Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Harmonic Toning, Trance, and Drumming

Harmonics are the extra sounds above and below the main notes in music. Tibetan bowls and Mongolian throat-singers are famous for them. But you can also hear them in certain Tibetan chants  (the really deep, growly ones), some other singing and musical instruments, and in certain kinds of drumming.

It is said that shamans actually travel on the overtones (harmonics of drumming) and I believe it. I can sometimes here overtones in rattling, too. And it sounds to me as though a form of throat-singing is how that characteristic sound is made in the didgeridu.

Our shamanism Meetup group sometimes practices harmonic toning---not often enough, I guess, but whenever we need to use it with an ecstatic trance posture. (For more info on ecstatic trance postures see Shamanista.com or my Houston Shamanism Examiner column.)

Last Saturday I taught how to do it again, because there were some new people present, and then I taught them a new trance posture to do the toning with. All I did was get them started in a couple of the simpler forms of hoomei, or Mongolian throat-singing.

It was one of those nights. The CD player would not work, so instead of getting to try out the posture with them, I had to drum. But I also needed to tone with them, because in a smallish group (nine of us), people tend to be shy about singing or making what are to them weird noises.

The problem was that toning tends to make my drumming slow down too much, and I was really tired already from drumming for a couple of other journeys.

So I started drumming, intending not to tone, but I did anyway, and it was amazing. I got more harmonics (the high whistling or fluting sound in throat-singing) than I probably ever have (since I never practice). And the drumming did not slow down.

Apparently I tranced out while toning. One of the other participants claimed that I drummed for 40 minutes, when I thought it was just 15 or 20 minutes. I knew harmonic toning was a great meditation, but I did not expect to trance out like that while doing it.

So here is my recommendation: Find a place to learn harmonic toning or throat-singing, and give it a try. If nothing else, get some good throat-singing CDs and harmonic toning CDs, like those of David Hykes and his Harmonic Choir, and listen to them carefully while in a quiet, meditative state.

Listening to harmonic sounds will make you feel great! And it is the first step in learning how to do it yourself.

Learning to make harmonic sounds yourself will make you feel even better.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tips on Caring for Shamanic Drums

I just posted a new article on Houston Shamanism, "6 Tips on Caring for Shamanic Drums in Houston," but these tips are applicable to just about any natural skin drums anywhere.

There are tips on drum storage, safely transporting your drum, the dangers of too much heat, what to do about too much moisture, using the right kind of beater to avoid damaging your drum, and avoiding undesirable metaphysical influences.

I hope you will stop by, take a look, and leave a comment.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Choosing a Drum for Shamanic Journeying

Shamanic drumming is one way to use sound in the healing process. The drumming itself does part of the work, and the shamanic practitioner does the rest.

I just posted a couple of articles on my new column, Houston Shamanism Examiner: Shamanic drumming for journeying, and How to choose a shamanic drum.

I hope you will stop by and take a look.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Music Helps Parkinson's Patients | BYBS

Here is the link I promised to an interesting KUHF radio feature on medical research studying how music helps Parkinson's Disease patients, by reporter Melissa Galvez.

You can hear and download the audio file (MP3 or iTunes format) and read and print the transcript.

Medical research on the use of sound for healing Parkinson's: What a blessing!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Drumming to an Ancient Beat

I love radio and TV stories that feature African drumming, and I thought you might, too. My teacher, Abubakr Kouyate, is often on the radio or TV, but normally it is a complete surprise, and most of us miss it.

Recently, however, one of our Thursday night classmates, Melissa Galvez, a reporter for KUHF radio, did a feature on the class, called Drumming to an Ancient Beat. The feature aired on KUHF on April 16.

KUHF had recently done a feature on drumming as therapy for Parkinson's disease, and this was a followup story on the benefits of drumming. (I will find and post the link the Parkinson's story, too, if I can.)

Melissa recorded some clips of Abubakr and parts of the class and she interviewed a few students afterward. 

You can hear and download the audio file and also read and print the transcript here:


(To download the audio files, scroll to the bottom.)

Melissa did a fabulous job, even mentioning Temples Gate, the shop that hosts the class, http://www.templesgate.net in the lead-in and providing a link to Abubakr's web site, http://www.abubakr.info

Thanks, Melissa! (And thanks to KUHF for making the recording and transcript available on their web site.)

I hope this inspires other radio or TV reporters to do their own stories on the mental and physical health benefits of

So please checke it out. I don't know how long features like this remain available on the KUHF web site. If you like it, download it while you can.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Full Synth Piano Widget | BYBS

Want to play piano on your computer? Now you can. Easily. For free. 

If you scroll all the way to the bottom of this page, you will find a full-keyboard synth piano that you can play with your mouse. It actually sounds great that way. 

If you click on the button in the upper right corner, just above the keys, you can play it by pressing the actual keys your computer keyboard. I tried it, and it seems great to me, but I don't play the piano. Those of you who do, please try it out and leave a comment. 

As always, you can click on a tab at the bottom of the widget to go get the widget for your own site. A full synth keyboard that you can play on a netbook. What a blessing!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Add Meditation Chimes to Your Site | BYBS

Just for fun, why not add some zen meditation chimes to your web site or blog for you or your visitors to play. You can download a fun, free Zen Meditation Chimes widget like the one in at the top of the right-hand column from the widgetbox web site.

When you move your mouse over the chimes, the cursor turns into a mallet, and you can play the chimes by clicking on them. Each chime plays a different note.

Or you can just got the widgetbox site when you need some chimes, and play them there. 

Something fun, unexpected and uplifting to share with others. What a blessing!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Stonehenge Acoustics Ideal for Healing-Trance Rituals | BYBS

Rupert Till, an expert in acoustics and music technology at Huddersfield University in northern England, says the large standing stones at Stonehenge were designed to reflect sound perfectly. That means the stone circle originally was perfect for listening to repetitive, trance-inducing rhythms.

To study the original sound qualities of Stonehenge, Till and a colleague, Bruno Fazenda, mathematically analyzed the archeological site and predicted its acoustic effects, using cutting-edge technology.

Because their goal was to measure the acoustic properties of Stonehenge when it was built, they also went to a full-size concrete replica of Stonehenge in Washington state that has replicas of all the original stones in place, where it was possible to test the original acoustics.

Using special acoustic software, Till and Fazenda compared their calculations, computer simulations, and the results of tests conducted at the Stonehenge replica.
They were able to create examples of "what the space sounded like" originally.

Judging by the echoes, they believe that simple rhythms would have been played at the same tempo as the echoes or at multiples. That would be about 160 beats a minute, the same speed as fast trance-dance music like the samba. It is also the same tempo as a fast human heartbeat, such as would be achieved by vigorous exercise such as very fast dancing.

For years, archeologists have debated the purpose of Stonehenge. In recent years two theories have been most prominent: that it was a place of healing, and that it was a place of the dead.

There are also areas within the circle that amplify sound perfectly for speaking to a large crowd and may have been used by priests or shamans leading rituals or ceremonies.

Till and Fazenda's research helps corroborate the theories of archeologist Aaron Watson, whose research suggests that the builders of Stonehenge knew how to direct sound so that the human voice would be magnified and the sound of drums or other low-pitched instruments would carry for long distances.

The new research findings indicate that Stonehenge would have been perfect for large rituals for healing or for sending the souls of the dead to the spirit world. In fact, it may very well have been used for both.

To read the entire article, go to http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/01/07/stonehenge-trance.html

Some of us were already convinced that the art of using music for healing is ancient. Research confirming that, however, is a blessing. 

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Healing with Tibetan Mantras | BYBS

If you are interested in the use of the voice for sound healing, you may want to watch a video of Tibetan lama Tenzin Wangyal Rimpoche giving a teaching. You can find some on YouTube by searching for "Tenzin Wangyal" or "Ligmincha".

If you have listened attentively to recordings or performances of harmonic toning or chanting, you may recognize the edge of harmonics in Rimpoche's intoning of the various seed syllables and mantras connected with the teachings.

In India and Tibet, mantras are considered to have great power if correctly intoned. The belief in the power of certain words and phrases when properly sung/spoken was once probably worldwide, and it is still alive in many cultures. 

If you are open to the fact that many religions have great healing wisdom, and we can learn from all of them if we approach them with openness and respect, participating in a Tibetan ceremony, even on line, can be a great learning experience on the use of sound for healing.

Today I watched a live teaching and ceremony in which Rimpoche taught and led the practice of the Bon deity Sherab Chamma (shown in the painting above). Her name means Wisdom Loving Mother. The practice uses a mantra, breathing, and visualizations to heal the body, mind and spirit.

Tenzin Wangyal is an authority on the practices of the Tibetan Bon religion, of which he is a renowned teacher. He is the author of several books of teachings and the founder of the Ligmincha Institute. In December of 2007, I reviewed his book and CD on Tibetan Sound Healing.

Today's webcast was the first of a series of live teachings Tenzin Wangyal will be giving over the Internet. To receive notice of them as they are scheduled (so that you can participate live, ask questions, etc.), sign up for a free subscription to the Voice of Clear Light newsletter. 

For more information on Sherab Chamma, the Wisdom Loving Mother, go to this page at Ligmincha online store.

I feel blessed to have participated in this event.