What You Need to Know About Sound Healing Instruments
Author: Malcolm Newland
Sound healing therapy is an ancient practice that originated in Tibet. Today, it’s used all over the world for relaxation, stress relief and even brain training – but it all depends on the instrument.
We’ll walk through some of the most popular instruments for sound healing below. Let’s dive in!
What instruments are used for sound healing?
Sound healing is a form of therapy that uses, you guessed it, sound to help with physical and mental ailments.
The most common instruments used for sound healing include:
Choosing the right sound healing instrument
The right sound healing instrument comes down to the purpose of your sound healing practice and your budget.
Are you aiming to relax, meditate or destress? Maybe you’re trying to reduce pain? Sound quality will vary between instruments, and even between the same instrument in different sizes.
Let’s consider crystal singing bowls vs metal singing bowls.
- Crystal singing bowls are made from clear quartz crystal and produce a deep sound when hit with a mallet.
- Metal singing bowls are generally blends of different metal alloys that create a harmonious bell-like sound.
Metal or Tibetan singing bowls are also more durable, so we recommend those to beginners who are exploring sound for the first time. You can also find metal bowls in a greater variety of small sizes. Crystal singing bowls are often better and easier to play together, and their vibrations last longer. If you’re after a more colourful aesthetic, crystal bowls can come in variations of blue, purple, red, yellow, and orange.
Disc-shaped gongs are most often used for “emotional healing”, e.g. to help balance the chakra, to release negative energy, for shamanic healing, or for general relaxation. They’re amongst the oldest instruments in the world used for sound healing.
Most gongs create a deep, resonant and long-lasting sound. Sounds can be relaxing, energising (as a signal or call to action), grounding or calming. They can be small enough to sit on a desk or large enough to take up an entire wall. As a rule of thumb, the larger the gong, the deeper and more resonant the sound.
Gongs are generally used in sound baths or healing sessions by trained practitioners. They have to be hit in certain ways with the appropriate mallet, so we don’t recommend gongs to sound healing beginners.
Chimes come in all shapes and sizes, not just the traditional long rods you may be used to seeing. But most chimes still produce a gentle, uplifting melody.
And, in fact, there are many types of chimes out there you might try for sound healing.
- Wood chimes like Koshi or Zaphir Chimes are generally hand-made and produce relaxing crystalline sounds.
- Wind chimes are usually made from a variety of tubes, rods and bells and have a more melodic sound.
- Bar chimes are made from soft but strong metals, giving them a clear and long-lasting note.
- Shell chimes create rain sounds through a curtain of seed pods, making them the most different sounding chime.
Depending on the material chimes are made of, they can wear down pretty fast, so best to keep wear and tear in mind when shopping.
Small finger cymbals and bells attached by a strip of leather are otherwise known as tingsha, Tibetan chimes or Tibetan hand cymbals. Tingshas create a clear, high-pitched and high-frequency sound depending on their size, starting at 2000 Hz. Each frequency is attuned to certain organs and chakras in the body – so you’d have one set of tingsha for one chakra.
Good tingshas are handmade by casting and so will vary in appearance. They are commonly used to start and end a meditation session, by opening and closing chakras, or for energy clearing.
Tingsha are great for those just coming into sound healing as they can be used for solo practice, as well as group sessions.
If you remember the rain stick from school music, then you may be surprised that it has a place in sound healing. In fact, rain sticks are most often used to clear stagnant energy in the body – similar to how they were traditionally thought to inspire actual rain during droughts.
Rain sticks are hollow bamboo tubes filled with pebbles, beads or beans that mimic the soothing sound of falling rain when the stick is moved. Depending on the stick, the sound of rain can last for up to 20 seconds.
Rain has long been considered a soothing sound, often being incorporated into many types of meditation music. Rain sticks are a great all-rounder, since they work for solo practice, sound recordings, and yoga and meditation sessions.
Tuning forks produce a gentle but powerful sound that targets the nervous system. For this reason, tuning forks are most commonly used for deep relaxation and restoration. They work best if you have specific areas of tension in your body that you want to clear, like joint pain, digestive issues and headaches.
The sound comes down to proper handling and striking with tuning forks, because the stem of the tuning fork needs to be placed onto the part of the body in question.
As a tip: You don’t hold tuning forks on the stem, ever. They are held by the stem and struck on the heel of your hand, your knee cap or with a mallet.
The tongue drum is usually made from steel, producing a mellow or calming sound when played. They’re also one of the easiest instruments on this list to play, so great for solo practice at home.
In fact, they’re pretty intuitive to play as long as you’re hitting inside the cutouts (shaped like tongues, hence the name). The tongues act similarly to strings on a guitar or keys on a piano by allowing the drum to create a melody or rhythm.
Tongue drums come in a variety of sizes and can also be made with different scales, like the pentatonic, diatonic and chromatic scales. Some tongue drums will be tuned to a specific pitch, which is generally 432 or 400 Hz.
- Opus 10" Metal 11-Note Lotus Style Tongue Drum D Major in Chestnut w/ Carry Bag
- SWP 9-Note 14" Tongue Drum D Minor - Silver
The kalimba is a thumb piano (yes, really) that creates a soothing and meditative sound. Part of the healing experience comes down to the intentional act of playing the kalimba, which is why it’s another great option for solo sound healing.
Each note of the kalimba can be clearly heard as it’s played. It produces a chime-like, high-pitched sound, making it easy to play any number of songs or melodies.
- Sansula Kalimba Basic 9-Tone A-Moll Pergament Skin
- 17-Note Kalimba - Mahogany Vintage Hand Rest Soundboard
To wrap up
Choosing the right instrument for your sound healing practice is a personal decision. Test out and listen to as many options as you can so you find what resonates with you and suits your reason for sound healing. We’re always happy to chat about what works best for you in store or over the phone, so feel free to drop in or reach out.
Make a joyous sound!