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Every singing bowl sound sample recorded on our web site has been played with the following variety of mallets. Singing bowls can sound completely different whether they are struck with wool, leather or wood; and you can isolate completely different tones depending upon the mallet and the playing technique you use.
Rain likes to reminisce about when he first noticed singing bowls in Kathmandu in the late 70’s, the Nepalese played them with Roti sticks! Being a drummer and tuned to the nuances of percussion, the harshness of the wood struck against metal was jarring to him – far from being soothing! Plain wood striking the metal also had the effect of sharply kicking up the female overtone, and hence burying the deeper, more subtle sound of the fundamental tone.
WOOL PADDED MALLET
So he developed a prototype of a wooden mallet, semi-padded with monk’s wool, to soften the struck sound of a singing bowl. A Bodhisattva basic, the padded mallet is designed to bring all of the bowls’ frequencies up at equal volume. We played with different thicknesses of the dowl, which is made of Sheesham, a Himalayan hard wood. In time, we found if the dowls were about an inch thick, that was about right for producing a rim tone in all but the largest and heaviest of antique singing bowls. This simple mallet produces the struck tones – the first recording you hear – of every singing bowl sound file on our web site.
HOW TO USE IT FOR STRIKING:
Using the wool padded end, strike the singing bowl on its mid exterior wall, or on the interior upper wall. Acoustically, upper octave tones carry louder than deeper tones, due to their increased saturation of sound waves. So when we strike a singing bowl with a padded mallet, we hear the richness of the fundamental tone much more clearly in the mix. Avoid striking the bowl on the top of the lip, as this will produce too much of a percussive hit.
HOW TO USE IT FOR RIMMING:
1. Sit as if you were sitting for meditation, with your spine straight and relaxed, your shoulders level and your breath generous but natural. Make sure to release any unnecessary tension in your arms, shoulders and face, as singing bowls are bio-feedback instruments and are really quiet when we’re holding tension in our bodies.
2. Hold the singing bowl on the palm of your non-dominant hand, with your fingers energized and held closely together. This is important so that your fingers and thumb do not involuntarily wrap around the base of the bowl while playing, which will dampen the sound. Hold the bowl about Solar Plexus level, slightly tilted so that the aperture of the bowl is opening into the direction where your mallet is coming from.
3. With your dominant hand, grasp the mallet in its center and hold it as if you were about to sign your name with the wooden end of the mallet. Make sure the covered part of the mallet is snuggled securely in the web between the thumb and the index finger, and that there is never any gap while playing. So your grasp on the mallet should be firm, but never strained.
4. Position the mallet at a 45% angle against the outside edge of the lip of the bowl. With an even pressure, rub the mallet in at least 4 or 5 revolutions, or until you begin to hear the female overtone build. Use a full arm movement; try to keep your wrist as straight as possible.
5. Once the female overtone is bright and clear, reduce your speed and press a little bit more firmly. If you continue to hear “chattering” against the lip of the bowl, reduce your speed even more. Watch the bowl as you continue to rub the rim, and listen the bowl’s voice. Adjust your angle, pressure, speed and focus accordingly. The female overtone should sound sweet and clear.
Although it is tempting to close your eyes when first starting to play, I find that it’s helpful at least in the beginning to keep them open and to observe what you’re doing carefully. If there is a chatter on the inside lap of the circle, check to see if your angle and speed are consistent all 360 degrees. Once the tone is even and smooth and you’re really connected to the bowl – then close them.
Remember to apply pressure– the friction of the mallet against the outer rim produces vibrations which result in sound. Experiment with your speed. Usually people go too fast!
We first saw these coming out of Kathmandu about in the late 90’s, and now offer them as a dedicated rimming mallet. They are made of a harder wood, and so when used for rimming, they tend to bring up the female overtone faster and with less friction noise than the wooden end of the padded mallet.
HOW TO USE IT FOR STRIKING:
That being said, the suede end also can be used to soften a strike. Actually, I prefer using this mallet for for cup cowls because of the nice tonal balance it brings out. Also, because of the pressure vs. weight issue: wool padding on a mallet softens the blow, and therefore more force is needed to create the struck tone. A medium size bowl will hold its ground, but smaller cup bowls will go flying! So for cups, I use the suede end to tap the inside of the bowl, rather than on its outer wall.
HOW TO USE IT FOR ISOLATING THE FUNDAMENTAL:
The suede end can also be used for isolating the singing bowl’s fundamental tone. This is produced by massaging the bowl’s outer wall with the suede end of mallet, with slightly lighter pressure and an initial, faster speed. When a set of signing bowls is based on fundamental tones, all of their rubbed tones will be played with this end of the mallet, which isolates the third octave frequencies in most medium sized bowls. To hear an example of a set played like this, check out this Chromatic Master Healing Set. First you will hear a mix of struck tones, followed by a mix of the bowls played on the fundamental.
This technique requires awareness, breath and concentration. Follow the instructions regarding your rimming technique for the female overtone, only use the suede end of the mallet and hold the mallet flush against the exterior of the bowl wall so that it is pointing straight up. Experiment with using a little lighter pressure, and faster speed. This technique may be used on all but the thickest Thadobatis, highwalls, and cups. For more information on isolating the fundamental, please see my video How to Play a Singing Bowl.
This is the consummate mallet for isolating the fundamental tone of Highwall singing bowls. The fatter dowl (2 ½” wide) exposes more of the bowl’s wall to the surface of the suede, and adds enough extra pressure to get all that metal moving! The wooden handle of this mallet is just that – a handle. Although you could get a rim tone with it in a pinch, it is definitely designed just to be a handle.
HOW TO USE IT:
For isolating the fundamental of a Highwall, use the suede end of the Fat Boy exactly as you would the suede mallet. This technique will pull 2nd octave fundamental tones out of most but the very smallest Highwall singing bowls. It sounds like monks chanting! To hear this technique being used on Highwalls, check out this Chakra tuned set of Highwall singing bowls. First you will hear a mix of the struck tones, followed by the fundamentals.
On Highwall bowls with triangulated lips, you have another option with a Fat Boy, When used around the edge of the lip with enough pressure, it can pull the female overtone up and weave it into the mix with the fundamental, so that the now you are playing an interval of the singing bowls’ major frequencies. Delicious!
Yes, it’s a screwdriver handle. Producers Joe Sidaris and Dennis Ghiatis developed this alternative to a wooden mallet with Rain and Yogi John Franzoni were recording One Hand Clapping at Warner Brothers. In a recording situation, the mikes have to be very hot in order to pick up the quiet, subtle nuances of singing bowl frequencies, so the friction noise of the wood against the metal becomes a major problem. And so the Xcelite mallet was born! We record most singing bowl rim tones with this mallet, and I also use them live in a miked situation.
HOW TO USE IT:
Gripping the handle, rim the singing bowl with its lip nestled in the curve of the Xcelite’s flouted edge. They are available on our mallet page for purchase. Whatever you do, DO NOT buy one from the hardware store unless it’s hollow to begin with, or it’s a lot of hassle. They also are manufactured with a couple of side seams that have to be sanded down in order to work. The ones we provide are ready to go. They require practice, but they are worth it!
These are for use with Highwall singing bowls only. We have a variety of gong mallets available, but our best modifications for use with singing bowls are rubber headed, padded with wool. They come rounded, or tubular in shape. There is more percussion on a gong mallet strike, but they do emphasize the deeper tones of the highwalls.
HOW TO USE IT:
Strike the outer wall of a Highwall singing bowl. Let sustain. Ride the sound waves deep within, floating freely in the inner space devoid of thought and emotion. Rest there a while. Repeat!