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Singing BowlsAbout the singing bowls

About the singing bowls

Frequently asked questions

Texts and pictures by Dr Andreas Neugebauer

Where do the singing bowls come from?

The distribution area of the so-called "Tibetan singing bowls" today extends over the entire Indian Himalayas, including Nepal, as well as West Bengal, Odisha (Orissa until 2011), Assam and Bangladesh. Bengal is probably the real origin of the singing bowls. The Buddha Shakyamuni, who is often depicted with a bowl, lived here over 2500 years ago. Much later, in the eighth century AD, Buddhist teachings spread to South East Asia, China and Tibet, where they developed into Tantric Buddhism, with its multitude of rituals and the particularly powerful and fast-acting but mostly secret techniques of Vajrayana. There are few reports on the use of bowls in Tibetan tantric practice. It is often assumed that the teachings on the use of the bowls were deliberately kept secret in the past. After the occupation of Tibet, much of the ancient knowledge was lost. Only in Japan has the production and use of the bowls for ritual and religious purposes continued uninterrupted. Today, singing bowls are used in many different ways all over the world.

How do the designs differ?

Bowls of different origins and designs also differ in sound. The rather expansive bowls from Bengal spread their deep sound evenly in all directions of the room. They are characterised by their wide, bulbous shape and often considerable size. On average, they weigh one to two kilos. The largest specimens reach over five kilos, but are extremely rare.

Bowls from Odisha (Orissa until 2011) with a medium size and high construction appear more concentrated and sound at a medium frequency. These bowls usually weigh up to one kilogramme. They are easy to handle and equally suitable for beginners and experienced players. Until a few years ago, singing bowls had a high cultural value in Orissa, even outside of yoga or therapeutic use. They were indispensable as a bridal gift for weddings. Traditionally, a set of 12 or more bowls was given to the bride at the wedding. The bowls were sometimes filled with beneficial and auspicious substances such as milk, sugar, cereals, scented water, flowers etc.

In Assam, where many shamanistic practices are still alive today, smaller, rather flat bowls with a mostly golden, matt lustre and bright sound can be found.

Two factors are decisive for the pitch of singing bowls: the size of the bowls and the thickness of their walls. With increasing size, singing bowls sound deeper and deeper. A thicker wall, on the other hand, leads to higher vibration frequencies.

Thick-walled bowls sound higher. The thickness of the wall at the upper edge of the bowl is the most important factor. The wall thickness also determines the overtone distribution of a singing bowl. Thick-walled bowls have fewer overtones. They have a purer, but also somewhat poorer sound. Their sound information is transmitted in a very targeted, precise and concentrated manner.

Thin-walled bowls have a broad spectrum of overtones. In extreme cases, this leads to a shimmering sound. Such bowls can stimulate and energise.

Bowls with a medium wall thickness have a balanced ratio of fundamental and overtones. They can be used universally.

How fragile are the singing bowls?

Singing bowls are very sensitive and fragile. They should never be dropped on the hard floor or otherwise handled roughly, otherwise they will lose all or part of their sound. They can also shatter completely if hit very hard. Sometimes cracks form in the structure, partially or completely destroying the sound properties of the bowl. Such hairline cracks, which impair the sound, are usually not visible and often run beneath the surface. Small, visible cracks and irregularities in the metal, especially in the lower area of the bowl, on the other hand, very rarely have a negative effect on the sound of the bowl. Such cracks do not usually become larger. Even thin spots on the bottom of the bowl, a result of wear and tear from decades of use and ritual cleaning, do not affect the sound quality of the bowl.

Old or new singing bowls?

India is a very large country and the supply of old treasures initially seemed inexhaustible. However, due to the great demand for singing bowls in recent years, really good, old pieces are becoming increasingly difficult to find. The large bowls from Bengal in particular are virtually sold out. Anyone who can call such a rarity their own should consider themselves really lucky.

Until a few years ago, the production of singing bowls was almost completely extinct. The old tradition is now being revived due to the brisk demand worldwide. Singing bowls were originally always made from a bronze alloy, roughly comparable to bell casting. As with bell founders, the exact recipe used by blacksmiths is always somewhat shrouded in myth and was/is reluctant to be revealed. However, the ratio of copper to tin is around 70:30. In the old days, ore was mined locally and processed into metal. Traces of precious metals such as gold and silver remained in the base metals of the singing bowls, copper and tin. It is said that old bowls contained all the metals that were also of astrological significance.

Nowadays, the mines are somewhat larger and the mining and processing methods are very 'effective'. Precious metals are almost completely extracted from the ore by electrochemical and other methods and are therefore no longer contained in most new bowls. As a rule, new bowls consist only of pure copper and pure tin. In our forges for new shells, however, it is customary to add pieces of broken old shells to the melt. It is only through great experience that a blacksmith knows how the special ratio of copper, tin and old shells must be so that the bowl sounds really good later on. A small test casting is often made in advance, which is then smashed. The colour and structure of the broken piece tell the master what still needs to be added to the mass. With this process, trace metals are returned to our "new" bowls and astrological and subtle references are restored.

In the course of globalisation, there is also increasing price pressure in India and Nepal and attempts are being made to automate and save wherever possible. This starts with the selection of raw materials. Today, inferior alloys are often used for the production of bowls. Old bowls had a high tin content. The high tin content is one of the reasons for the brilliant sound of old bowls. Tin is quite an expensive metal today. This is why many people try to make bowls from the much cheaper brass alloys (copper and zinc). Brass is also much easier to process industrially, for example by machine forging, casting and turning. However, brass is much softer than bronze and has a muffled, short-lasting sound.

However, there are other reasons for the charm, inner quality and "energy" of the old bowls. Singing bowls were treasured by families as precious treasures and treated well for decades or even centuries. They were not given their smooth, soft surface by spinning steel brushes or grinding machines, but by loving hands and touch. Years of use have also allowed their inner material structure to organise itself. Old bowls usually sound better as a result. If you play a new bowl regularly for a very long time, you will achieve a similar effect. However, a beautiful, old bowl is certainly the better medium for a deeper or meditative engagement with sound. What would you prefer for meditation: a halogen spotlight or the soft light of a candle flame? For a concert, on the other hand, a halogen spotlight is often the medium of choice. Today we can offer you excellent new singing bowls in the Bengali tradition, which will inspire you with their powerful and long-lasting sound.

How are singing bowls made?

As already mentioned, the production of singing bowls is very complex and is still made by hand using traditional methods. Forging is still a fine art and requires a great deal of experience and years of practice. Usually, teams of four to eight people work together like a band of musicians. The forging of the bowls is like a concert: the smiths can hear what stage the bowl is at, when it should be reheated, how long it should be tapped, etc., based on the sequence of beats when hammering, the pitch when tapping or forcing.

At the beginning of the singing bowl production process, a melt is made from copper and tin. This is then poured into a clay crucible and left to cool. (As already mentioned, no gold or other precious metals are added in conventional singing bowl production. Copper and tin alone have become extremely expensive nowadays. Traces of precious metals usually come from the addition of old bowls that were produced before today's ore processing).

After cooling, the semicircular blanks are removed from the mould and then brought back up to temperature in a coal fire. When they are hot enough, the stoker removes them from the fire. In the case of large bowls, two blanks are often knocked together to form a pre-mould. This is probably where the myth of double-walled bowls comes from.

In teams of three to four men, the blanks are then beaten slowly and evenly with different hammers and on different bases, such as moulded stones, wood or metal. In between, the slowly emerging bowl is repeatedly heated in the embers so that no tension develops in the metal and the bowl does not crack. This process: heating - hammering - heating - hammering is repeated again and again until, piece by piece, a well-formed bowl is created from a crescent-shaped blank.

Once the shape and the ratio of size, wall thickness and sound are harmonised, the bowl is quenched in a water bath. This is followed by hardening and fine-tuning. To do this, the bowl is tapped with special metal hammers until the sound height and sound behaviour are harmonious.

After forging, the bowls are still rather copper-coloured with many drift marks. This is why they have to be completely scraped out with a lot of patience and force using scraping tools until the bays are smooth. Only then can the fine sanding and polishing be completed using a turning device, often still operated by foot or hand.

What is the difference between old and new singing bowls?

Old bowls were always driven. As unevenness grinds away with the age of the bowls, the surface becomes smoother and smoother with increasing age. However, traces of chiselling are almost always still visible, except on very old bowls, which can sometimes appear completely smooth.

The bowls often have small decorations, such as embossed dots on the rim, circumferential lines and the like. In the case of old bowls, these decorations have sometimes been worn away by years of use. Such structures are more heavily abraded, especially on slightly raised areas of a bowl. Circumferential lines that are higher in places due to the somewhat irregular shape of the bowl have almost or completely disappeared.

New, hammered bowls usually have a relatively roughly hammered surface in which individual hammer blows are still clearly visible. The metal structure is often porous and rough. In recent times, chased bowls have often been refinished, i.e. sanded and scraped, sometimes even patinated. Particular attention should be paid to the rim. On new bowls, this often appears more angular, even rough, as if it has been sawn or treated with a file.

New, drop-forged bowls can often appear very smooth. The shape of these bowls is sometimes somewhat unnatural and differs slightly from the shape of old bowls. Despite their smooth surface, they usually have a slightly rougher edge than old bowls.

New, moulded bowls are usually turned after casting to remove irregularities. On the simplest bowls, e.g. the small, heavy bowls from Nepal, a small point can often be seen in the centre of the bowl where the bowl was held when it was turned. But even old bowls sometimes show signs of having been turned. This is mainly due to the fact that old bowls have been reworked when they have become very unsightly.

New bowls are often heavier than old ones, but with the same sound quality. It is easier to produce a thicker bowl. In addition, bowls are traded by weight, which provides an additional incentive to deliver a heavier bowl. The base of new bowls in particular is usually quite thick. The base of old bowls is often very thin, as the base wears out the most. By flicking the bottom with your fingernail, you can easily estimate the thickness based on the sound.

In addition to metal singing bowls, so-called "crystal singing bowls" are also known today. They originate from the USA. The name is misleading as they are not made from natural rock crystal but from a special type of glass. The matt outer surface was achieved by sandblasting. When rubbed, they develop quite an intense tone, but overall they have a smaller variety of tones than metal bowls.

How to play singing bowls?

There are many different ways to play a singing bowl. You can strike a bowl with different woods or mallets. If you use a hard wood or even a metal object, it is mainly the overtones of the bowl that sound. Striking the bowl with your fist or with a soft mallet wrapped in leather, for example, produces the lowest tone, the fundamental.

You can also make a bowl ring by rubbing it in a circle with a suitable piece of wood, similar to the way you make a wine glass sing. Here it is important whether you use a hard or a soft, leather-wrapped stick, how much pressure you apply, the angle at which you hold the stick, etc. In either case, the bowl will sound differently. In any case, the bowl will sound different.

You can "play in" a bowl. It changes its sound characteristics within one session, but also over longer periods of time. This is mainly due to the fact that the crystalline structure of a vibrating bowl changes over time. The material has a "memory". So not only do we become more and more familiar with a singing bowl as we play it, but the bowl also "gets used" to us.

You can place a bowl on different parts of the body and strike it or have it struck to stimulate certain organ systems or chakras. In recent years, a separate form of therapy has also developed in the West: sound therapy. You can partially fill a bowl with water and change the height of the sound or observe the resulting wave patterns. There are still many more possibilities to be discovered. For me personally, one of the most beautiful experiences is simply listening to how the endless sound of a bowl merges into the sound of silence...

How is the sound behaviour?

In the following, the most important terms and circumstances are summarised once again and other special features are mentioned that make up the unique striking behaviour of the bowls.

The fundamental tone: this is the lowest tone of the bowl, which is achieved by striking it very softly, e.g. with a fist, a very soft mallet, etc. The fundamental tone does not actually consist of a single tone, but of two separate tones. In reality, the fundamental tone does not consist of a single tone, but of two separate tones that differ slightly in pitch. When two such tones come together, beating occurs. The tone swells and falls regularly or becomes louder and softer. The distance between the two fundamental tones in Hz (Hertz, the measure of frequency, = number of vibrations per second) determines the frequency at which the sound rises and falls. This is known as the beat frequency.

Example: If one tone has 135 Hz and the other 137 Hz there are 2 beats per second.

The first overtone:

Striking with a softer wood stimulates the first overtone in particular. This is also a pair of tones, as described above for the fundamental tone. The first overtone also has corresponding beats.

The higher overtones:

Higher overtones are excited by striking with a harder wood. Again, these are always pairs of tones that float. The second overtone is usually still clearly audible. It can even be dominant, especially with very large bowls. Even higher overtones are usually lost in the sound spectrum. This is why they are not used to categorise planetary tones

The influence of the ambient temperature on the pitch of the bowls:

Like most instruments, singing bowls also change their pitch with the temperature. Intuitively, you might think that the bowls would sound higher at higher temperatures. But the exact opposite is the case. The bowls expand in the heat. Their circumference increases and the frequency decreases: the bowl sounds lower! We take this effect into account when labelling the planetary singing bowls. The indication of planetary tones refers to an ambient temperature of 20° C.

What are planetary-tuned singing bowls?

There are singing bowls whose tones are in an octave relationship to the orbital periods of the earth, the moon and the planets. Such bowls resonate with the planet in question. Their vibration corresponds to the planetary vibration on an energetically transformed level. With a planetary singing bowl, we can therefore achieve precisely the effects that correspond to the planet's principle of action.

A planetary bowl that vibrates with the year tone, i.e. whose sound corresponds to the earth's orbit around the sun and thus to the earth's year analogue to the octave, has a calming and relaxing effect. Interestingly, the year tone also corresponds to the basic tone of Indian music, the sadja. In Indian culture, it is known as the OM tone. A bowl with a Platonic year tone promotes mental clarity and joy, a Venus bowl increases love energy and inner harmony, etc.

For more detailed information on this topic, we recommend the booklet "The Tones of the Cosmic Octave" by Hans Cousto, who has made a decisive contribution to the clarification and rediscovery of these connections.

The contents of the booklet can also be found on the website at


How do you determine the tone frequencies of the singing bowls?

We have been travelling to India, Nepal and Tibet in search of high-quality singing bowls for almost twenty years now. Time and again we find bowls whose frequency corresponds exactly to a planetary tone. We do not manufacture planetary singing bowls, they are rather included in the majority of "normal" singing bowls.

The planetary tones are assigned with the help of a high-precision frequency counter using a specially developed procedure. This sophisticated measuring technique enables us to maintain tolerances of less than 1%. As the fundamental tone and the first overtone of a bowl are usually the strongest tones, we generally only use these tones for planetary assignment. With very large bowls, however, it can happen that the second overtone also develops a significant sound volume. In such cases, this tone is also taken into account.

Which tone of a bowl sounds the strongest is initially very dependent on the way it is struck. In most cases, the fundamental and overtone are of equal value and can be specifically stimulated using different striking techniques. With thin-walled bowls, the overtones are sometimes dominant over the fundamental tone. With very thick-walled bowls, the fundamental tone dominates the sound spectrum.

We characterise the position of the planetary tone in the spectrum of the singing bowl. If you want to use a planetary tone specifically in sound therapy, for example, it is important to know whether you need to strike the bowl hard or soft to stimulate it.


If the planetary tone lies on the fundamental tone of the bowl, we simply label the bowl with the planet's name (e.g. Venus). If the first overtone is the planetary tone, the planet's name is given a small dash, an apostrophe (e.g. Mars'). To indicate the second overtone, we use a double apostrophe (e.g. Sun'').

Sometimes it happens that a singing bowl has two or even three planetary tones. Such a bowl is then often labelled several times. Some combinations of planetary tones are even quite common. In particular, the combination of year tone and day tone occurs again and again. The cosmic conditions of our planet are reflected exactly in such a bowl:

The annual orbit of the earth around the sun, summer and winter, as well as the daily rotation of the earth on its own axis, day and night.

Two planetary singing bowls that are assigned to one and the same planet can have quite different sound characteristics. On the one hand, you have to pay attention to whether the fundamental tone or the first overtone is the planetary tone. Two bowls with the same fundamental tone can have very different overtones or vice versa. For example, you often find Mars bowls with Uranus as the overtone, but sometimes Mars with the moon as the overtone. Depending on the design and thickness of the shell, the tone combinations are very diverse, but some are more common and others are very rare or even non-existent.

Why is it complicated to measure singing bowls with a normal tuner?

The complex overtone behaviour is characteristic of traditional singing bowls and gives them their special sound. At the same time, this makes it difficult to measure the bowls with simple measuring devices such as guitar tuners or similar. These devices are initially unable to differentiate between the two suspended tones of a pitch, e.g. the fundamental tone. The needle of the device therefore jumps back and forth between two frequencies that are close to each other.

In this case, the fundamental tone and the first overtone do not have a ratio of 1:2, as is the case with a guitar string, for example. The measuring devices cannot decide whether to take the fundamental tones or the overtones into account. This causes the display to jump back and forth wildly. Higher overtones further disturb the devices.

Only with high-quality analogue or digital filters is it possible to precisely determine the planetary tones in a singing bowl.

About the sourcing and quality of the singing bowls:

As singing bowls are such delicate objects, we take great care when selecting the bowls. We check every single bowl on site to ensure that we can only offer the best pieces with a flawless sound.

The old bowls are not purchased in India via other wholesalers or middlemen. Instead, we source our bowls directly from the regions of origin. Our specially trained partners and employees, who know exactly how to assess the quality of a bowl, help us with this work. Furthermore, we import all the shells ourselves. This means that we can always guarantee our customers the very best quality bowls and at the same time pay our partners in India directly and fairly

Can I try out singing bowls at your centre in Weilheim?

All currently available singing bowls are listed here in the online shop. Each bowl is unique. To listen to the sound samples, we recommend headphones instead of the small speakers of smartphones.

If you would like to choose the singing bowls in person at our premises in Weilheim in Upper Bavaria, we look forward to your visit by appointment (as we do not have a shop); see Contact.

Singing bowls in many sizes

Singing bowls in many sizes

Indian states of Odisha, West Bengal and Assam

Indian states of Odisha, West Bengal and Assam

Singing Bowl from Bengal

Large singing bowl from Bengal

Singing Bowl from Odischa

Medium and tall from Odisha

Singing Bowl from Assam

Small from Assam or Odisha

Village community in India

Village community

Village community in India

Village community

Smelting of copper and tin

Smelting of copper and tin

Blanks in the coal fire

Blanks in the coal fire

Forging the blank

Forging the blank

Hardening the blank

Hardening the blank

Manual post-processing

Manual post-processing

Machine post-processing

Machine post-processing

Quality inspection

Quality inspection