The most important facts in brief
- Different types of mallets can be used to create very different sounds.
- While some mallets are specifically for singing bowls, other mallets can be used only for gongs, or both equally.
- Mallet types differ in shapes, sizes and materials – all these factors determine what sound is produced with the mallet.
- In this post, you’ll learn what types of mallets there are, what they’re particularly good for, and how to get the most out of the sounds.
What is a mallet?
In order to understand the different types of mallets, we would first like to take a look with you at their origins. Traditionally, a singing bowl was played with a simple stick made of wood. Occasionally, mallets made of glass were also used in order to achieve an even more varied sound.
It was discovered early on that mallets with a soft surface can produce lighter vibrations and in this way create very soft and long sounds. They began to cover the wooden mallets with soft leather in order to produce particularly pleasant sounds. Today, mallets are usually no longer covered with leather, as there are now much softer materials that allow for even more multifaceted sound spectrums.
What is the structure of a mallet?
Among the different types of mallets there are a variety of differently shaped models. Nevertheless, the basic structure is always the same: a mallet consists of a handle, shaft and head. The heads of mallets for gongs and singing bowls are often made of rubber, felt or fleece – or several materials are combined. The handle is usually made of a robust material, for example wood or aluminum, or is covered with a haptically pleasant layer that ensures a good grip. The shaft is often made of the same material.
What types of mallets are there?
Mallets differ not only in shapes and materials – most mallets are made specifically for certain instruments. In our post we would like to give you an overview of the special mallets for singing bowls and mallets for gongs. But many other instruments are also played with the help of a mallet – including, for example, drums, percussion instruments or timpani. Accordingly, there is also a wide variety of mallet types.
Felt mallets and fabric mallets
Felt mallets are characterized primarily by the harmonious tone that can be produced by the relatively soft material felt. The softer the felt ball, the softer and deeper the sound produced by the sound game. The different sizes and degrees of hardness of the felt make it possible to create sounds that are sometimes more voluminous and powerful, sometimes softer and gentler.
Felt mallets are particularly suitable for playing singing bowls. The light weight, which is characteristic of felt mallets, is an advantage. Also several singing bowls at the same time can be played well with a felt mallet. Which tone is produced in the end depends not only on the hardness of the felt mallet, but of course also on the singing bowl itself.
For thin-walled singing bowls, you should use especially soft felt mallets to achieve the most harmonious sound result possible. Thick-walled singing bowls, on the other hand, are played with harder felt mallets.
A great advantage of the rubber mallet is the high level of hygiene, which can be ensured by the head made of natural rubber or rubber. Especially in the therapeutic area of sound therapy, where strict hygiene regulations must be observed, the rubber mallet is therefore very often used. But also acoustically there are good reasons to reach for a rubber mallet: It is used for both rubbing and striking techniques and thus offers a wide range of different pitches.
The rubber head is attached to a round handle, usually made of soft woods for easy pliability and flexibility. If you use rubber mallets for striking singing bowls, the result is a very clear, soft sound. If instead you decide to use the rubber mallet as a friction mallet, you will run along the edge of the singing bowl, creating a continuous and intense sound.
Aluminum is considered one of the lightest metals and is therefore very popular in sound therapy. Aluminum mallets have a very low weight, which in turn allows you to play for a long time. The hygienic aspect is also of great importance, because the metal can be disinfected quite easily and can thus also be used in a therapeutic context.
Acoustically, aluminum mallets offer a very unique sound. However, the room-filling sounds of the aluminum mallet depend not only on the material of the stem, but also on the head. Most aluminum mallets have a rubber head or felt head, through which the sound pattern is affected differently.
Many mallets are designed specifically for playing a singing bowl. A gong mallet on the other hand, is designed specifically for use on a gong. A gong mallet is also constructed like a typical mallet and consists of a handle, usually made of wood, and a head, often made of felt, rubber, fleece or fabric – or a combination of several materials.
Depending on where the gong mallet is used, different sounds are created. Gong mallets come in numerous varieties – they differ not only in materials, but also in sizes.
Gong friction mallets
Compared to a gong mallet, the gong friction mallet is usually shorter and therefore more manageable. While the striking of the gong produces very sweeping and powerful tones, a gong friction mallet can be used to produce a more sustained and persistent tone that directly affects the listener with bright and deep nuances.
A gong friction mallet should always meet the highest standards of quality, otherwise damage or contamination of the gong may result. When choosing the material, make sure that the head of the gong friction mallet is made of the softest possible material that will not leave any residue on the gong.
Singing bowl friction mallet
A friction mallet, as the name implies, produces sound through friction. Compared to striking, rubbing a singing bowl requires a little more practice.
If you want to create long-lasting and almost “singing” sounds, a friction mallet is the right choice. The larger your singing bowl, the easier it will be for you to achieve the desired sounds with a friction mallet.
Nevertheless, it depends not only on your singing bowl, but also on the material from which the friction mallet is made. Typical for a friction mallet is a handle made of wood and a rather hard head made of, for example, felt or rubber. Some friction mallets for gongs and singing bowls are additionally coated with textile leather.
But beware: When buying a singing bowl friction mallet, you should always pay attention to a high level of quality, because otherwise scratches or other damage to the singing bowl can be the result. In our post we explain how you should clean and care for your singing bowl to be able to produce beautiful sounds with a friction mallet for as long as possible.
What is the difference between a mallet and a friction mallet?
Singing bowls and gongs can be played using a mallet or a friction mallet to create versatile sounds. However, the sound of both variants differs greatly from each other – and that is why specially developed mallets or friction mallets are used for both playing methods.
In most cases, a mallet is longer than a friction mallet in order to be able to generate sufficient energy for a powerful sounding stroke through the momentum. So, while a mallet is used to strike singing bowls or gongs, a friction mallet is used for the rather softer tones, which, however, last much longer in comparison. Especially with the gong, this creates very characteristic sounds that remind us of the singing of whales. A friction mallet is used to run over the instrument to create a very long and intense sound. Learn more in our post about the differences between mallets and friction mallets.
Which mallets are specifically for singing bowls and which are specifically for gongs?
The differences are manifold: mallets for gongs are in most cases much longer and grippier than mallets for singing bowls, which is not least due to the size of a gong. But the energy that has to be expended for one strike is also significantly higher with gongs due to their size – and a longer gong mallet is also recommended for this. With a singing bowl, on the other hand, the most important thing is to work with a mallet that is as light as possible in order to enable a smooth sound play. Therefore, the handles here are not only shorter, but usually made of lighter woods.
Mallets for gongs, on the other hand, are not only longer, but in some cases also have a much more voluminous head. In terms of material, both mallets are not as different from each other as one might think – felt and rubber heads are also used for gong mallets to create a beautiful sound. However, while most mallets for singing bowls have only one head, two-sided mallets are often used for gongs. These types of mallets have a head at both ends of the handle to allow for double sound play.
How do you find the right mallet?
If you want to buy a mallet, you should carefully consider in advance which mallets are suitable for your singing bowl or gong. Depending on the material you choose, characteristic soundscapes will emerge that are all unique, but not necessarily right for you.
External factors also play a role: If you want to use the mallet in a therapeutic context, strict hygiene regulations must be observed. In this case, it is advisable to use a material that can be thoroughly disinfected without causing damage. Just look around in our assortment and find the right mallet for your individual needs.