It was love at first “ring”! I can still remember the first time I ever heard the beautiful sound of a Tibetan Singing Bowl. I had never seen or heard of one before and the tone that it produced was immediately calming and intriguing. I was fascinated that a bowl could produce such an amazing sound and so magically!
Singing bowls are often referred to as Tibetan or Himalayan Singing Bowls and their origin can be traced back to the 10th-12th century AD to countries such as Nepal, Tibet, India, China and Japan. For those of you not familiar with singing bowls, they are actually a type of bronze bell known as a “standing bell.” Rather than hanging, they sit in an inverted position, just like a bowl. The bowls are played either by rubbing a mallet around the rim (as one might play a crystal glass with a finger), or striking the side of the bowl with the mallet. The sides and rim of singing bowls vibrate to produce sound characterized by a fundamental frequency (first harmonic) and usually two audible harmonic overtones (second and third harmonic). Singing bowls are still manufactured today in the traditional way by hand hammering. They are used worldwide for meditation, music, relaxation, healing and personal well-being.
Years after being introduced to singing bowls, I now own my very own! I occasionally bring it to class and have the children listen to it and try it out. Children are very intrigued by the sound and always have a lot of questions about where the sound is coming from and how it works. It also has a very calming effect. I would encourage teachers to keep one in their classroom and bring it out during transition times. It can be played to focus the class or it can be offered to individual children who might need a little extra attention!
You might not know it, but you have a singing bowl already in your kitchen! How many of you have a stainless steel mixing bowl? Bring out those metal bowls and offer them to your child with a rubber mallet. Of course these don’t produce the same long, deep tones as a real singing bowl but the vibration produced when struck could fool you! While you are at it, look in your kitchen for other possible camouflaged instruments! How about spoons? Try playing them together like a castanet, just like they do in Ireland! Don’t forget that chopsticks make wonderful rhythm sticks for older kids and Tupperware filled with beans or rice make wonderful shakers!
If you want to learn more about Himalayan cultures, check if your community hosts a Himalayan Fair. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can enjoy music, dancing, food and artifacts at the Himalayan Fair held this year on May 18 and 19 at Live Oak Park in Berkeley. See you there!