Strikers, mallets, batons and wands


The things you play a singing bowl with are called many things including “that thing.” Generally I refer to them as mallets, unless I’m feeling in a magical mood and then it’s “wands.”

Displayed above is a set of mallets that create a variety of amazing sounds. I have acquired these over a number of years, and the tone each creates is unlike the others.

Just for the record, I have no idea why the photo turned upside down. But after five tries, including rotating the original photo, it’s just going to stay that way.

So, on the left is the cork from a champagne bottle atop a chopstick — what a wonderful culinary combo that creates a fun light ping-y sound to play. Next to it, is a mallet used with crystal bowls for rimming and gonging, but only good for gonging with the metal ones. A piece of PVC (poly-vinyl chloride) piping covered in suede, its hollow quality offers a lovely deep gong sound with the metal bowls, but it’s too light to play the rim well. The red-headed mallet next to it is a wood mallet covered in felt. With felt on a mallet, you can only gong the bowl. Try to play the rim and sound dies, because no friction can occur between the mallet and the bowl: felt acts as a damper to sound. As a gonging instrument, however, it provides a deeper tone than the PVC suede one.

Now, we come to the solid felt ones. If you’ve ever looked inside a piano and seen those great pieces of dense felt, that’s what the heads of these are made of. The white is exposed felt; the red one has a cute little knitted cap like a reggae singer would wear.

A yellow drum or marimba mallet is next, the result of a fun trip to a music store, where I hauled out several bowls and said, “I want a bright sound. Can you help me?” The guy loved the request. He handed me a few to try and watched my reaction. Then he pulled this out and said “I think this will do the trick.” Bingo!

Next are two more even bigger headed, piano felt key mallets — generally for the larger bowls, say 10 inches in diameter or more. Although, the white one can play on 6- to 9-inch bowls. Again, the white one is exposed felt. The one with a red felt cover also has a lead weight in the center of it for even greater depth of sound (yet softer) with the bigger bowls.

The three last black suede topped mallets on the far right show how the size can increase for use from small and medium size bowls with the first one to bigger and bigger bowls. Versatile, these mallets can play both the rim of the bowl with either the wood or suede end as well as offer a softer struck sound with the suede end when gonging the bowl.

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