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Singing Bowl Standards

Standards are important. Objective definitions help clarify expectations and provide a base of fairness.Singing Bowl Standards
Singing bowls are a bit like the Wild West, with no rules really. I move through the world intending to operate with clarity and transparency. In Singing bowls, standards are my way of going about this.

Developing standards in a regulatory vacuum where customers have a right to know is nothing new for me. In the 1970’s I supported the first state regulations defining “organic” foods. In the 1980’s I participated shaping the Federal Organic law, and in the 90’s was part of the movement to protect the integrity of the original organic vision during the USDA rules promulgation process. As one of the founders of Maggie’s Organic Products I helped establish the standards for organic cotton clothing. Whether you buy from Best Singing Bowls or not these singing bowl standards should be helpful guides.

Best Singing Bowl’s Sound Quality Standards

The singing bowls I select all have complexity, balance, and sweetness. Just because a singing bowl has some great tones or goes woo-woo it doesn’t mean it has great quality or overall soundscape. The sounds in the bowl have to hang together well and at least some of the tones need to be audible for a good period of time. You will see tone longevity referred to as “sustain” in the individual descriptions. All the singing bowls for sale are multi-tonal with at least two but often three or four distinct tones. Simply put, what you see on the Best Singing Bowls website are examples of the best sounding antique Tibetan and Himalayan bells available anywhere. Whatever the style or price, every singing bowl for sale here has uncommon sound quality.

Not all antique brass bowls sound good, far from it. The great sounding antiques that qualify for the best have sonic characteristics that are rated near the top of the scale in Nepal. On a statistical basis I would say maybe a quarter of the old brass bowls coming out of the countryside have musical qualities and of these maybe a quarter (say the top 5% ) are top quality quality. This top quality is the focus of Best Singing Bowls. Of this top quality group only about 15-20%, that is the top 1% qualify for the highest ratings of exceptional and premium. I also should caution you that my specialized ear can hear fine distinctions, and like in wine tasting the fine distinctions of an expert may not have meaning for you. What does matter is the baseline, I think most people can hear the difference between a the top 5% available here and the great mass that go into the less specialized trade. You can still have great sound while being a bit weak in sonic elements like balance, sustain or sweetness. While it takes a good ear to hear differences between excellent bowls, I believe we are all sensitive to deep harmonies on a subconscious level. You can feel the difference, especially when you hear that same sound over and over, year after year.

There is another important factor in judging singing bowl quality; the human factor. The incredible complexity of the sounds in a premium-quality singing bowl defy a totally dry objective analysis. Once you have sorted out the top 5-10% what you think is the absolute best has to do with taste as well. What I sell says to me both “that sounds great” and “I like it”. Whatever I bring in are also has to make me feel good. I reject the occasional top quality item because of some subtle reaction in my gut.

Standards for Assigning Musical Notes, Octaves and Frequencies (Hz)

Every singing bowl has a strong sound that you first hear when you play it. It may not be the most prominent tone and is often not the longest lasting tone but it is the most immediately apparent one. I use this tone to assign the note and octave to a singing bowl. The way I determine the note is to strike singing bowls with a mallet that does a good job of bringing out the complete range of tones. Years ago I used a Korg electronic tuner to read the sound and assign the note. Those old stand alone tuners jumped around a lot and were not capable of tracking more than one tone at a time. Phone aps, especially ones with readouts in Hz tend to be better. What is used to determine notes and frequencies here is custom written software using sound engines developed for composers. This specialized software is capable of tracking many notes simultaneously. Frequencies are also checked against software developed in the UK to assign frequencies to old church bells. This way the notes assigned have an objective basis.

I arrange singing bowls in a frequency hierarchy to assign the octave. Currently I have singing bowls in five octaves which I label very low, low, middle, high and very high. A small Manipuri middle octave C can have the same frequency as a massive middle C Thadobati, however the sound will be very different.

You will find that sitting a single singing bowl next to a tuner and ringing it to get a note is asking for trouble. The soundscapes are so complex and so idiosyncratic that often the tuner throws up wildly disparate notes. If all you have is a tuner or phone ap, the best way to have confidence in the notes is to reference other bowls so you have a broader statistical sample. Back in the old days I used to arrange hundreds of bowls in tone sequence to give me the best chance for accuracy.

Sometimes a reading will be right on the cusp between notes. You can see this on simple note tuners, the reading flipping back and forth between one note and the next. In these cases the note assigned is based on a judgment call. I don’t want to muddy the waters, the labeling here is extremely very well considered and as accurate as I believe possible. It will never be a full note off. I can’t tell you how many incorrect notes I’ve seen from other sources over the years.

Appearance and Cosmetic Standards

One aspect used to judge singing bowl quality is cosmetics, especially hand etching and color. Singing bowls can be plain, come with simple lines, or have elaborate ornamentation and inscriptions. They can be in various states of preservation and can be of an unusual or rare style. Tibetan singing bowls can be clear and have attractive patina and intrusions or unattractive staining. Simply put there is a wide range of eye appeal available in the marketplace. Still, eye appeal comes second to sound.

Cleaning

The majority of singing bowls I sell have been cleaned by hand both during regular use and in preparation for sale. Home cleaning – what happened in the time before it entered the supply chain – can range from gentle to harsh. For the most part cleaning is of the more gentle kind with water, possibly soap and cloth. When you see old worn antique bowls you can imagine how many cleanings they must go through before the end up with the type of wear evident on them. On the not so gentle side, cleaning can be with sand, scouring powders even caustic chemicals. I see an occasional spectacular sounding antique that has been cleaned out with a power tool like a router. Yes… a handmade antique with machine marks! When the cleaning is superficial with cloth and water original patina is retained. Chemically cleaning can also result in nice patina though not an original one. Some big Jambati and ceremonial styles have been obviously cared for well and evidence little wear.

Hard as it may be to believe, some singing bowls have been used as cooking pots on top of wood fires and have a thick black coating on the bottom. They can be coated so badly you really can’t hear them clearly. This is more often true of smaller sizes that have been kitchen implements for the last century or so than larger ones that might have been used for grain storage or even occupied a place of honor in a home. When I go through raw singing bowls, the really dirty ones coming directly out of the countryside, sometimes I have to just hope the potential is realized when it has been cleaned. Just how far to go in cleaning is up to the buyer – at least if they are on site prior to export prep. If a singing bowl can be left with its original patina, even if that is a less than attractive stain, my numismatic background biases me against over-cleaning and I instruct my people to hand wipe with cloth.

Buffing and Polishing

I must admit I do like the look of brightly polished singing bowls. The mix of metals in antiques lend themselves to intensive cleaning and some can be buffed to an incredible new luster which can be quite attractive. That being said, you won’t find a lot of choices buffed to brilliance on this website. For the most part the really bright ones are the rare old ones that have been cleaned thoroughly and regularly over the years. Sometimes this natural state is polished as opposed to cleaned. You can select for this feature by filtering for polished on the main display page. Of course, if you prefer the new look you can take a singing bowl with original patina and buff it with the caveat that you are removing metal and there is always a slight risk that the tone will change subtly. I have done some experimentation with polishing but have not yet ventured there. At the present what you see here is how they come in from the field.

Looks are Only Skin Deep

While each singing bowl for sale has the character you would expect from an individually handmade antique, looks are secondary from my perspective. When I’m ringing away I don’t really pay attention what I am playing looks like, I’m all ears. You will find our Himalayan singing bowls labeled by type, state of preservation and markings but that comes after first choosing them for sound. I leave behind lots of impressive looking singing bowls that are thin on sonic profundity.

Unlike some sellers who are less focused on sound, I will bring back less than sparkling cosmetics. You will see for sale the occasional discolored, scratched, or even cracked antique with incredible sound. I try to be scrupulous about labeling these flaws and will document them with photos as well as notes. If looks are really important you can steer around them but some of the best values are in these flawed “not so beauties”.

Cracks

Cracks are one of those things you need to contend with in antique singing bowls. Some have cracks from the original artisan work but most have to do with handling. Cracks high up on the side wall are usually audible as are cracks over about an inch in length which make them unsuitable as instruments. Cracks in the very bottom are generally benign as are surface cracks that you can see on only one side. My standard is if the crack has the slightest impact on the sound it is a reject, if it seems stable, not likely to change and I can’t hear it I will buy the singing bowl. Singing bowls can have hidden cracks. You can’t see them, sometimes you can’t even hear them but you can feel them. I always leave these behind because there is a chance the crack will grow with playing.

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Jae Hwan KIMJae Hwan KIM
06:08 12 Jun 24
I just received the products. It feels new to hear the sound of singing bowls right in front of me that I only heard on the Internet.Thanks to you, I have a precious experience!!!Also, with your recommendation, my singing bowls set has become perfect and rich. Your patience and service could not be better!!Thank you very, very much!!!
Bob MetivierBob Metivier
17:26 09 May 24
Ryan, your L6 medium mallet is amazing! Your attention to particular needs in detail is the reason I decided to make my purchases with you.
Aria ThomeAria Thome
17:28 22 Apr 24
Ryan is absolutely amazing at his craft. He cares so deeply that you get matched with the right bowl(s) and will go out of his way to make this happen for you. His knowledge is unsurpassable and purchasing from him allows you to tap into his bottomless education and knowledge!!
Zara D'SouzaZara D'Souza
15:43 03 Apr 24
My entire experience was so seamless. The website is so flexible and easy to navigate. For anyone looking to build a bowl collection, this is the right place to go. I highly recommend reaching out to Ryan. He was so helpful and supportive in guiding me and making sure I make the right decisions. His suggestions were spot on and Im glad I trusted him!! The shipping and tracking was really great as well. The bowls were well packaged when shipped to me. I got an email with the tracking info and Ryan was a great communicator during this phase as well. In the end, I am very happy with the set I acquired.
Zachary NewtonZachary Newton
16:32 14 Mar 24
You are in excellent hands here with Ryan if you are just embarking on your singing bowl journey.I came knowing I wanted a deep resonant bowl or two when I initially reached out. This began a months' long dialogue with Ryan, who was nothing but patient and generous with his time, sending me recordings of additional bowls not on the website and answering my many questions. Over this period, I spent hours listening to dozens of bowls, beginning to figure out what resonated most with me and expanding my search from there. I ended up putting together a small set. When I found a few bowls I was pretty sure I wanted to be the core of this set, Ryan offered to put them on hold for me while I spent some more time listening to additional bowls. So whether you know exactly what you want, or you just have a vague inclination and see yourself at the beginning of a journey--like I was--you have come to a good place.When I finally made up my mind and ordered my bowls, they arrived impeccably packed and already sounding familiar after having spent months listening to their recordings. I have been very happy with them. In the months since, I have spent many hours playing them, and have even added a couple more. I am still on that Journey I began a year ago, and I continue to value the care and patience that Ryan puts into his work as a guide along my path.
Philip MartinPhilip Martin
23:15 08 Mar 24
I heard about singing bowls many years ago but stored their existence in memory. I recently heard what they sounded like on a recording, which piqued my interest. I began looking into where I could obtain some of these bowls and found many options on the internet. I decided on Best Singing Bowls. The website has many different bowls that allow searching for specific notes, octaves, types of bowls, and much more. The website has an image of the bowl and two soundtracks that let you hear what the bowl sounds like. I found this very helpful and received help from Best Singing Bowls on how to play the bowls, the types of ringers and mallets, and the bowl's history. I asked many questions because I knew little about singing bowls. Delivery of the orders came exceptionally fast. I will look to Best Singing Bowls for future additions and ask for the promptly answered guidance I found immeasurably helpful. I found the entire experience very straightforward and seamless. The website has a vast amount of information on the many tabs related to singing bowls.
SvetaSveta
03:56 12 Feb 24
This was the best shopping experience I have ever had online. Ryan has provided an exceptional customer service. He replied to all my questions timely and his suggestions helped me to find the perfect addition to my set. I am very satisfied with the quality and the sound of my newly acquired ancient singing bowls. I received them within a few days of the purchase. Thank you, Ryan!
Jim ManganiJim Mangani
13:32 14 Dec 23
Ryan provides outstanding customer service, quality bowls, and every accessory you might need at highly competitive prices. I've purchased his precision mallet set which is a must for anybody serious about getting the most out of their instruments, in addition to a number of other accessories. I recently purchased a large jambati and Ryan answered all my questions quickly and courteously. He has always shipped items quickly and is a man of his word. You can feel confident doing business with him. On top of this, he has one of the best websites in the business for sorting through his expansive inventory. If you're considering buying anything from him, you should not hesitate!
“Best Singing Bowls is absolutely the right name for Ryan’s collection! It’s been many occasions for many years now that I have not only found bowls with beautiful sounds and energy in Ryan’s collection - but also the kind of bowls that you know the instant you ring them that they are special - unique - with a sound and a power beyond normal understanding. That’s the beauty and the magic of singing bowls. And on top of that Ryan is the best to guide you - always withimmediate precise response and he provides a fast and secure shipment. I can highly recommend Ryan and Best Singing Bowls.” - Shanti inga
Mojca StudenMojca Studen
07:03 22 Nov 23
The very experience of choosing the singing bowls was a pleasure; not only are the audio recordings of the bowls extremely high quality, the collector Ryan himself kindly offered to help me a lot in choosing the right bowls.The shipment arrived quickly, even across the Atlantic.I am absolutely delighted with the singing bowls I bought! The richness of sound and resonances is extraordinary. And all this for a fairly affordable price.Ryan thank you!
Laurie LowenLaurie Lowen
12:29 03 Nov 23
Ryan will answer every question that you have honestly and knowledgeably.He has gathered the best and largest collection of antique Tibetan Singing Bowls in the world.He has a huge inventory that is all cataloged with musical chakra note(s), vibration in hertz, condition, decoration, inscription and includes actual sound for you to listen to the bowl being used with a beater and with a wand. He has tons of wands and beaters to choose from, including those handmade by Frank Perry the world’s leading authority on Himalayan bowls in England.I started with one bowl and was so happy with it and what it did for my life, that over the past two years, I now have six bowls that I have gotten from Ryan. I love every single bowl and play them all every day just for me.These Tibetan bowls are way more powerful than the crystal bowls that are in vogue. Crystal bowls are machine made and have no history. The bowls that Ryan collects and sells are full of old wisdom and energy and years of use. If you listen while you play one, you will receive information and understanding and they will actually tell you how to play them and talk to you. I am a shamanic drum practitioner for the last 30 years and these are one of the best tools in addition to drums for healing that I have ever used. If you are ready to open yourself and receive healing and peace….get one of these bowls. I can guarantee you this as that has happened to me. You will find there is one there that is calling you. Blessings to whoever reads this🙏
Lisa BushmanLisa Bushman
21:26 17 Jan 23
Ryan has helped me develop a set of singing bowls for my sound studio in OH. He has a large selection of bowls and they have great sound quality. Love working with him!
at01musicat01music
19:22 28 Nov 22
I have been collecting antique singing bowls for over 10 years and just recently discovered Best Singing Bowls’ online store. In a short time, it has become my go-to for finding new bowls that add interest to my singing bowl arrangements. BSB’s inventory is quite large and includes types of antique bronze bowls with different geometries and thicknesses I haven’t seen or listened to before.At first, I was drawn just to familiar jambati and thadobati bowls, but after exploring other possibilities I have become a fan of the otherly-appearing trapezoid bowl. The first one I selected sounds cold as steel and reminds me of the clang of a temple bell I heard every day I was in Varanasi 24 years ago. Another small trapezoid I found has a tone similar to its thadobati companions and contributes a well-tuned 5th octave G#, the new crowning high note of my bowl set.My singing bowl experience has also been enlivened by the Best Singing Bowls Precision Mallet sets. The weights and hardness’s of the mallet heads are designed to produce varying tone colors for small, medium and large bowls. The length and balance of the stick handles make it easier for me to reach bowls and strike them accurately in a timely way with less effort than before. They are fun to use and have mostly replaced my use of other strikers. I love to play the bowls and listen to their tones and harmonics interacting to create kaleidoscopic, resonant patterns that gradually fade away into silence when playing stops. For me, it is an exquisite and deeply comforting sound (and no sound) experience.As others mention, the sound recordings and detailed physical descriptions on the website make it easy to compare bowls and select one that best suits your needs. I’ve also found BSB’s customer support to be very responsive and helpful. Pricing is quite reasonable and return policies are buyer-friendly. Highly recommended!
Dylan TweneyDylan Tweney
18:12 23 Jun 22
Ryan has an amazing collection of singing bowls (which I mostly use as bells) and he's really helpful at providing personalized advice and guidance on which ones to select. I have bought two bowls from him so far and they are magnificent: they produce a variety of resonant sounds with long sustain and great complexity. I also really appreciate his efforts to provide accurate descriptions and high-quality sound files for each bowl.
Mel JonesMel Jones
15:57 13 Apr 22
Just wanted to say thank you for the speedy delivery. The bowls are both wonderful and a great addition to my small but happy collection. Appreciate the service.
Sara JennenSara Jennen
13:12 05 Apr 22
I was looking for a singing bowl. Started by looking at new bowls that were priced ridiculously and were obviously factory produced. I stumbled upon this site and filled out the contact form. Ryan got back to me within a few hours. He travels the world to collect antique bowls. He is obviously knowledgeable and passionate about the work he does. After a conversation where he learned a little about me and my intended use of the bowls, I ended up letting him select 3 for me from his extensive collection. I received manipuri bowls that sound magnificent. I have already begun incorporating them into my yoga and meditation practice. I intend to add to my collection over time. I hope that someday I can visit California to select my bowls in person....or maybe even Nepal;) Sat Nam.
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