There are many different types and sizes of mallets (also known as strikers or gongers) that you can use to produce beautiful sound out of your crystal singing bowl. But which one is the best for your bowl? Well, there are many factors that can determine the perfect mallet for you, although, to be fair, every knowledgeable sound bath practitioner will have a small (or large) collection of preferred mallets. Knowing how each mallet can affect your sound can help you make the best choice for your needs.
What Your Mallet is Made of Matters
Typical crystal singing bowl mallet tips on the market are made from a few different materials: rubber, silicone, suede, and felt. The handles can be made from wood, plastic, silicone, felt, crystal quartz, or rubber. What’s most important to note is the material that the tip is made of (where the mallet actually creates friction with the bowl), as that will affect the tone of your bowl. By tone, we mean the sound characteristic evoked from your bowl. On the other hand, the material that the handle is made of will affect how the mallet feels to you. This can make playing easy or more difficult.
Let’s begin with the material on the tip of the mallet:
Rubber mallets are probably one of the most common mallets on the market. When paired with frosted crystal singing bowls, the tone they produce is usually a strong, pure pulsing. They are usually rounded like a sphere, and are played by applying friction to the side of the bowl (usually on the upper part, but can also play the middle and lower parts of larger bowls). With this mallet, the tone itself can shift as one plays, depending on what region (top, middle, lower) of the bowl is sustained. Sometimes, a rubber mallet can even coax a secondary tone (called an overtone) to sound! This can be a great tool to make the most of medium to large bowls.
One drawback, however, is that this mallet often comes with a wooden handle, and you have to be careful to not accidentally tap the bowl at inopportune times, producing unwanted sound or even fracturing your bowl. A rubber mallet is also not useful to sustain lightweight or handheld clear quartz bowls or most high quality alchemy bowls. Although, of course, it can be used for gently gonging them, depending on its size.
Silicone mallets offer frosted bowls beautiful, consistent resonance with ease and without much noticeable scratchiness or hiss. Most silicone mallets are lightweight, allowing you to play for as long as you wish without much effort at all! They can create soaring dynamics in volume seamlessly. These mallets are played differently than the rubber mallets, and should be pointed at about a 30 degree inward angle along the very rim of the bowl. This means that they will not necessarily elicit secondary overtones as easily as a rubber mallet. Their tone is constant and pure, and they can be a powerful tool in creating swells and finding your crystal singing bowls pulsing “sweet spot.”
Depending on their size, they can work well with clear quartz and alchemy bowls, as well.
Suede mallets bring their own unique texture to frosted crystal singing bowls, causing a subtle pink noise or hiss underneath the crystal singing bowl tone. This can be pleasant to some and not to others. Suede does not create friction as easily, and so often elicits a softer tone than other mallets and can be more difficult to play for longer periods of time because of the added pressure needed to perform. Again, it’s all about what textures and tones you are trying to create. Their gongs are usually also pleasantly softer in tone than rubber mallets.
Remember that there is a place for different types of sound, as long as it makes sense dynamically in your crystal singing bowl performance and contributes to the meditative experience.
When it comes to alchemy or clear quartz singing bowls, however, suede is, by far, the most effective. It is quiet and bears no scratchy undertones. Furthermore, with suede mallets, you can control the volume dynamics much more easily and nearly instantaneously.
Also, suede elicits more rich, complex gongs out of alchemy bowls than rubber or silicone mallets.
Felt mallets are only used for gonging a frosted crystal singing bowl (they were originally created to gong Tibetan or Himalayan singing bowls). Because these mallets are heavier, (usually with long handles), you should use them with caution, especially if attempted on lightweight or alchemy bowls. However, felt mallets can elicit more overtones to make the sound more richly complex.
Why Size Really Matters
Although they don’t always affect the sonic quality, size and material of the handle are actually really important to performance. First of all, you should save heavier mallets for your medium to large frosted crystal singing bowls. Don’t attempt to use these on lightweight or alchemy bowls. But the ideal weight of the mallet will be up to the sound practitioner. A heavier mallet might help you approach the bowl with greater caution, or keep your momentum more consistent. Alternatively, the heavier a mallet is, the more you may tire from it. A lighter mallet may allow you to be softer or produce sounds from “skipping” the mallet more easily.
A lighter mallet may also produce different tones than a heavier mallet (of course, material makes a difference, too). The thickness or thinness of a mallet is also something to consider in regards to your own comfort. For gonging, thin mallets can work great. But for sustaining the bowl, they can sometimes prove uncomfortable. A mallet that is very thick, on the other hand, may be uncomfortable when playing medium to smaller bowls.
Some mallets will have different materials on each end to form a 2-in-1 mallet combo. These are typically larger, heavier mallets, with wood in the middle, and will often work best with larger bowls, particularly larger crystal singing bowls. These can also be a great tool for creating multiple types of sounds seamlessly.
All in all, finding a mallet that is comfortable in size and thickness to hold in your hand and control around your bowl is essential to being able to maintain your bowl’s sweet spot. Also, it’s important to find one that works well with the type of bowl you have. However, having several that work with your bowl can also be fun and expand your bowl’s sound capabilities. Whatever you decide, experiment with feeling out the mallets and try them out with your bowl, so you can make the strongest decision.
At The OM Shoppe & Spa, we have a wide array of mallets to try so you can upgrade your playing experience. You can experiment with them in our large crystal singing bowl showroom. Or, you can give us a call and ask us to hear how they sound on your type of bowl before purchase! To learn more about playing your crystal singing bowl, you can sign up for one of the many courses we host.
Allow the sounds to open up your playfulness and creativity, and have fun exploring all the nuances within your precious crystal singing bowl!
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