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Scientific Evaluation of Sounding Bowls

Invited to present at the ISPS conference ( earlier this month I was immersed again in an NHS environment. Professionals within the NHS (National Health Service, Britain’s state-run health system) are caught in a double bind. Everything they do, practice and talk about has to be connected with scientific trials to ascertain it's efficacy. They know that many trials are structured to create very particular results. they know that any trial is a mix and mash of ideals, special interest, financial constraints and differing levels of professional competence. in short they do not trust results from trials, yet everything they do has to be referenced to trials.

This creates the very strange situation "We can't trust the trials - we need more trials"

Reflecting on this mood I realised that the whole of our society is in a similar double bind. We believe in Science. Careful thinking and repeatable experiments have released us from the tyranny of the church dictum "You must have faith" and the endless perorations of the theologians. Yet we all know in our individual life experience that there are things that Science does not explain. We quickly find that science declares many of our own personal experiences to be 'unscientific.' This puts us all in a double bind as science declares the world is knowable without faith and urges us to have faith in what scientists reveal whenever our own experience crosses it. Thus we are only a short way forward from centuries past.

Not seeing a clear way out of this bind most people in the NHS are calling for more trials. In arts therapies this is particularly so as the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has metatised numerous small trials in arts therapies to produce the conclusion that all psychiatric patients should be offered arts therapies because the results are more effective and longer lasting than “other forms of treatment.”

Rampton Hospital did a Patient Select Clinical Trial in music therapy last year and concluded amongst other things that “sounding Bowls are more effective than other instruments. Their music Therpay dept is extremely well equipped including various forms of singing bowl and gong as well as Sounding Bowls which they have been using for over ten years.

Thus, Sounding Bowls  have been found in clinical trial to be more effective in a system that is more effective than ‘other forms of treatment’ which of course means antipsychotic drugs.

Little wonder then that one to one clients say to me “…more helpful than any of the drugs they ever gave me.”

So what can I say when people turn to me as if I must know the answer and say “Why are Sounding Bowls so incredibly effective?”

This applies to Sounding Bowls when people find they are deeply affected by the sound and ask. "Why...?"

At the ISPS conference highly trained, qualified and experienced doctors and therapists were saying experiencing Sound Baths and personal playing with Sounding Bowls and saying.

"This MUST be having a physiological effect. This is so much more than a 'nice sound' I can feel the effect of this right inside my body. This MUST be effecting the nerves and such DIRECTLY.


But they then also ask me "Why are Sounding Bowls so much more powerful than other instruments?”

So I have gathered together these various factors that I think are involved. Starting with the fact that the questioner is not alone, is not experiencing and strange individual reaction I mention that:

There are MANY individual observations concluding “Sounding Bowls are more effective than other instruments.

    Autistic spectrum children and adults often will engage with S.Bs. where they will ignore other instruments.

    Hospice patients will often choose music therapy if offered a Sounding Bowl when they have declined it before.

    Many therapists have observed “the mood changes when the Sounding Bowl is played, people become more open”

    Rampton Hospital did a Controlled Clinical Trial in music therapy that took ten years to set up. one of their conclusions was “Sounding Bowls are more effective than other instruments”

When asked WHY this happens we have to fall back on a wide range of observations as there is no single explanation.

  1. The Strings are INSIDE.

a.      The primary uniqueness of Sounding Bowls. No other instrument has ever had strings inside the resonant space.

b.      The acoustic effect of having strings inside warms the tone and increases overtone richness and sustain (the length of time the note sounds.)

c.      Strings inside is sometimes felt to have allegorical significance, reflecting the awakening awareness of individuality and individual choice and responsibility in the current age of world change.

  1. Most other stringed instruments have BOX RESONATORS 


    1. Box resonators improve volume and overall spread of sound.

    2. Box resonators even out the quality of sound as experienced around the instrument.

    3. Box resonators cause complex overtones in their echoing function.

  1. Sounding Bowls have OPEN RESONATORS.

    1. Open resonators have a directional sound quality, the sound is experienced as different according to how the instrument is directed to or away from you.

    2. Open resonators have a less complex overtone series, see 4.

    3. Open resonators appear to be connected with open feelings and communication in people playing Sounding Bowls.

  1. The importance and Effect of the spiral resonator on a harmonious overtone series’.

a.      Spiral resonators are very rare. The acoustic effect of Sounding Bowls relies on the musical properties of the exponential and Fibonacci spiral section curves.

b.      The math of the Fibonacci curve is a GROWTH pattern, found in nearly all aspects of growth-forms in nature.

c.      The maths of music are also exponential, so the Fibonacci curve amplifies the harmonies within music and drops disharmonious sounds.

d.      Sounding Bowls have this exponential spiral RIGHT IN THE SOUND CHAMBER ITSELF. The sound is amplified and harmonised by the spiral.

e.      The result is a richness of overtone series that avoids complex interference frequencies.

  1. The effect of this on the listener/player !

a.      When facing the instrument their own sounds are reflected back to them, HARMONISED. This creates a sense of their own beauty in the player on a forgiveness principle.

b.      The nature of the overtone/harmonic series is supportive of GROWTH, healing occurs in soul AND body in the presence of such overtone patterns.

  1. Observable effects in listeners

a.      Some other healing instruments, such as gongs, bowls and lyres can support/elicit feelings of wonder and peace,

                                                i.          one can see the face become calmer and the breathing regulate

b.      Sounding Bowls do this AND support/elicit a warmth of self, forgiveness and enthusiasm.

                                               ii.          One can see this in:

1.      Pinking of the face, increased warmth of colour

2.      Change in the timbre of the voice, typically the voice deepens, a person speaks from deeper in themselves.

3.      Attitudes to issues often soften and become more forgiving.

  1. Effects right into the body.

a.      Sounding Bowls also work right into the physical body.

                                             iii.          Psychiatrists at the ISPS conference, (a gather of NHS and private psychiatric health works in Birmingham recently) commented to me “This MUST be having physiological effects. This is far more than sound or music therapy, I can feel the effects of this sound right down into my body, it MUST be effecting the nerves and maybe the blood directly.

                                             iv.          A private client with MS who returns three times a week for treatment here said“This is better than any of the drugs they have ever given me”

                                               v.          A client with advanced arthritis curling his hand said “I feel a tingling from the sound right up my arm, the feeling lasted quite a while after the treatment”

  1. The sheer beauty of the individual sculpture.

a.      Most instruments require some courage to approach, being clearly “A Musical Instrument!” people tend to say “I’m not musical”

b.      Sounding Bowls invite the eye, the hand and the softness of heart by their beauty.

c.      People tend to say “what is that?!? Can I have a go?”

d.      There is a deep visual effect just in seeing the ‘sacred geometry’ of circle and straight line being brought into harmony.

  1. Then there are your own experiences. These are perhaps the most valid. What do you notice when you play or hear Sounding Bowls and how does that compare to your experience of other instruments ??

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 By: Jen Wilson

Great article, Thankyou :)

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