Nope... doesn't ring a bell.
July 29, 2007 7:51 PM   Subscribe

My mother has decided she wants a Tibetan singing bowl. Any recommendations?

My mother has decided that she wants to be the proud owner of a Tibetan singing bowl. I'd like to help her find one that neither complete junk nor particularly costly. Nice appearance is a plus, but emphasis is on the sound/function. Also, it doesn't have to actually come from Tibet, and it certainly needn't be an antique.

It looks like there are lot of people trying to peddle singing bowls and very little objective information on purchasing one. Can anyone recommend a source or give any general suggestions?
posted by musicinmybrain to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From wikipedia:

"Antique singing bowls were made of bronze, an alloy of copper, tin, zinc and other metals. Antiques often include silver, gold, iron and nickel.

Antique singing bowls produce multiphonic and polyharmonic overtones which are unique to the antique instruments. The subtle yet complex multiple harmonic frequencies are a special quality of the high quality bronze alloy. The art of making singing bowls in the traditional way is considered a lost art."

"New singing bowls are made from industrial quality metal, mainly copper. They are exported widely from Nepal and India.

High quality new singing bowls are made in Japan and Korea but are not widely exported.

New singing bowls and crystal bowls do not produce the warm and complex tone of fine antiques. They sound like clear and simple bells, without the warm undertones and bright harmonic overtones for which antiques are famous."

That about says it all to me. Though I can't imagine how you can be sure what you're getting is the real deal. If you find a good one, please post back and let us know how/where.
posted by hermitosis at 8:43 PM on July 29, 2007

Well if sound is the priority, there is no substitute for laying hands on and hearing it for yourself.

Otherwise I'd say decide on a budget before looking, and make sure you are in a reputable shop. If there is a local Buddhist group, ask them for recommendations.

If you are in Seattle, there's a nice little shop on Freemont, about a half mile West of the bridge (yeah who'da thought). Can't remember the name.
posted by ilsa at 8:45 PM on July 29, 2007

I had read the Wikipedia article; it sounds to me like it has a pretty strong marketing influence, although it is helpful.

In this case, price would prohibit getting "the real deal"; I probably should have mentioned that the budget here is probably up to $50 or so (maybe a little more for something nice).

There are (or at least were at one point) bowls in a local fair-trade store for about $70, but in the absence of anything to compare with it's hard to know that you're getting anything a $30 el-cheapo bowl wouldn't offer.

Location is Greensboro, NC. I'll also be near Roanoke, VA in a few weeks. That puts some limit on the possibility of trying bowls locally.

My big problem here is that it's possible to spend any amount of money, but it's difficult to find these bowls locally and difficult to verify from afar that extra money is actually purchasing anything.

I like the suggestion of contacting a local Buddhist group; they might have some ideas on cutting through the marketing. I'll look into that.
posted by musicinmybrain at 9:04 PM on July 29, 2007

Many many thanks for this question. A friend had one of these, and I never knew how it was called, just seriously loved the sound. (Friend was none other than Donny the Punk). I suspect his may have been antique, as the ones I've seen since haven't sounded nearly as beautiful. His had a super-long decay time that went right through my head.
posted by Goofyy at 12:21 AM on July 30, 2007

AAAK! Sorry. All winter long the Tibetans come down from the hills and decend on Beijing bringing with them their "antiques" and "medicines." The croud into the pedestrian underpasses where they set up makeshift markets. Every day as I navigated the streets to work I had to dodge through dozens of them shoving those goddamn singing bowls in my face so I could hear just how lovely they sound. I can't vouch for their quality as compared to an actual antique, but if you can find someone going to China, they can get you one for pretty cheap off of any street corner.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:59 AM on July 30, 2007

Looks like you've got a Ten Thousand Villages in Greensboro. I'd check there first. The one here in Champaign always carries singing bowls.
posted by MsMolly at 11:48 AM on July 30, 2007

If you aren't hung up on authenticity, you might look into a Zen Alarm Clock for her. We've been very happy with ours.
posted by Andrhia at 7:26 PM on August 2, 2007

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