Tibetan Singing Bowls

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Hammered Singing Bowls
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Hammered Singing Bowls

Buying a Singing Bowl

Tibetan Singing Bowls originate in the Himalayas and Northern India. Today they are mainly manufactured in India and Nepal, and are widely used in meditation practices,  by sound healers and  Reiki practitioners. When buying a singing bowl one should take great care in choosing one that will give a satisfying sound and  continue to be of use for many years. It is useful to briefly consider how modern singing are made, and the metals used in their manufacture, in order to avoid  buying a bowl with a poor sound, or a bowl which will make no sound at all after a few weeks of use.
  Traditionally singing bowls were made of bronze. Bronze is an alloy of copper and other metals, primarily tin. Our own metal analysis of an antique singing bowl showed a combination of 77.5% copper, 21% tin, plus small amounts of six other metals. Known in the West as "Bell Metal",  this is the same combination of metals used in making church bells throughout the Middle Ages.
  Today singing bowls are still made with bronze, but due to high demand, they are also made with cheaper metals such as brass. Brass bowls tend not to have such a good sound as bronze bowls, but more particularly, they can lose their sound completely after a short time. Many of the cheaper singing bowls sold on the internet are made of brass. If a bowl is not described as bronze, then it probably isn't. Bronze bowls are also sometimes described as "seven-metal" or "five-metal" bowls.
  There are two methods of manufacturing singing bowls. Originally singing bowls were formed by hammering a flat sheet of metal into the shape of a bowl. These "hammered" bowls are still made and they are easy to recognize, since the hammering marks show clearly in the sides of the bowl. These bowls undoubtedly have the most complex sound and the longest resonance, and for this reason are they are favored by purists and sound healers. The main picture at the top of this article shows a number of traditional "hammered" singing bowls. Hammered singing bowls are always made of bronze rather than brass. 
Many modern singing bowls are "cast" rather than hammered. They are manufactured by pouring molten metal into a mould.  These "cast" bowls have a very regular shape and smooth even rim. They can give a very strong sound and have the advantage of being easier for beginners to play. Being smooth-sided they are also easy to decorate, and they often have attractive "mantra" and auspicious symbol designs etched into the metal. Confusingly, cast bowls are commonly made to look "hammered" by the introduction of small dimples in the smooth surface.  
  Generally speaking, the larger the bowl, the deeper it will sound. Therefore the  smaller bowls have a higher pitched sound, whereas the 30 cm hammered bowls "growl" with a very deep sound, sometimes resonating for a full one and a half minutes after playing.
  Beware of claims that singing bowls are "old" or "rare". Cast bowls are invariably neither old nor rare. "Antique" hammered singing bowls can still be found, but there are very few genuine examples on the market. However, due to the high demand for these, manufacturers have developed many clever ways of making new bowls look old. We have yet to see an objective age-test done on a singing bowl, and yet bogus claims that bowls are several hundred years old are not uncommon.
  At Windhorse Imports we travel regularly to Nepal and India, and take pride in personally selecting all of our singing bowls for sound quality. We visit manufacturers and operate on "fair trade " principles. We also support charitable health and education projects in Nepal.

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