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The Mastery Book of Himalayan Singing Bowls: A Musical, Spiritual and Healing Perspective
The Mastery Book of Himalayan Singing Bowls: A Musical, Spiritual and Healing Perspective
The Mastery Book of Himalayan Singing Bowls: A Musical, Spiritual and Healing Perspective
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The Mastery Book of Himalayan Singing Bowls: A Musical, Spiritual and Healing Perspective

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The Mastery Book of Himalayan Singing Bowls is the premiere Singing Bowl instruction book for all people from the beginner to the advanced practitioner. Learn everything you need to know about playing and healing with the Tibetan bowls from a world master of the art. This book is the most thoroughly instructive and practical book on the Himalayan Singing Bowls ever written.
Release dateNov 7, 2012
The Mastery Book of Himalayan Singing Bowls: A Musical, Spiritual and Healing Perspective
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    The Mastery Book of Himalayan Singing Bowls - Emile de Leon



    I have composed this book on the Tibetan Singing Bowls for four reasons. The first is to clarify, and share in written form my discoveries as well as theories about the Tibetan singing bowls (TSB) after more than a dozen years of working with them in meditation and musical as well as healing modalities. The second is to put outwardly in place a cohesive and practical guide to the location, selection and playing of these ancient instruments combined with an understandable terminology. The third is to elucidate the reader in a musical sense regarding my hands-on experience in playing with the singing bowls in performance and recording situations. And the fourth is to share with the reader my personal experiences as a musician and seeker of truth for more than thirty-five years, of which the TSB comprised a major part.

    I prefer to leave it to other writers to investigate and dwell upon the mysterious and at times somewhat vague historical and religious aspects of these instruments. I have no set religious affiliations in connection with the bowls except for the beauty of the sound itself and the pure meditation these bowls induce. If there is a definable religious affiliation connecting the singing bowls with any particular sect I have yet to encounter it in any tangible form other than second- or third hand verbal information from unverifiable and perhaps questionable sources. There may be some hidden truths contained in this oral information, but up to this point it is probably just speculation and hearsay. That said, the bowls do fit enormously well into the Eastern culture and mindset and also into the evolving New Age movement in the West.

    The ancient truths of the bowls may perhaps always remain shrouded in mystery, and as usual with oral historical transmission, myths appear to grow through the passage of time, and in the absence of concrete recorded information, facts become scarce or unverifiable at best. It is up to the reader to weigh carefully what is being said and written from all sources that may appear, and hopefully more knowledge will eventually come to light. And if not the ancient knowledge emerging, then perhaps newer discoveries forged in the present from these mystic instruments created so long ago, helping humanity in the here and now.

    My personal tale with the Tibetan singing bowls begins here...

    The awakening to my personal journey with the Tibetan singing bowls started in a rather large Tibetan shop in New York City in 1995. I had encountered a very short time before an American Tibetan Buddhist playing these ancient instruments and had immediately felt a very strong and essential connection with the sound. The more I listened to his performance the more I became curiously entranced as he was evincing long and soft tones with a wooden mallet using several of these golden bowls together on stage. And even more importantly, I was captured by the deep and meditative music that seemed to call me softly but powerfully inward. Right then I pondered that these were the most captivating instruments I had seen or heard for a very long time very much similar to when I was a young boy of seven or eight hearing African drums played for the first time. It really blew my mind. I knew I had to play the bowls.

    After twenty-five years of being a professional musician this was a perfect gift to me, or should I say quite a real moment of truth. I knew then that I must acquire some Tibetan singing bowls as soon as possible. Having spent a good part of my childhood in NYC and at the present still living very close to the city, a couple of hours drive by car, I easily located a Tibetan shop in the downtown Manhattan area where the bowls could be seen in person. So I hightailed it down to the city.

    When I finally arrived at the shop the Tibetan woman at the counter who owned the place happily agreed to show me a case stacked full of these instruments, and as I peered through the glass I could not help but notice the many different sizes and shapes of the bowls as well as a plethora of other ancient Tibetan items of fascination. I felt I was at the beginning of a new and beautiful journey in my musical life. My only dilemma was then to decide which of the various singing bowls were coming home with me that day. When I started to play them and hear the differences, only then did things became much more obvious.

    *Note, a good way to play the Tibetan singing bowls (TSB) is with a short wooden stick or mallet in one hand in contact with the outside edge of the bowl in the other, circling the bowl with the stick slowly to produce the singing sounds. I call this circle playing or turning.

    Having no direct experience with these most ancient of instruments, but playing as instructed above, I proceeded to ‘sing’ the bowls with a very good friend of mine who had come along for the ride.

    The sounds seemed to come from another time and place. A sound one might think is not often heard in the world today. Extremely relaxing and ethereal. We were quickly initiated into the magic, sonic world of the bowls.

    My profession being that of a musician and making my living as a percussionist left me well prepared for the mystery and beauty of the sounds I heard on that day. But even with that preparation, in this life I had not encountered music that had ever sounded quite as otherworldly as TSB music. There was a complete universe of tonalities in each bowl that my ears had not experienced before. Needless to say I was caught totally by the bowls, and so was my friend. We were not consciously aware of it then, but at that moment the intrigue of the bowls would from then on, influence our lives completely.

    Four special bowls found their way home with me on that day. One very tiny bowl, two small ones, and a medium sized one that I didn’t realize would be one of my most valued instruments years later. When I first played that bowl the sound was so intense I just couldn’t let go of it. This particular bowl turned out to be made mostly of silver and was hand signed in ancient script, possessing a very unusual and beautiful high tone. I had good beginner’s luck in finding it, but I’ve been fortunate that way in finding most of my rarer singing bowls whether here or in Nepal.

    I had also wanted to bring back a much larger and lower pitched bowl but had spent quite enough money for one day and would have to endure the teasing of my wife for spending so much on these instruments, all so seemingly innocuous. So I reluctantly left the store without it.

    My wife Melissa and I had just opened a metaphysical book and gift shop in Connecticut, and upon arrival home I explained to her in a rational kind of way that I would only keep two of the bowls and sell the others so we would break even at the worst. In all honesty though I didn’t even want to consider selling any of them. The singing bowls have their deep magic and magnetism that can’t be denied, and it was certainly working on me.

    As life would have it I kept my promise to part with the two of them, and in time quite a few more. In the next few years I gained much knowledge and experience with the bowls, mostly through trial and effort, increasing my personal understanding of these unique instruments with every bowl played.

    Our little shop in Middletown, CT. became well known in the state for having a very large selection of great singing bowls as well as holding a weekly meditation group with the bowls on Sunday mornings so people could experience the sounds live and in person in a quiet, meditational atmosphere. At that time we might have been one of the only places in the country, or the world for that matter, that conducted a meditation group on a regular basis (year after year) with a plethora of Tibetan singing bowls of the highest sound quality. We felt that this would be a unique way to be of service in a community sense and also as a relevant contribution back to society for all the incredible music and meditation that we were given by the bowls over the years.

    In time, this evolving meditation group became fertile ground for the development and growth of my newly bourgeoning musical group Temple Sounds which was responsible for the production of the music CDs Mystic Bowls, as well as Shaman Bowls, Goddess Bowls, Celestial Bowls and Meditation Bowls, which grew and went on to national and then international fame, surprisingly enough traveling all the way back to Katmandu, Nepal and Varanasi, India to be featured in the bookstores there.

    The Mystic Bowls CD was so accepted and admired worldwide that much to our astonishment bootleg copies were being made and sold all over the East as well as being imported to the US and other countries far from their secret point of origin in Nepal. I was informed by a major record distributor in the US that Mystic Bowls may well indeed be the first New Age Meditation CD ever to be bootlegged. While I was shaken at first to find this out, later on however I was told that this was a badge of honor and should be taken as such. We did eventually find the bootleggers on a trip to Nepal, but that is another story for another time.

    The bowls became an important focus for me during the following years and were a fascinating guide and anchor through some of the most challenging times of my life. Many things were passing out of existence as well as new things making their entrance in. The bowls helped me to deal with these transitions in a realistic and fluent manner in my musical and spiritual life.

    The bowls also affected my very good friend JT who by a twist of fate accompanied me on that first day to the Tibetan shop in NYC. He quickly fell under the spell of the Tibetan singing bowls himself and eventually made his way to Nepal and India bringing back many thousands over the following years.

    With the advent of the Tibetan singing bowls, a brand new career as an importer as well as a marriage partner from that area of the world appeared to him as well. If not for the bowls’ influence this would not have happened.

    It is an understatement to say the Tibetan singing bowls helped radically transform my life for the better. I could not have imagined the changes that were to come when I first drove down to that Tibetan shop in Manhattan so long ago now.

    It is a true gift that a simple choice made at a special moment in time can procure powerful influences, stimulating profound personal growth and progress down the road of life. For myself I was definitely in the right place at the right time to encounter what would be a whole new world of experience to be lived as a result of my interest in the bowls.

    It could be said that one’s destiny is opened up by the choices made from one’s heart in its deepest sense. The mysterious and beautiful sounds of the Tibetan singing bowls inspired me to follow my true path in life.


    Beginning the search for a good sounding Tibetan singing bowl may be a little confusing at first as many sizes, shapes and tonalities are available. For those just starting out on this journey it is good to have some knowledge at hand for a wise choice to be made that will continue to satisfy in the years to come.

    Before acquiring your singing bowl, it sometimes is good for a decision to be made early on as to what the bowl’s intended use will be, i.e. its function. Consider for a moment what size bowl might be best to perform that function well. Do you want the best bowl possible as in professional meditation and healing services or a less expensive beginner bowl? Do you wish to carry a smaller or larger bowl? Or perhaps own a set?

    There are a wide range of sizes to choose from and these generally start at 3 in diameter at the smallest, up to 21 for the largest size.

    The majority of bowls you most commonly will see will be in the 4 to 6 diameter range. There will be higher and lower quality bowls within all of the available size categories. This is subjectively determined by the sound timbre as well as the fineness and overall construction and its physical condition.

    Unfortunately, not all singing bowls are of stellar sound quality even if at a quick glance they may look beautiful to the eye. Sometimes a shiny new looking bowl won’t play very well, while in contrast to that, an ancient dark one might amaze with its beautiful tones.

    This happened to my friend while traveling in Nepal on his first trip there. In searching through hundreds of bowls he came to notice a very tiny dark bowl somewhat hidden in the pile. At first sight he was going to reject it, but just for curiosity’s sake he decided to play the bowl, and surprise, it turned out to be one of the best he found on the whole trip.

    A few years later the same thing happened to me. While on my first trip to Nepal and going through multitudes of bowls I came across a tiny, very dark one and it is now in my collection being a stellar sound performer. Sometimes when you search for bowls overseas they can be quite dirty from years of just sitting around so be sure to check them out carefully.

    It is important to remember that the higher quality bowls are quantified by the tonal quality of the sound, and this is dependent upon two important things: the skill of the maker and the mixture of the metals. It is said that the more expensive and rare metals (gold and silver) and the more sophisticated alloys will produce the rich, full-bodied sounds which the singing bowls are famous for. In the case of lower quality bowls, they will produce a sound, but not with the beautiful, melodious long tones that the higher quality instruments do. Note that most of the lower quality bowls are made quickly for commercial purposes and not for their esoteric sound function. As a theoretical rule the higher quality bowls are said to use more elements and the lower quality ones simpler metallic combinations without the rarer elements. The real test for the best sonic qualities is realized though by carefully playing and listening to each bowl’s unique sound in person.

    A third lesser known determiner of sound quality is more subtle and revolves around the bowl’s personal history and aura: How it was played and when, and in what circumstances. And even more importantly, for how long. The age of the bowl can be a very important factor as sonic vibrations will change the bowl’s timbre for the better over time.

    There are no hard or set rules for the correct musical seasoning of a singing bowl. One of the most important factors for the best sound though is related to how the bowl was originally constructed and who did the pouring and hammering of the metals. An experienced craftsman with a great ear will always make the best bowls. The proportions of the metals are important too, but not as important as the actual craftsmanship. Metal smiths had their well kept family secrets, especially in relationship to temperature control, hammering and finer aspects of bowl construction that are not easily duplicated even if the elemental proportions are known. When asked if they can produce today the finest quality bowls as in ancient times, the invariable answer from contemporary bowl makers is no. The reason cited is that the secret knowledge to make the best grade antique bowls has been lost forever.

    But I think there is hope yet for perhaps one intrepid individual to dedicate his life to the reacquisition of this lost knowledge. However, this will take a very unique person who is part musician, part metal smith, and part artist who is willing to ferret out this information gleaned from the great bowls already made and reconstruct them. I have seen this done in the Turkish cymbal world by one individual in Italy who did exactly this. No one thought it could be done, but after decades of searching, casting and hammering, it was accomplished. Cymbals are not so different from singing bowls in this regard.

    Most of the bowls contain a large amount of copper and a lesser amount of tin. The tin is usually between ten percent to thirty percent of the mixture with copper comprising the rest unless there are other elements added. There are many myths here regarding elemental composition, but we can be relatively sure that most bowls are of a bronze mixture, which is the alloy of copper and tin. Sometimes there is trace silver as well and this adds brilliance to the sound. Iron in the form of meteorite was used as well as other elements such as gold in some bowls.

    Many cymbals and gongs contain similar metallic proportions and the creation and development of these instruments took place largely in the Bronze Age. Some bronze instruments such as smaller finger cymbals stretch back seven thousand years in their development. There is much evidence though that mankind is much older than previously thought and that his musical inventions may be older as well.

    There is always a striving for the best combination of elements and hammering for the perfect instrument and sound. Only a rare percentage make this grade.

    If a bowl is well made and with a good and balanced tone it will most likely only get better with age. On the other hand, if it started its life off with a poor construction and sound quality don’t expect much improvement.

    An aircraft engineer once explained it to me this way. When metallic substances vibrate over a long period of time, these vibrations transform the metal into a more malleable form. The internal molecular structure of the metal actually undergoes physical changes from what the original internal composition of the object was. This can be very good for metallic musical instruments such as singing bowls and cymbals because as the bowl is continually played and the metal vibrates, the instrument over the years becomes less stiff to play and much easier to tonally manage with a warmer sound that reflects these internal changes.


    There is not much debate in the fact that the best quality antiques will always trump newly made bowls no matter how well they are constructed or how good they sound. However, it is also good to remember that some of the newer bowls can rise to excellence too and should not be discounted as a viable option for a good sound experience. Some of these modern bowls are in fact quite surprising how well they play, yet just like the antiques, only a small percentage of these will rise to the grade of A quality. As a rough estimate only about one to five percent of the antiques will sound excellent while about ten to twenty percent of the new bowls will sound really good. There is definitely a certain special something in the good antique bowls that is glaringly absent in the newer ones though. It could be the gold and silver, or the years of ageing, or the smelting and hammering, but you can definitely hear it in the warmth and tone of the older versus the newer. The best older bowls contain a magic balance of sound that is not to be found in the newer bowls no matter how well they are made.

    Please note though that the amount of antique A and up quality bowls are getting quite rare while A- and lower quality new bowls will be much more plentiful. It is also true that the majority of antiques will indeed not rise to even the A- quality level of sound. So if you need a good sounding bowl that is not too expensive consider the new ones, but if you have to have absolutely the best bowls with the most warmth and character, nothing but the A quality or better antiques will suffice.


    There are many singing bowl designs to choose from. The classifications for these are: tiny (3 to 4), small (4 to 6), medium (6 to 8), large (8 to 12), and giant (13" and up).


    The smallest sizes obtainable are the tiny bowls which are 3"

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