Singing bowls were brought to Tibet from India – along with Buddhist monks who used them in their meditation practices already 3,000 years ago.
Singing bowls are made of an alloy of several (up to a dozen) metals. They have a diameter of between 15 up to 40 centimetres and look like food dishes. Most often, they are decorated with images of Buddhas and mantras syllables.
The technique of playing the singing bowls resembles that of playing the wine glasses – in the case of singing bowls, however, a special pin wrapped in soft material is used instead of wet fingers. Rubbing the edges of singing bowls with a pin makes them vibrate, and elongated, slightly sinusoidal sounds can be heard in the interior – from high squeaks to low-frequency hums (the larger the bowl, the lower the sound). The way of holding the instrument in the hands is one of the factors affecting the sound emitted by singing bowls. The tone of the instrument depends on the size and density of the material from which it is made. In Buddhism, the singing bowl’s sound quality is very important because it belongs to the most important elements of religious practice assisting meditation.
Vibrating sounds of singing bowls are often accompanied by strong vibrations that one can feel during playing, e.g. on his hand. Therefore, these instruments can be of particular value for people with hearing impairment since the sound they emit can also be experienced with the sense of touch, which often has a beneficial effect on the quality of the listening experience.
In the twenty-first century, singing bowls are still popular musical instruments, their sound is often used to enter into a state of relaxation that also promotes loosening of tensions of the body. Such a procedure is sometimes called sound massage.