guidance on How to Tell Old Bowls from New.
Antique singing bowls come in a wide variety of styles, shapes and sizes…but our primary consideration when collecting has always been the quality of sound, the excellence of a bowl’s singing voice. The antique singing bowls in our collection are between 100 and 400 years old, a few may be older. Click here for Descriptions of the Singing Bowl Types