Crystal Singing Bowls for Practitioners
Perhaps, you are a yoga instructor, looking to add another dimension to your yoga flow, or a massage therapist, seeking to enhance your clients’ relaxation. And now, you finally have a crystal bowl… or maybe, you have a few. If you’re wondering how to play your bowls effectively and maximize their potential, read on!
Playing crystal singing bowls, like these beautiful 99.9% pure crystal quartz bowls from the OM Shoppe, are a beautiful method for releasing tension and bringing our body to a resting state. Their transcendental tones can take us into a state of deep meditation, activate our subconscious mind with vivid imagery, or energize our bodies to a state of bliss.
Of course, as with any instrument, the bowls are but tools in the hands of their wielder, and are also capable of producing unpleasant harshness or unearthing disharmony within us. Thankfully, crystal bowls are very permissive and accessible, and with a little awareness and active listening, it is relatively easy to produce powerful, entrancing tones out of them.
With the following simple tips, you can begin to make the most of your bowl’s therapeutic value and go forth with confidence on your personal journey with your crystal quartz singing bowl!
Approaching the Single Crystal Bowl
- The first thing to think about before sounding a crystalline tone out of your bowl is placement.
If you’re playing for a group or a single client, facing your audience and placing your singing bowl directly in front of you is an ideal place to start. But do you stand or sit to play? Do you hold the bowl in your hand, or do you let it rest on its O-ring? And what if you are trying to target a specific chakra or area of the body?
First, it’s important to consider your audience.
- If you’re doing personal vocal toning with your bowl or a personal meditation, then, personal comfort and relaxation is paramount to allowing your body to receive the stress-melting soundwaves with the least amount of resistance. So, sitting down in a comfortable position is ideal.
I recently discovered the Zafu meditation pillow, and immediately fell in love! It helps my body to maintain a seated position for long periods of time without putting strain on the rest of my body, allowing me to play the bowl as long as I like without needing to reposition. (You can read more about seated positions and meditation in our previous article.)
- If your audience is standing or seated on chairs (as opposed to laying down or seated on the floor as you are performing), you may feel inclined to have your bowl(s) raised on a table or platform.
Even if your audience is laying down, you may wish to allow the soundwaves to travel from up high, as you play in a standing position.
If you have others playing the crystal singing bowls with you simultaneously, you may wish to place them at different positions around your audience, for surround sound, or place them close together, so they are easy to reach. Easy is ultimately the key!
For more targeted sonic therapy, some practitioners like to place the bowls close to the chakra areas that they are trying to work on, or areas where the body is in need of balance.
Most bowls rest on O-rings, but some are handheld. These handheld practitioner bowls help mobilize your playing and direct the waves at different points of the body. These are excellent if you would like to surround the body with sound, target specific areas, or walk closer to your audience. Surrounding the body with the beautiful tones of the bowls in itself is like receiving a surround sound massage.
If your client is lying on a massage table, you may even want to allow the sounds of a deep, mellow crystal bowl to reach their bodies from underneath the table.The possibilities are as creative as you are, so play around with the crystalline sounds and what feels right for your intention.
All in all, destination and direction of the soundwaves and ease of reach will determine the best bowl placement for you.
The next thing to keep in mind is how to intentionally hold and use your striker.
As with any instrument, your hold should be firm but your wrists should remain flexible. About a 30-degree angle to the outside of your bowl is optimal for sustained tones. However, you can also play on the inside of the rim.
As you gently tap the bowl, and then apply firm and constant pressure to the rim of the bowl, a strong tone will be emitted. Make sure that your pressure is constant or your bowl will produce an inconsistent tone or a grating sound. When you ease on that pressure, the volume gets softer. By manipulating the amount of pressure, you will be able to control the volume of your bowl to what feels right for the room and the audience.
A technique I like to use when appropriate in my practice is the volume swell. Creating slow volume swells, by gradually increasing in volume and dropping back down, can create a very calming, entrancing effect.
You will notice that after you exceed a certain speed, your striker will “skip” and there will be a raspy interruption to your tone. It is important to be aware of what speed is right for each bowl (this depends on size, note, and amount of pressure). Take time to experiment with your bowl as you connect with it during your personal practice time.
When playing your bowl, keep in mind that you can use full strokes (stroking around the bowl entirely) or half strokes (stroking only a section of the bowl).
- For personal meditation, full strokes can help the mind focus on the present moment, as attention going into applying firm and constant pressure in circles around the bowl.
- Allow your breath to synchronize with your strokes, and remember to ease the pressure to play more softly, when the tones become too strong.
- Because the bowls resonate for a while after you stop playing, you may find it helpful to back off and let the bowls breathe, applying pressure again to keep the tone going, as you hear the sound dying down.
A long, sustained tone is not the only way to play your bowl. You can also gently tap your bowl to produce a more percussive effect, similar to striking a gong. Make sure your taps are soft, as these are fragile instruments.
Tip#4: Get creative in your practice. With the right combination of crystal bowls placed around you, you can tap out melodies, or balance keeping one bowl sustained as you tap a rhythmic phrase on another bowl or group of bowls. The possibilities are as infinite as music!
Playing Multiple Crystal Singing Bowls
- Stroking technique is important to consider when playing multiple crystal bowls as well.
You can use two strikers to produce simultaneous tones from two different bowls at the same time.
Or use a single striker to go back and forth and keep the tone resonating on multiple bowls.
Use intention and awareness as you think about the volume of each bowl, and whether you will use strokes or taps.
- As much as intention, frequency matters, and especially when you are using bowls in combination with each other!
There is a lot to be said in this category… from talking about hertz and intervals and modes. We, at your local OM Shoppe, will surely cover a lot more information on this in future posts and workshops, but for starters, and simply put, it is important to make sure that your bowls sound good together!
The easiest way to do this is to work with intervals that are harmonically pleasing and relaxing. If you only have a couple of bowls, intervals of 4ths and 5ths are a good place to start (i.e., C and F, or C and G). With the right combination of bowls, you can even play beautiful chords on these instruments.
Be careful when selecting your bowl combinations. Some notes, when played together, are more dissonant (clashing) than others. While these can have therapeutic value when played intentionally, they can also evoke uncomfortable feelings and require awareness and sensitivity to the needs of your clients, as well as understanding of basic harmony and resolution when used.
*If you are unsure about what intervals to get or what bowl sets are appropriate for your practice, call us or come visit our shop, and our trained staff will be happy to point you in the right direction!
Crystal bowls are gorgeous and mesmerizing sound therapy instruments. And while there are other factors you can consider (like size, register, tuning, and role), using the above techniques will help you get going on your way into the realms of crystal bowl journeying!
In the coming months, The OM Shoppe will be expanding its already wide selection of crystal bowls. We are so excited to be growing our musical department with a larger variety of sonic therapy instruments, group and individual sonic therapy sessions, concerts, and sound therapy educational workshops and clinics. We are here to assist you along your personal journey with the healing potential of sound. So, come visit us online and in store and check back in for more information on upcoming events and opportunities to explore this beautiful therapy modality!