The Art Beyond Sound

Being a musician and making a sound is a very visceral act. The sound begins before you even strike the instrument. It forms in your mind and comes from your intent. It comes from years of practice so that you know what the sound will be before you even make it. 

Just striking something is not sufficient. You need to know what will happen when you strike it. You need to hear and feel the sound before you make it. And in the context of all the sounds you are making, you need to know how a new sound will fit with the current ones, how it may alter them or add to them. You also need to know how that sound will fit into the room you are playing in and how others will perceive it. This only comes from working on your art repeatedly—over and over and over. 

So many sounds to make…
There are no shortcuts. Experience is the best teacher. And you only gain experience by doing, not by thinking about it or watching someone else doing it, but by doing it yourself.

Even when I'm not practicing or …

The Art of Sound, Part 3

 For The Want Of A Song

I’m a child of the 60’s, so I grew up listening to pop music. I love 60’s pop because it was so melodic, so singable. I love a good song and a good voice. Scott Walker, Dusty Springfield, Lulu and so many of the other 60s pop stars really are etched deep in my brain. And so is the idea of melody. 

Big Louise, sung by Scott Walker. Can you emulate that voice?
Melody is so important to me. Even as a drummer/percussionist, I'm always playing with melody in my mind. This goes especially with the Gongs, bells, and bowls. I've hand picked (or maybe ear picked) all of my instruments to form a melodic whole. I think of my set up as an orchestra in itself, with different sections and different voicings. 

Context Is Everything

I listen to a lot of string music, like quartets or solo violin/cello. So when I play, I try to emulate string players. I think about connecting notes and phrases like they do, as more a continuum of notes, not separate notes. 

Can you play like …

The Art of Sound, Part 2

I hope that you did your homework from last week's blog. I also hope that you may have discovered something about yourself and your playing. 

I make no secret that my background is as a trained percussionist, and that I always approach my playing from that perspective. Whether I'm playing a solo concert, a Gong Meditation, or improvising within a group, I'm always looking at what I do as a percussionist. It's in my blood. It's my nature.

What are you hearing?
Now that's not to say that I haven't done my homework as far as music as a medium for meditation and therapy. In fact, I've done a lot of studies in this area and continue to study it. But my whole approach comes down to making a good sound. From there I believe that people can pick up on the vibrations and utilize them however they want to. 

A good sound can be experienced and utilized better by the listener.
Excerpts from a recent comment on one of my Gong videos attests to that:

“From a sound designer…

The Art of Sound, Part 1

“So in that sound you have to put in your guts, your strength and your own specialness. And what you are putting in then is your own Life and your own Life Force. When you hear some music or hear some sound, if for some reason you like it very well; the reason is that sound is in balance or in harmony with your pulse. And so making a sound, you try to make various different sounds that imitate various different sounds of the universe, but what you are finally making is your own sound, the sound of yourself.”- Watazumi Doso Roshi

Photo from

Watazumi Doso Roshi (1911-1992) was one of the most renown and respected players of the Shakuhachi, the Japanese bamboo flute. While the Shakuhachi is a fairly primitive instrument—a hollowed out length of bamboo with a carved mouthpiece and 5 holes—it is capable of an amazingly beautiful and expressive sound.
What has this to do with the Gong? Well, the Gong is even a simpler instrument—a vibrating disc of metal—that is also capable of …

Don't Listen To Me (Or Anyone Else)

Don't listen to me and do what I do. Too many people today just mimic what others do. A trained animal can do that. 

Whatever happened to creativity?

Look around you. So many things today are just a redo of something old. Movies are a great example of that. How many movies have come out in the past 5 years that are just remakes of old movies? Sure, they can update them with CGI and other affects. They can base them on today, instead of years ago. But the story remains the same—and we've all seen/heard it before.

I'm glad that you are here reading my blog. That is why I take the time to write it. I like the idea of communicating what I think and know to others. But…don't just copy my thoughts and ideas. You aren't me. You never will be me. 

I'd much prefer it if people would be inspired by what I write, then go out and find their own version of it. The world has enough copies: be an original! Take ideas from me and everyone else, and use them to come up with your ow…

From The Mailbag: Are Your Planets Really Aligned?

This is a long piece I wrote in response to a Facebook question a few weeks ago asking about the Planetary tunings that are currently popular with Gongs, tuning forks, and other small bells, like trigons. It has been edited and expanded a bit because I've had more time to think about it. 


The following is MY OPINION based on MY OWN EXPERIENCES. With all due respect to my friends and colleagues who work extensively with the Planetary Tunings, it just isn't my thing. So you readers may feel otherwise and have a different sort of experience. If it works for you, then great. Run with it.

Star Light, Star Bright

First, he biggest problem I find here is that the Planetary Tunings are not based on any sound that the planets, sun, or moon actually make! They are based on the rotation on their axis, or revolution around the Sun of these bodies in space. The calculations are based more on time than anything, and then the resulting calculations are somehow transferred over to become

From the Mailbag: Are You Counting?

Today's question actually comes from the Q&A time after one of my recent sessions. “Are you counting?” was asked. I found it interesting that someone picked up on this. I didn't have a chance to ask them, but I suspect they were also a musician.

Yes, I count all the time. You can't be a musician/drummer for 50 years and not count! I count both consciously and unconsciously. When I'm not counting consciously, I'm feeling the time. At this stage of my life it's all innate and intuitive. Besides, I'm a counter. I count everything (well, not everything, but a lot of things. And that's a whole other story…).

Time has come today
“But you talk about working in no time,” you say. “What gives with this counting everything?”

Yeah, about that. For me, it works both ways. I count because I don't want what I do to be some sort of random pandemonium, because I've been to enough Gong events that I thought were just random pandemonium and not the least bit rela…