When even Silicon Valley goes on yoga retreats, you know it’s time we all got in touch with our souls. But who’s got the time or money to fly to resorts, seclude themselves on a mountaintop, or make a pilgrimage to Tibet? Not us. So why not bring the Himalayas closer, instead, and listen to the voices of singing bowls?
As with all spiritual objects, singing bowls are daunting to buy online. How can you know it’ll connect with you, that its sound will really soothe and heal? It’s a tough call, but it’s not impossible. This time around, we’ll give you some tips on choosing a bowl, then introduce you to 10 of our favorites.
How to Choose a Singing Bowl – Buying Guide
Just like humans, no two bowls sing in the same voice. Here are some ways you can tell whether a bowl is right for you.
What Kind of Tone Are You Looking For? Materials
The resonance of a bowl, the vibrations it sends through your core, are born from the materials that went into the bowl. If we look at both traditional and modern bowls, four main materials come to mind.
Bronze: Traditional, Hand-Beaten, Soothing and Sonorous
If you find a bowl that’s been hammered into existence, it’s probably some kind of bronze. The ratio of copper to tin varies from bowl to bowl–and that, in addition to age, is how you get a range of colors: a bronze that’s a warm coffee, versus a bronze that’s a bright gold. Bronze bowls tend to be full-throated and earthy-sounding and can hold a note for minutes.
There’s no perfect combination of copper and tin. However, many singing bowls are made from bell metal, which has a higher ratio of tin (20-25%). These resonate the most and are behind the deep, powerful vibrations associated with a good singing bowl.
Brass: Easily Mass-Produced and Sounds Clean and Clear
Brass is an alloy, made up of copper and zinc. It’s got a color similar to that of molten gold, so it produces beautiful bowls. And that’s part of the reason why many modern bowls are brass, mass-produced by machines. Actually, if you come across a bowl that’s small and dirt-cheap, it’s probably brass.
Brass bowls don’t sound as throaty as bronze bowls; they tend to ring higher and sound more clear, crystalline. A note doesn’t also hold for as long. But that doesn’t make the bowl of lower quality, per se–it’s all a matter of personal preference.
Alloys Made up of Many Metals: Complex, Layered Sound
Some bowls are a mixture of five or more metals, including iron, silver, or even gold. Each metal’s got its own tone, but generally speaking, the more ore there is, the more complex the soundscape. If the bowl sounds like it’s singing in multiple pitches at once, it’s probably been hammered from multiple metals.
There’s an old myth about bowls forged from the seven astrological metals–copper (Venus), tin (Jupiter), iron (Mars), quicksilver (Mercury), lead (Saturn), silver (the moon), and gold (the sun). This is mainly legend, though. While there are a few ancient bowls that are made up of seven metals, most are made of two.
Rather, many seven metal bowls are actually modern, products of artisans anxious to keep the myth alive. We haven’t any idea how magical they are–but all those metals certainly produce a rich and many-layered sound.
Crystal: Pure Sound and Sharp, Tangible Vibrations
These don’t look the most Buddhist, but they sure are beautiful. Crystal bowls have been surging in the West. They’re available in a range of pastel colors, and they’ve got a clear, airy sound that really clears the mind. The ring’s higher pitched, and the vibrations travel deep into your body–which is why yogis and therapists alike use crystal bowls to soothe and heal.
Modern Bowls for the Everyday; Ancient Bowls for the Mellowness of Age
Just as a good guitar ripens with age, the sound of a bowl also mellows as the years go by. It gains “character,” as fanatics say. And old bowls have history. While most modern bowls are here to help city-dwellers de-stress, ancient bowls often served some ceremonial or religious purpose (or, more prosaically, they were used to store grain).
So, are ancient bowls worth the extra money? If you are looking for mystique, if you’re an audiophile, and if you can somehow verify that a bowl is indeed old, sure. But it’s hard to guess the age of a bowl, especially online. It’s easy to make a bowl look older than it is; patina is not a reliable marker.
Modern bowls still work to bring down a blanket of calm. And they’re reliably cheaper. To ensure quality, this article introduces only bowls that are being reliably produced right now. (Though, by the way, you can buy purportedly ancient bowls online on sites like eBay.)
What Note Does It Ring Out? Open Your Chakras
Many bowls are tuned to a certain pitch, each connected to a certain Chakra. (Crystal bowls, by the way, hold a note most reliably. Hand-crafted bowls are unique by nature and often sing at varying pitches.) If you’re looking for a bowl to heal your Chakra, see if it sings at the following notes.
Starting up top, we have the Crown Chakra, which leads us into higher states of consciousness and forms a bridge to the universal. Its note is B. A little bit lower, we have the Pineal Chakra, also known as the 3rd Eye. It’s connected to mystical vision and foresight. It responds to the notes A and A#.
Next is the Throat Chakra, which leads us to communicate and speak the truth. Its notes are G and G#. Then, there’s the Heart Chakra, the Chakra of love. It opens at the notes F and F#. Moving down, there’s the Solar Plexus Chakra. It’s associated with ego and willpower. Its note is E.
The Sacral Chakra is tied to pleasure and sensuality. Its notes are D and D#. Finally, we have the Root Chakra, which connects you to the Earth and makes you feel secure. It responds to the notes C and C#.
Top 10 Best Singing Bowls to Buy Online
Now, it’s time for you to find your match. Many of the bowls we introduce here have videos or audio clips, so give them a listen and find the voice that moves you most.
10. TOPFUND Singing Bowls F Note Crystal Singing Bowl (8″)
Flawless Appearance, Tuned to the Chakra of Compassion and Beauty
Let’s shake off tradition for just a bit. These bowls are made of quartz, which sound somehow purer, more airy than the earthy resonance of metal. Strike the bowl once, run the mallet around its rim, and the bowl will ring on and on. The 8″ is mid-tone; if you’re looking for something with a deeper hum, TOPFUND’s also got bowls twice as big.
The bowls are machine-made, hand-polished. So it can feel cold and mechanical, but tone is guaranteed. The one’s tuned, of course, to F–the heart chakra, overflowing with love and beauty.
9. DharmaObjects Tibetan Meditation Om Mani Padme Hum Peace Singing Bowl
The Loveliest Beginner’s Bowl–Available in a Range of Sizes and Colors
We aren’t sure how excited you’ll be when you hear these bowls are available in a fun variety of sizes and colors. The small bowls vibrate at a high, bright frequency; the bigger ones are fuller, throatier. The tone’s calming, resonant, and grows louder as you glide the mallet along the rim. (The little ones, though, can sound tinny when the volume peaks.)
The lip’s tight though, so it doesn’t sing easily. They also all sing to different notes–and, if you’re too rough with it, the lip chips over time. But it’s a lovely bowl with a lovely sound at a lovely price.
8. The Ohm Store Tibetan Meditation Yoga Singing Bowl Set
Crystalline Ring and Palm-Sized Mental Clarity
You can’t tell from the picture, but this bowl is really small and cute; you can cup it in your palm. It’s not hard to get it to sing, and it’s got a high, crystalline ring that clears the mind. The vibrations travel through the air, and the sound resonates. Each bowl sings to a different note–most fall between a mid-D or E.
This bowl will travel from Nepal to reach the shores of America. Parts of it were hand-crafted, others machine manufactured, and while it isn’t exuding mystique, it’s honest–does what it claims to do and is well worth the price.
7. Yak Therapy Tibetan Handmade Singing Bowl Set
Carries a Rich, Multi-Tone Ring and Is Inscribed with Compassion
Here’s another little (4″) bowl. There is, again, no consensus as to what note it sings to–the description refers to the Crown Chakra (its note is B), but listeners have also heard F and A. This bowl also doesn’t sing willingly, but it will after some practice. When it performs, the sound is layered–a deep, warm tone beneath a high, bright ring. (It claims to be made out of 7 metals.)
Its voice has been called haunting, yet infinitely serene. It’s got all the little imperfections of a hand-crafted item. Within, it’s inscribed with the Tibetan mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum,” related to transformation and the Bodhisattva of compassion.
6. Singing Bowl Nepal 11″ F Note Master Healing Mantra Carved Singing Bowl
Looks Aged and Hand-Hammered, with an Inscription of Buddha
The bowl’s got patina, the indents of numerous hammer blows, and a faint Buddha inscribed at the bottom of the bowl. Prayers are carved into the walls, among them “Om Muni” (Om Buddha). So, you can’t accuse it of not having atmosphere.
It sings easily and can hold a note for ages. The sound is layered, and you can feel the vibrations in the air, so some use the bowl for healing. It’s soothing. It, too, was crafted in Nepal by hand; it claims to sing to F, the Heart Chakra, but there is likely variance between one bowl and the next.
5. Geshe’s Dharma Tibetan Singing Bowl Set Hand Made 5″
Calms down Your Kid and Opens the Chakra of Communication
Because these bowls are hand-made, they sing in a variety of notes. Most are G, the Throat Chakra, or the Chakra of expression. Other times, however, it’s come out to C, or C#, the Root Chakra, which deals with physicality and survival. Either way, the sound is warm and washes over you, soothing you. (If it can calm down a kid frustrated with his homework, it can calm down anyone.)
Most just strike it. If you want to rub it around the rim and get it to sing, you can do so; it’ll just take time and patience. But that’s why you’re getting this bowl, right? To practice calm and fortitude.
4. SUMCOO Sound Bowl, Tibetan Singing Bowl
Palm-Sized Bowl with a Soft, Silvery Tone
All the 4 inches of this bowl sit snugly on the palm of your hand. It sings willingly; even a child can run the wooden mallet along its rim and get it to ring out. It’s got a soft, silvery tone–almost bringing to mind the sound of wind-chimes, but fuller and lower. However, it continues to ring for only a few seconds after you strike it.
It’s squat, bulbous, with the lip curving steeply in. The hammer marks on the bowl are beautiful, the sound it produces calming.
3. Silent Mind Hand Hammered B Crown Chakra Tibetan Singing Bowl Set
Sings in Long, Resonate Notes, Which Induces Oneness with the Universe
This bowl’s lovely, with gently sloped walls and hammer grooves. It’s made only of bronze, and yet it sings out with rich, varied undertones. Strike it, and one note seems to stretch into eternity. Most are tuned to B, the note of the Crown Chakra, connected to awareness, identification with the universe, and transcendence.
This bowl came from the heartland, Nepal, hand-crafted by a local artisan. It’s helped with insomnia; some have played the bowl before sleep, and were able to drift peacefully into slumber. Others leave it on their desk, and when work threatens to get overwhelming, they strike it and remember to breathe again.
2. Maha Bodhi Tibetan Singing Bowl Set
Purifying Sound and Contemplative Image of Buddha
It’s a little Buddha that can fit in the palm of your hand! And yet, the bowl is so resonant, it sends vibrations through your entire body. The sound is clean, and listening to it is a purifying experience. But the rings do fade away after a few seconds, and the sound lacks deeper undertones–the usual weaknesses of inexpensive little bowls.
It sings quite easily–but, again, each bowl hums in a different note. The box it comes in is a vibrant crimson–beautiful and perfect to hand off as a gift.
1. Singing-bowl House 11″ D-Chakra Master Healing Singing Bowl
Low, Complex Gong That Rings Forever
Because these bowls are hand-hammered, they don’t all sing at a D–but they do all sound beautiful. Strike it once, and you can still hear faint hums a couple minutes later. And it’s not only bell bronze; the maker lists off the seven elements, which contribute to the layered harmonics and low mellow gong.
It’s not a willing singer–most abandon the stick and strike it with the mallet. It’s calming, and you can fill its 11″ diameter tub with water and watch the ripples dance.
Extra, Extra! Types of Traditional Singing Bowls
If you are interested in antiques, it might be interesting to learn about all the different kinds of bowls there are. They didn’t make it into our top 10 list this time around because we can’t guarantee authenticity. But at least you can keep this information in mind for the next time you visit Nepal or Tibet.
Thadobati: Characterized by High Straight Walls
Thado means “straight.” These singing bowls all have high, straight walls and a wide bottom. They’re quite common, as far as antiques go, and carry a wide variety of designs and inscriptions. They’ve also got flexible singing voices, stretching over four octaves, and are quite easy to play.
Remuna: Characterized by its Bulbous Profile
The Remuna’s a cousin to the Thadobati. They’ve got similar soundscapes; the Remuna sings perhaps a bit higher, but it varies from bowl to bowl. But with the Remuna, the walls slope inwards and are thinner. They’re just as easy to play as the Thadobati, though.
Jambati: A Popular Chakra Healer
Jambatis have often got a low, calming ring to them–which might be why they’re so popular as Chakra healers. They’re also encased by high walls, but the walls are more curved than those of the Thadobati. They’re always hand-beaten and show off indents from the blows of the hammer.
Manipuri: Shallow Walls, Huge Range of Types
Manipuri all have short walls, but that’s where the similarities end. They can be thick or thin, plain or covered in inscriptions, big or small. (Most have a diameter less than half a foot, though.) These bowls are common and varied–which means they sing in a bunch of different octaves and are relatively cheap.
Pedestal or Naga: The Most Mystical Looking
These are the only bowls that loom up on a pedestal–and they look beautiful and mystical. It’s no wonder that many originally had a ceremonial use and bear some kind of inscription. There’s a wide range of thicknesses and sizes, but generally speaking, these bowl have a clean, bright sound. They don’t resonate as deeply.
Ultabati: Witchy, with a Low Resonance
These big bowls are rare and magical-looking. They’ve got blooming lips, which is why they look so much like witch’s cauldrons. Because they’re so deep, they’ve got a low timber to their rings–bringing to mind the “om” of monks.
Mani: Squat, and Yet High-Pitched
We’re moving further into the territory of rare singing bowls. Mani have lips that curve inwards. They’re squat, with thick walls–despite that, they tend to sing in bright, penetrating notes.
Lingam: Ritualistic, with a Pulsating Ring
These adorable fellows are identified by their bellybuttons. Lingnam are sometimes associated with Shiva, the male principle, or pure consciousness. It’s no wonder, then, than lingam are often used for rituals. They have this pulsating ring, which ranges from mid- to high-range. They’re also, arguably, the rarest and most expensive of the singing bowls–and the market is rife with fakes.
Beauty and sound are such subjective things. A bowl may soothe one person and grate on the nerves of another. Hopefully, though, you’ve discovered one from among our selection that will bring you peace in today’s relentlessly chugging, relentlessly cold society. Best of luck.
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