HOW TO PLAY TIBETAN SINGING BOWLS
The “Around-The-Rim” Technique
- Hold the singing bowl on the palm of the left hand. For smaller bowls, seven inches and under, hold on your fingertips.
- Grasp the mallet about mid-length, with all the fingertips pointing downwards and touching the wood. (If you are using one of our padded mallets, the red wool should be on top.) Palm downward.
- Gently tap the mallet against the side of the bowl to “warm-up” the bell.
- With an even pressure, rub the mallet clockwise around the outside edge of the rim of the bowl. Use a full arm movement, just like stirring a big kettle of soup, and keep the mallet straight up and down! Again, it’s not a wrist movement, but a full-arm movement.
Remember to apply pressure– the friction of the mallet against the outer rim produces vibrations which result in sound.
Experiment with your speed. Usually people go too fast! Let the sound build up slowly as the singing bowl picks up the vibration.
Breaking in Your Mallet
The mallet that comes with your Tibetan singing bowl is handmade of Himalayan hardwood. When you play the bowl, using the mallet-around-the-rim technique, the friction of the mallet produces vibrations which result in sound. In the beginning the mallet is relatively smooth, but as you continue to use it it will develop “micro-grooves”, shallow grooves which help to grab more of the playing edge of the bowl. Allow about five minutes for initial break-in of a new mallet. As you use the mallet more the micro-grooves become impressed in the mallet and you will get better sound and easier playing from your bowl.
Most all Tibetan singing bowls have natural wah-wahs which you can amplify and bend by using the wah-wah technique.
- Get the bowl singing by using the mallet-around-the-rim technique described above. Pull the mallet away from the bowl and let the bowl continue to sing.
- While still holding the bowl in your hand, raise the bowl up to your mouth so that the outside rim is just above the opening of your mouth and about an inch away.
- Open and close your mouth while thinking of the sound wah-wah. You are not actually making any sound with your mouth, but simply changing the shape of the oral cavity so as to allow the sound of the singing bowl to bounce around inside of your mouth and then be reflected back. By changing the size of the oral cavity you are modulating the sound!
Experiment with the relative position of your mouth to the outside bowl rim. Also, if you turn the bowl, while experimenting with the wah-wah effect, you will find “hot spots” where the bowl is naturally louder.
Water Bowl Sounds
A special sound effect can be produced by adding a small amount of water to the bottom of the singing bowl. The sounds produced using this technique sound like dolphins singing!
- The amount of water to use varies with the individual bowl. Start by pouring about 3/4″ of water into the bowl. Be careful NOT to get the outside rim of the bowl wet.
- Now, play the bowl using the mallet-around- the-rim technique. Bring up the sound by using a steady even pressure. Pull the mallet away from the bowl rim and let the bowl continue to sing.
- Still holding the bowl in your hand, tilt the bowl so that the water inside gently laps up toward the inside rim. Continue to gently swirl and tilt the bowl and the water.
Experiment with the amount of water used. Usually the best effect is produced with a minimum amount of water. Keep a towel handy in case of spills.
Isolating the Fundamental
This technique requires awareness, breath and concentration. If you have a fairly thin-walled Buddha bowl, you can isolate the fundamental (bass tone) by using a leather-covered mallet. Follow the instructions regarding your rimming technique for the female overtone, only use the leather end of your mallet for rimming and make sure your mallet is pointed straight up. Experiment with using a lighter pressure.