Your First Singing Bowl: A guide for what to buy

by Amulya Pandey
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Standing bells – more commonly known as singing bowls or Tibetan singing bowls – are inverted bells with the rims on the top. They are capable of producing a sustained musical note. Different sized bowls produce different frequencies of sound. The bowls are believed to have been originated in China as early as the reign of the Shang dynasty(16th – 11th century BCE).


The bowls comprise of thick rims and have distinct acoustic properties. If you are interested in buying a singing bowl for the first time then the multitude of bowls available in the market might be overwhelming for the most of you. There are different sizes to choose from, different materials out of which the bowls are made and different regions of origin.


Singing bowls are used for religious purposes, music making, and meditation, as well as for relaxation and personal well-being. They have become popular with music therapists and sound healers, yoga, and meditation practitioners. Rimming the edges of the singing bowl with a wooden mallet produces a distinct sound which is used for healing purposes by sound healers all around the world. Some use metal bowls, others use a crystal bowl – sometimes they also fill it up with water before they start their therapy.


It is sometimes stated that singing bowls are ‘traditionally’ made of an alloy consisting of various metals, often seven, each associated with a heavenly body. Those commonly mentioned are gold, silver, mercury, copper, iron, tin and lead (or antimony). This is said to be supported by the results of a 1996 analysis of two bowls by Concordia University, which found them to be essential of bell metal with small quantities—consistent with impurities—of some of the other metals that were looked for, namely lead, zinc, iron, and silver. No gold or mercury was found within the accuracy of the measuring apparatus. Crystal bowls, on the other hand, produced by reformed synthetic crushed crystals.


Choosing a singing bowl for a beginner depends on the projected use for the bowl. If you are looking to buy a singing bowl for decoration purposes aesthetic appeal of the bowl should be your primary concern. You would want to get a medium sized bowl and have a base that looks decorated as well. However, if you want to use the bowl for healing purposes or meditation, you have to look into other factors such as the composition of the bowl, it’s acoustic impedance, and the range of frequencies of the sounds it produces.


Kathmandu, Nepal remains the main gateway for singing bowl exports to the West and the best place to buy singing bowls.  If you should decide to visit Nepal and source your bowls in person I suggest you avoid buying from market stalls or gift shops and instead try to seek out a specialist Tibetan antique dealer and be prepared to pay a premium price for a premium product.  This will almost certainly be more than you expect, but if you buy wisely it will still represent excellent value. Your prospects for a successful trip will be greatly enhanced if you do a little homework and appear knowledgeable and bowl-savvy when negotiating a purchase.


Buying your first singing bowl should be for your comfort so pick out whichever one you feel is right. However, if you are dedicated to building a collection then I recommend getting an assortment of singing bowls ranging from antique to new, produced locally in various regions, made up of different alloys(get one that is formed from an alloy of seven metals, each one representing one of the seven chakras). When it comes to singing bowls, the sheer amount and variety can be overwhelming at first for most buyers but as you narrow down the purpose of the singing bowls in your life, picking one out becomes an easier feat.

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