The World of Sound Healing

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In recent years, there has been a growing interest in exploring the therapeutic uses of sound. Drum Circles, Sound Baths, and Sound Meditations are growing in popularity. Books like Human Tuning (John Beaulieu), Sound Healing With Gongs (Sheila Whittaker), and Himalaya Sound Revelations: The Complete Singing Bowl Book (Frank Perry) are just a few of the many titles currently on the market that explore sound on a deeper level.

While this development is not exclusive to drums and percussion, the percussion industry has really stepped up to offer a wide array of instruments with sound therapy in mind. Below is a brief introductory tour of some of these instruments.    

Singing Bowls and Crystal Bowls

1) Singing Bowls

One of the most popular instruments used in meditation is the singing bowl. Singing bowls have a long and rich – and occasionally mysterious - history. The company Meinl has been busy diversifying their line of bronze singing bowls (sometimes called “Himalayan singing bowls”). Let’s have a look at some of the different series of bowls Meinl offers.

The Universal Series: This is where Meinl’s bowls start in price. There is a good range in size offered within this series. They are also offered in sets. All of Meinl’s bowls come with a felt cushion and cover.

Universal 2-piece Set | sku 448466 | $225

The Origin Series: These bowls have a dark, unfinished appearance. This really gives them a special “antique” look. They are available in three sizes.

             Origin 3-piece Set | sku 728322 | $470

The Energy Series: This series of bowls features a reinforced “lip” around the edge of the bowls. According to Meinl, this will “produce a high tone at first, followed afterwards by a deep tone”. These bowls have a lovely sustain.

                Energy 3-piece Set | sku 448480 | $815

The Cosmos Series: This series has a beautiful range. The smaller SB-C-250 (sku 448482, $98) has a small rope attached to it. This can be very effective when swung over other bowls. A very interesting sympathetic vibration can start happening! The “Cosmos” bowls have a warm, deep tone.

                Cosmos Singing Bowl Set with Suction Cup and Resonant Mallet | sku 782580 | $599

Each singing bowl is different, although some may have a similar tone. I recommend building a collection slowly by carefully auditioning each bowl. Don’t be afraid to mix the different series. Also, you can never have too many mallets – each mallet (or striker) will draw a different sound character out of your bowls.

2) Crystal Bowls

An extension of the singing bowl is the crystal singing bowl. Meinl offers quartz crystal bowls in a range of sizes (8”-14”) and in different tones. Crystal bowls offer a warmer tone than bronze singing bowls. They are also more precisely tuned.

Sonic Energy 8” Colour-Frosted Crystal Singing Bowl | sku 767235 | $310

I personally use a combination of bronze bowls with my quartz bowls. I find them quite complementary. As with metal singing bowls, it is worth trying some different mallets.

The world of hand drums offers a wide range of sounds. Here are some varieties.

Remo Buffalo drums: Buffalo drums are basically a synthetic version of traditional frame drums. These are available in 8”, 10”, 12”, 14”, 16” and 22” sizes. Each drum comes with a mallet. The 22” size (sku 41245, $245) has a beautiful deep, warm tone. I like to alternate between the mallet and my hand for different sonic effects. One benefit of Remo’s design is that their synthetic head is more durable and more resistant to temperature changes than traditional hide drums.

Remo Ocean Drums: Remo’s Ocean Drums are basically like their buffalo drums except they have a second clear skin on the other side. Inside are tiny ball bearings. When moved slowly, the sound of ocean waves can be effectively produced. Ocean drums are available in 12”, 16” and 22” sizes. They come with either a plain or colourful finish. I use the 22” Ocean Drum (sku 41362, $195) as a wonderful tool for opening sound meditations.

Toca Djembes: Toca offers some great sounding djembes. One of my favourite models is the Freestyle 12” rope-tuned drum (sku 322100, $259.99). It is available in 7”, 9”, 10”, and 12” sizes and some attractive finishes. These djembes have a goat skin head but a synthetic body. This makes for a light and portable drum that can easily be transported to drum circles. These drums also have a great bass tone (especially the 12” size).

Handpans and Tongue Drums
Handpans: The Handpan (also known as the “Hang Drum”) has become very popular in recent years. Handpans look like an upside down “steel drum” with different zones which create different notes. They are meant to be played with hands and are available in many scales. Pearl offers a couple of different Handpans including the 22” “Euphonic” model in the key of F-Minor (sku 775546, $1999.99). Meinl offers a variety of tunings and finishes with their version of the Handpan (sku 497291, $3825).

Tongue Drums: A similar yet distinct instrument to the Handpan is the smaller Tongue Drum. Tongue drums are made to be played with mallets (although they certainly can be played with hands). Pearl offers different options such as the “Metal Spirit Series” (sku 724402, $260). Groove Masters Percussion offers some beautiful Tongue Drums, such as the TDM-HP (sku 766573, $339). Meinl also offers Tongue Drums including the STD1BK in the key of A-Minor (sku 515796, $435).  

It would be difficult to discuss sound therapy and not mention the gong. Since I last wrote an article on gongs in our 2014 Gear Issue, the world of gongs has expanded even more. Paiste has introduced a series of 7 bronze gongs with fascinating new designs. Meinl has introduced the 32” “Eight Corners of Heaven Mirror Gong” (sku 694708, $3550), designed in collaboration with renowned gongmaster Don Conreaux.

Here are some popular gongs that would be a great starting place in a collection, or perhaps even an addition to an existing set-up:

Dream Wind Gongs: Dream is a company that offers a great selection of authentic Chinese-made gongs. The “Feng” or “Wind” Gong is available in sizes ranging from 6” to 60”. A great choice with a lot of sonic range is the 28” size (sku 478598, $659). These gongs have a great “shimmer” when played near the edge, but can produce nice bass tones when played in the centre.

Sabian Zodiac Gongs: Sabian’s Zodiac gongs (24”, sku 56980, $749.99) are available in 24”, 26”,and 28” sizes. These gongs offer a fairly warm tone when played at soft to medium volumes.

Paiste Symphonic Gongs: A very popular “main gong” in a percussion set-up is the Paiste Symphonic Gong. These are available from 20” to 80”. These gongs have become very popular with Yoga studios. I recommend the 32” size (sku 434179, $1999.99) as a great first choice. The 32” size is quite portable and has a lot of sonic range.


I encourage you to investigate any of these instruments mentioned above. I also recommend combining these instruments. You don’t need a big collection to get started - starting with a single singing bowl can be very powerful. You may be surprised where this leads you. These instruments will be your tools. By bringing your own healing intention, and by following your intuition, you may find a whole new world of sound possibilities opening up. It is certainly a world of serenity, stillness, and deep peace.

Rob Gretsinger has been a drum and percussion specialist at Long & McQuade for 22 years. He has an extensive collection of gongs and other percussion. He offers monthly sound meditation concerts and occasionally gives workshops throughout British Columbia.


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