The Incredible Physics Of Singing Bowls…

The Incredible Physics Of Singing Bowls

Perhaps one of the most simplistic and beloved musical instruments is the centuries-old singing bowl; an instrument prized not only for its beautiful sounds, but also for its capacity to heal physically, mentally, and spiritually. They are used in an endless variety of ceremonies and cultures, and often prized for their ability to create a calmer mind — something critical to a deep spiritual connection. Often decorated with intricate spiritual designs and made of copper, singing bowls have become the cornerstone to Buddhist practices for thousands of years.

But how exactly do they work?

A team of scientists decided to take a deeper dive into their physics.

SEE ALSO: Do You Know The Magic Hidden In Mindfulness?


A Tibetan bowl is actually a type of standing bell and is played by striking or rubbing its rim with a wooden or leather-wrapped mallet. This causes the sides and rim of the bowl to vibrate, producing a rich sound. When a fluid-filled Tibetan bowl is played, the slight changes in the bowl’s shape disturb the surface at the water’s edge, generating waves. More importantly, when these changes are sufficiently large, the waves break, leading to the ejection of droplets. Something similar happens when rubbing the edge of a wine glass, which inspired musical instruments such as the glass harmonica by Benjamin Franklin. However, the Tibetan singing bowl is easier to excite than the wine glass, since its resonant frequency is much smaller.



In order to generate the waves and droplets, a loudspeaker was set up next to the bowls, which emitted sound at specific frequencies. Once the sound hit the resonant frequency of the bowl—a sound wave vibrating in phase with the natural vibration of the bowl—the waves would be generated. A high-speed camera was used to capture images of the droplets, from which measurements could be taken. Senior author Professor John Bush said, “We are satisfied with the results of our investigation, which we feel has elucidated the basic physics of the system. Nevertheless, one might find further surprises by changing the bowl or fluid properties.”

Check out the awesome video that demonstrates this phenomenon!

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Matt Caron

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Matt is the content manager of the Sivana blog, an enthusiastic Yoga teacher, and life voyager. He strives to inspire…

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