We are all called to sound for different reasons. Some of us seek it out for entertainment, some for relaxation or meditation, some of us because we want to learn something new, and others because we are focused on mastering our craft as an offering. At Didge Project, we’ve curated a selection of sound healing instruments with everyone in mind, and our variety of instruments and courses are intended to be accessible to beginners and recording artists alike. In partnership with our Sound Healer Training organization, Dream Seed, and under the guidance of spiritual teacher Maestro Manuel Rufino, we conduct sound baths and sound healing sessions for groups of people dedicated to awakening their greater consciousness. We have dedicated almost 15 years to traveling the world exploring how sound heals and uplifts, and based on our experience, we have put together this list of instruments that can help you better facilitate sound baths, sound meditations, and other healing work utilizing sound.
In the photo above you can see an overhead shot of a sound healing altar at one of the Dream Seed Sound Healer Training workshops. Notice the variety of instruments and sonic possibilities that are available to the facilitators. In this article we explore many of the instruments that we use to facilitate sound baths and other sound healing experiences.
For you wondering “what is a sound bath?” we highly suggest you check out your local healing center or yoga studio to see if they have one coming up. A sound bath is usually an in-person gathering where participants come to explore states of higher consciousness facilitated by live sound making through instruments and voices. You may see specific types of sound baths, like gong baths, mentioned. As we already said, sound can do miraculous things, often allowing people to relax into deep states of consciousness and allow the body and the mind to do its innate healing work. Without further ado, here are more than 20 instruments to consider using when facilitating sound baths:
Add Drums to your Sound Baths
An amazingly versatile instrument, the shamanic frame drum is a powerful tool that every sound worker should explore. The pulse of the heartbeat can be played fast, slow, loud or soft, and can on its own hold a very safe sonic container. You can sing with it, play it to accompany other instruments, and add it to almost any sonic environment to bring up the energy or to take the recipients into a deep space.
Frame drums can be played in a variety of ways. Using the beater, a drum functions as a shamanic drum. Using the finger tips, the drum can be utilized as a middle-eastern style frame drum.
In the Native Traditions the drum is related to the energy of the fire, which represents the heart. Therefore the drum as a sound healing instrument deals with matters of love and belonging, relationship, family, community, and self-esteem. Because many drums are made of hide, they naturally connect us to the plane of the earth and physicality. They remind us of sacrifices that are made to protect and cultivate relationship, and with their deep, rich sounds that are both warm and powerful, they encourage strength and gentleness, vitality and relaxation.
Here is a great tutorial on how to play the frame drum in the middle-eastern style:
Facilitate Sound Baths with Rainsticks, Wave Drums and Rattles
Having the sound of water, created by tiny beads, or seeds inside a resonating instrument, can be very effective for sound healing work.
Use Rain Sticks at your sound bath
Although it is unclear as to where the rain stick originated, some site Central America with the Aztecs, some South America with the Mapuches, and others in Australia with Aboriginal people, the purpose for the rainstick seems to be unanimous – to call the rain or rain gods and bring rain to crops.
Traditionally made of bamboo or cactus, once the thorns of a dried out cactus were pulled out, they were reversed and then pushed back in. The sound of the rain comes from small pebbles or seeds falling against the wall of thorns on the inside of the rain stick.
Because of its association with water, this instrument can be used by a practitioner in a part of a sound healing where a deep emotional release is either happening or may be beneficial to the recipient or group. It can also be used as a blessing, bringing, fresh, pure water to soothe and bless listeners once energy has moved.
Bring in Wave Drums at your sound bath
Wave Drums, aka Ocean Drums, create the soothing sounds of the ocean, with a great feature: the little steel balls are sealed between two drum heads, one synthetic and the other natural goatskin. This means you can choose between two completely different timbres within the Wave Drum.
The Wave Drum has earned its name since as a marriage between a drum and a rattle, the beads within its frame produce a wavelike effect in sound healing. For this reason, as a practitioner, you can use this specific sound in moments where a marriage of elements is needed- to purify the fire of the heart, to ground an energy or intention, and to empower profound healing.
Utilize Shakers and Rattles in your sound bath
According to Maestro Manuel Rufino, “rattles are powerful sound healing tools because they connect us to the energy of the earth. They sound because within the hollow gourd of their body, there are seeds. The seeds are what bring life.” Made by hand, each rattle is a sacred instrument carrying a prayer or intention toward healing that the Shaman or Sound Healing practitioner will use in their work.
Shakers make fantastic sound bath instruments, similar to rattles and rain sticks, though often although they may be made of synthetic materials. Their percussive quality draws the awareness of those playing and those listening into the present moment. With their grounding effects, they empower the listener with concentration and empowerment to overcome the distractions that can make reality difficult to navigate.
Watch this demo of how to play didgeridoo and shaker simultaneously:
Add Chakapas to your Sound Baths
The chakapa, or leaf bundle, is a very important tool for shamans in the Amazon, as they are used in healing ceremonies. The chakapa’s sound is relaxing, calming, and healing. It has the ability to support deep cleansing of energies and forces in people and in spaces. Shamans say the chakapa can catch bad spirits in the leaves, they then blow it out back into the forest.
Other traditions use them to mimic the sound of the wind whose breezes rustle through leaves and vines, branches and buds and like the mind, are in a constant state of movement. Thus the chakapa, in this case, is used as an instrument to dispel intrusive or negative thoughts and reset patterns with more clear, natural rhythms.
According to Maestro Manuel Rufino, “the sound of the Chakapa imitates the sound of the rain hitting the leaves in the jungle.” So like a purifying rain, Chakapas can be used for profound emotional healing and clearing. When combined with certain chants, silences or rhythms, this instrument can help relieve pain long held in the emotional body.
Add Flutes to your Sound Baths
The oldest known flute in the world is the Neanderthal flute and dates up to 60,000 years ago, this particular flute was fashioned from the thigh bone of a young male bear. This means that almost as soon as early people established food, warmth, and safety, they then turned towards producing art whether through Pictish drawings (cave paintings and other early pre-civilization art forms), pottery, or in this case, sound.
Flutes are very much connected to the mind. Because breath and mind are a unity, the harmonic notes and overtones produced by flutes whether clay, bamboo, hardwood, or other, stimulate a good quality of focus. The focus comes firstly from the sound healer, who through practice discovers the nuances of sound their flute can produce. Then, with good concentration, the sound healer guides the participant through a journey of sound which brings them into states of deep listening. Scientifically, this is state where the flute influences the brain waves from gamma and beta waves which are related to heightened awareness and problem solving to alpha and theta waves associated with meditation, clarity, creativity and relaxation.
Most of the flutes we sell here at Didge Project are made by La Rosa Flutes, a company started by iconic Andean musician Tito La Rosa and his son Omar. Check out Tito playing the Heaven and Earth bamboo drone flute:
See the La Rosa Drone Flutes in action:
In a more traditional use, the flutes can be used to blow negative thoughts away from a person’s mind and aura. Then through the breath of the sound healer, the flute can help re-establish harmony and peace of mind for the recipient. The more time you spend with your flutes, the more they will teach you about themselves and the nature of your own mind.
Incorporate Kalimbas, Mbiras and Sansulas into your sound baths
Kalimbas and mbiras are thumb pianos of African origin that have been embraced worldwide for their beautiful sound and ease of play. They make great instruments for music therapy, as they can be played with minimal hand strength. For sound baths, kalimbas can add to your sonic offering by creating a light, mood to contrast with stronger sounding instruments like gongs, didgeridoos, crystal bowls, and shruti boxes.
The Sansula by Hokema is an oval shaped kalimba with an amazing sound, due to the shape of its resonant body and the precision crafting of its metal tines (prongs). They are incredibly fun to play and are essential for anyone involved in conducting sound baths, sound healing sessions, sound meditations, shamanic music and other meditative music making. They are also wonderful instruments for children, whether for bed time or the child’s own exploration of sound.
In this video you can hear some of the Sansula scale options that we offer:
The tonal quality of the Sansula is vibrant and bright while at the same time being enchanting and mysterious. Sansulas lend themselves beautifully to solos and can also be paired with percussive instruments on other tuned instruments in the same key or scale. Because they are a perfect stand alone instrument, you can use them to create an ambient backdrop for breathwork, silence, guided meditation journeys, or mantra chanting.
Add Handpans and Tongue Drums to your Sound Baths
Handpans, Rav Drums and Tongue Drums are also very potent and essential instruments for sound healing. Sonically the handpan is an overtone-rich instrument that has the capacity to create many layers of sound and ethereal effects and works great as a standalone instrument, and can also be combined very well with drone instruments.
Check out our video on how to use the handpan and RAV Drum for meditation and healing:
Use Shruti Boxes and Harmoniums in your Sound Baths
The Shruti Box is an Indian drone instrument that provides a steady tone for a myriad of uses including sound healing, meditation, and chanting. Using a bellows to pump air through free reeds (the same as in a harmonica or a melodica), the shruti box can hold a rich drone sound for an extended period of time and can hold a great deal of sonic space. In Indian Classical Music and much world chant music, this drone is often a foundation upon which singers and melodic instruments can play over. In many situations, the shruti box takes the place of the tanpura, the traditional drone instrument of Indian Classical Music, due to its more compact shape and size.
Although the Shruti box has its origins in China, we are most commonly aware of its use in the Indian and Hindu musical traditions where it is used for chanting mantra and devotional music. Because of the steadiness of its tone and the drone quality of its sound, the Shruti box is an excellent companion to Sound Healers or any musicians that are introducing their vocals into their musical landscape. The drone serves as a perfect backdrop for the singer to explore pitch, range, length and the general musicality of the voice.
Check out the talented Jerry Walsh demonstrating the shruti box with a foot pedal while playing handpan and singing:
The harmonium uses the same technology as the shruti box, but adds a keyboard functionality, allowing the player to utilize the same free reed sound, but able to play melodies, chords and anything else you can do with a keyboard layout. Usually the harmonium is pumped with one hand and the keys are played with the other.
Facilitate Sound Baths with Metal Resonating Instruments: Mallet Harp, Tuning Forks, Bells, Chimes, Gongs, & Himalayan Singing Bowls
Metal instruments brings rich complex harmonic sound effects that whether low or high pitched, provide a resonant, soothing, and grounding frequency in the sound healing environment. Whether through the deep penetrating sounds of a gong or the twinkling effervescent sound of a small chime, metals vibrate to the frequency of the earth and thus move the energy in our physical bodies.
Use Tuning Forks in Sound Baths
Tuning forks can tune the biofield of the human body. Tuning forks are generally made out of metal and operate both as sonic scalpels and celestial tones. They are great instruments to consider whether you walk around a lot for your healing sessions or if you’re stationary. They add to a soundscape just as easily as they independently help to pierce stagnant energy with their vibrational frequency.
The Mega Tuning Fork by Earth Tuned are precisely tuned sonic tools that have an incredibly long sustain. These instruments are perfect for sound healing, sound baths, meditations, and balancing chakras. The Mega Tuning Fork resonates from head to heart.
Use Gongs in Sound Baths
Gongs are another metal instrument that has been used for meditative and medicinal purposes in different cultures dating back around 5,000 years. The long, sonic waves reverberate through the physical body and induce deep relaxation through a somatic experience. The sound of the gong depends on the size, shape, tuning, and build, and will also be influenced largely by the sound healing practitioner, whether you use it as a drum or percussive anchor, or whether it is used as an intuitive backdrop for other sounds.
Use Chimes in Sound Baths
Chimes are popular for sound meditation, yoga classes and sound healing. Chimes are easy to work with and bring close to the body of the person you are working with, bright and uplifting, sweet, and very elemental. They guide the listener very close to nature with their gentle, peaceful sounds which are perfect as an ambient backdrop or for a guided meditation.
Koshi Chimes are a wonderful compliment to complex musical environments with their brightness, lightness, and whimsy. They provide a warm, rich ambience and are available in four scales associated with the four elements (wind, fire, water, earth). They sound beautiful individually or together. The chimes can be hung and played by the wind or held by hand via the attached string and metal ring. They can just as easily be played independently and their repetitive tones induce a hypnotic relaxation that aids in the sound healing and meditative spaces.
Listen to all 4 Koshi Chime scales in our video demo:
Use Himalayan Bowls (a.k.a. Metal Singing Bowls or Sound Bowls) in Sound Baths
Himalayan Bowls are tonal and long wave sounds that endure and resonate. You can strike them once and let them ring because they offer a seemingly infinite sustain. Meaning the note never stops as opposed to flutes, where you have to take a breath to create a continuous sound. In this way, Himalayan or Tibetan Singing Bowls are similar to the harmonium or shruti.
Using Himalayan Bowls in sound healing you can let the resonance of the bowl pass through the auric field of the recipient by washing it over them or actually placing the bowl upon their person and addressing the physical body. Singing bowls can also help open the voice as a sound healing instrument because the long resonance they hold offers a perfect background for the practitioner to vocalize, and depending on the mallets you use, you can also get the bowls to sing.
Use Mallet Harps, Xylophones, and other melodic metal percussion in Sound Baths
At Didge Project, we feature three different types of mallet harps. They are fun, easy to play instrument for all ages. The mallet harp brings the joy of music to beginners and experienced musicians alike. With numerous applications, the mallet harp is ideal for music therapy, stress relief, sound healing, childhood development, emotional health and overall wellness. The pentatonic scales create beautiful melodies and harmonies, no matter what sequence the notes are played in. This makes it so that the player does not need to know music theory or even what notes they are playing at any given moment to make great sounds.
Learn some playing techniques for the mallet harp here:
There are many other types of melodic percussion instruments available that play similarly to the mallet harps. Some to explore are wooden tongue drums, metal tongue drums, glockenspiels, xylophones, metallophones, vibraphones, and marimbas.
Use Didgeridoos for Facilitating Sound Baths
People come to the didgeridoo for many reasons, most of which are connected to healing. Players benefit from the many therapeutic benefits of the instrument: deeper breathing, expanded lung capacity, greater sense of rhythm. Listeners have access to a whole dimension of sound that is not often provided in our modern world.
Didgeridoo is where we started Didge Project and we have lots of great video tutorials showing you how to play the didgeridoo in many different ways. Check out our didgeridoo tutorials playlist with over 30 instructional videos:
The ancient vibrations that come through even the most modern versions of the didgeridoo often help listeners enter deep states of relaxation or trance. These deeper states of consciousness, not commonly accessed by us on a day-to-day basis, are truly beneficial to those who enter them with intention.
Facilitate Sound Baths with Crystal Singing Bowls and other Crystal Instruments
Crystal Instruments such as crystal harps/lyres, crystal bowls, crystal pyramids, and even the silent presence of gems and stones bring a very special vibration into sound baths and conscious sound practices. Crystals are known for their ability to store memory, and can be utilized when a person needs to activate recent or ancient memory. Silicon valley gets its name from the silica in crystals, which are highly organized structures that can sustain sound for a long time. The tones of crystal instruments are bright, clear, and even.
Crystal bowls, pyramids and harps produce an angelic sound with very high frequency vibrations. In sound healing, these tones activate the ears, third eye, and the heart, and often times help to disperse energies accumulated in the physical body. They are all very easy and intuitive to play. Crystal instruments generally have long sustain in their sound, so you can play them periodically and let them resonate acoustically while also working with other instruments.
Crystal bowls penetrate very deeply with a beautiful and omnipresent sound, they resonate and activate all kinds of activity in the brain and body. Each bowl is tuned to one tone, but you can get different overtones to come out of it by playing it in different ways, tapping on various points and using singing bowl friction wands to create long drones. Essentially there’s no way to play a wrong note on a crystal bowl.
Combine and layer multiple instruments in sound baths
One of the questions we get most often about many of our instruments is “will this instrument work with another instrument I have?” There is really no right or wrong answer to this question, but at its simplest, you can almost always put two fixed pitched instruments in the same key together, i.e. an A crystal bowl with an A flute. There’s a lot more to be said on this subject and if you’d like to find out more about instrument combinations, please post your questions here in the comments section of this article.
We hope this information will help to broaden and deepen your sound healing practice and offering. As with anything, it’s nice to introduce instruments intentionally, especially if you are constructing your sound. It’s always great for each of your instruments to be able to sound alone, but magical things begin happening when we layer the sounds, so please consider this as you expand your toolbox. And no matter where you are with your musical experience, remember that there is always so much to learn from a new instrument.
Looking for more guidance on facilitating sound baths and sound healing work?
Our ensemble, Dream Seed, conducts sound healer training workshops throughout the year at our community center, Golden Drum, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (NYC), and most of these workshops are also broadcasted live and recorded for remote participants. Check out the Dream Seed and Golden Drum websites for the lates information on our 9-month Sound Healer Training Program, as well as individual workshops which can be attended throughout the year. We also have a number of video courses available from our in-person training sessions, which are available here.