What tools does a Sound Therapist use?

Himalayan Singing Bowls

I use all of the following tools for their therapeutic properties:

  • Himalayan Singing Bowls
  • Quartz Crystal Singing Bowls
  • Gongs
  • The Human Voice
  • Frame Drums
  • Various Percussive Tools

The Sound Therapist has a huge range of different sounds and frequencies to work with. Each sound has its own identity and character and interacts in a uniquely individual way with each client / recipient. Each tool and its use is explained in more detail below.

Himalayan Singing Bowls

These ancient bowls are shrouded in mystery. They find their roots in a form of Tibetan Shamanism called 'Bon' which predates Buddhism by many thousands of years and is Tibet's oldest spiritual tradition. Used originally in ritual, their manufacture and use has spread and their use in Sound Therapy is now widespread. More commonly called 'Himalayan Singing Bowls' (rather than Tibetan Bowls) they are hand beaten and manufactured in India, Nepal, and Bhutan by artisans.

Made from a very refined and highly prized bell metal bronze (copper and tin) the bowls emit multiple frequencies and tones. The high percentage of tin in the alloy contributes significantly to the unique tone, resonance, and sustain of the bowls. The character of the sound from a Himalayan bowl might be described as 'warm', 'rounded', 'sacred', and 'enveloping'. When multiple bowls are played, the interaction of the various tones and overtones creates a magical collective sound that aids deep relaxation and a shift in consciousness.

The bowls are played in 3 ways - with a wand rubbed along the rim to produce a sustained tone, 'donged' with a felt beater to produce a rich sound with a long decay, and bowed with a violin / cello bow to amplify the highest harmonics in the bowl.

My personal collection consists of 21 bowls covering a wide range of frequencies. They are used in group 'Sound Baths' or (during a treatment) placed on the body and / or played close to the body.

Quartz Crystal Singing Bowls

Made from pure silica quartz crystal, these bowls originated in California. They were manufactured as chalices in the production of microchips. Occasionally contaminants were found in the bowls and they were discarded until a curious boffin noticed that they produced a sound (and what a sound it is). From Silicon Valley the bowls found their way into the hands of Californian Sound Workers and the rest, as they say, is history. Nowdays the bowls are manufactured specifically for Sound Therapists either in a centrifuge (producing an opaque bowl) or hand blown (producing a smaller clear bowl). All bowls are made from pure quartz crystal.

Energetically and vibrationally, quartz crystal has unique properties and the sound and character of the bowls reflect this in both sound and 'feeling'. Their character has been described as 'crystalline' and 'other worldly'. The bowls produce an almost pure sine sound wave and are, as such, devoid of harmonics. This means that, unlike the Himalayan Singing Bowls, they produce an identifiable and clear pitch. For this reason the bowls (with their very lengthy sustain) are uniquely placed when working with harmonic intervals and the effects they create (for more on intervals and their therapeutic qualities see my article in the journal section of the website).

My collection consists of a full 'Chakras Set' and octave duplicates - totalling 12 bowls.

Gongs

The gong is, together with the drum, one of the most ancient sonic instruments known. Most are familiar with their sound and in a Sound Therapist's armory they are the most harmonically rich of all the instruments. Their therapeutic use has often focused on pain relief and releasing (more of which later - see the 'Therapeutic Model' page). My kit consists of a large 'Wind Gong' and a large 'Earth Gong'. Their energy is certainly elemental and the sounds they make move through the listener like no other. The gong can be played in various ways producing a complex palette of sounds from the roar of a dragon to the song of a whale via beautiful sustained rumblings. In whatever way the gong is played it evokes an ancient resonance in the listener.

The Human Voice

The voice is a uniquely powerful and therapeutic tool. It resonates within each of us and, when used with intent, its ability to harmonize and heal can seem miraculous. The primary methods used when passively receiving vocal sound are toning and over toning. Toning uses various vowel sounds in a sustained manner utilising different 'placements' to change the character of the sound. Overtoning is a remarkable and ancient technique which produces simultaneous and multiple tones through the amplification and splitting of the harmonics in the voice.

Beyond these two techniques I also bring the voice into my work in a very focused way within the context of 'Holistic Voice Therapy' and Group based vocal work. The voice mirrors our energetic state. It also reveals our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual states and is therefore a powerful diagnostic tool. There are multiple ways of working with the voice and these will be expanded upon on the 'Sound Offerings' page.

Frame Drums

From our first heartbeat to our last breath we are governed by a multitude of rhythms. The seasons mark the passing of time and stimulate our urges toward the inner and the outer world. Our life path and its stages prompt our ways of being. Similarly, tempo mirrors and governs our state. The question that arises though is "are we in rhythm"? The drum, as a therapeutic tool, has the ability to bring us back into a more balanced rhythm and to give us the 'rhythmic vitamins' we so often crave as a counteraction to the imbalance we can so often experience in our busy lives.

From the use of 'entrainment' to Shamanic Journeying and even sonic massage, the drum has much to offer both as a passive recipient and as a collaborative drummer.

Percussion

Percussion is used primarily as a grounding tool following a 'Sound Bath' or passive 1-2-1 therapy. It is common (and desirable) to reach an altered state of consciousness whilst passively receiving sound. Grounding brings one gently back to the 'here and now'.

The tools used produce a variety of sounds and include chimes, rainsticks, and various shakers.


Created by Clifford Sax