From the Mailbag: 'Bonk' Sounds And Hearing Protection

This week we dip into the Mailbag and answer a few popular questions. 

Part 1

First up, some one is concerned that, My hard mallets make a bonk sound when I hit the Gong.

By 'bonk', I take it to mean they can hear the mallet striking the Gong. This is certainly a common thing when using harder mallets. There's often a contact sound we can hear when being right in front of the Gong. It can seem loud, but that's because we are inches away from it. These type of sounds tend to disperse quickly and are rarely audible a few feet away [an exception would be very hard rubber mallets or wooden sticks]. 

I record all of my gigs/sessions and have never really heard a bonk sound from any of my mallets on the recordings.

Another aspect of this is, what if the harder mallet that makes a bonk sound also makes the sound that you want? By switching to a softer mallet, you may not get the sound that you are after. 

Part 2

Another person asks, Do you use hearing protection when you play?


Demistifying The Excessive Gong Woo Woo

The whole Gong, Singing Bowl and sound healing world is so inundated with nonsense these days. I've worked in the percussion industry off and on for over 40 years. I've also been a music journalist for the same length of time. In both capacities I've been involved in products and product descriptions. In those years, I've seen a lot of embellishment in product descriptions, but nothing compared to the whole sound healing/therapy industry. Talk about woo woo bull shit…

There have been a number of recent Facebook discussions on some of the fairy tales people tell when selling Gongs, Singing Bowls, or other instruments used for sound healing/therapy.

Just to set the record straight, I am reposting some of the verified facts to dispel some of the untruths out there:

Singing Bowls are NOT from Tibet. The ones you have are most likely made in Nepal, India, or even Pakistan. [You could have one from Tibet, but probably NOT]Singing Bowls are NOT made of 7 or 10 metals. Sorry folk…

From The Mail Bag: How Do You Do What You Do?

Today we look a what is the most asked question at my sessions and from people online: How do you do what you do? This goes along with, What are you thinking?, and, Are you improvising?

A full answer would be very long and complicated. It would also not mean anything to anyone other than myself, because it's based on who I am, how I think, and how I feel.

The Alchemy and the Ecstasy 
A Typical Session

When I present a Meditation/Healing/Therapy Session (you can call it what you like), I base it on 3 main criteria:

The room I'm playing in. Different sized rooms, and different acoustics, call for different sounds and techniques.The people I am playing for. What are their needs and intentions that they have brought with them?How I feel at the time. What are my moods, vibes, and intentions.These 3 factors set the main tone for the session. On the next level, yes, I improvise a lot, all based on the 3 criteria above. But I also work with a plan, which is more a sense of flow. There is a…

What Gong Should I Buy???

First off, welcome to The Way of the Gong™ blog post number 200! When I started this blog nearly 6 years ago, I never planned to still be here in the year 2020. A big thank you to all who read and support my work here, and on my other two blogs as well.

I've covered this subject before, back in April 2013 in my Percussion Deconstruction™ blog before this one. It's a subject that keeps coming up, so I don't think it's bad to cover it again. 

Now on to today's blog:

What Gong Should I Buy???
Today's topic is a reoccurring one that came up again in a Facebook forum this week. I also receive a lot of E-mail with the same question, either, “What Gong should I buy?,” or a variation like, “I'm looking at these two gongs, which one should I buy?”

Today, there are a lot more choices than when I started out on the Gong Path some 45 years ago. There are so many choices, and opinions about those choices, that it can be a very confusing prospect for a neophyte to come to a d…

Gong Hacks - #13

I'm always looking for ways to improve my set up and improve how everything works. It's often the simple and inexpensive things that seem to work the best. Here are 2 easy and inexpensive hacks for your own use.

Table Matters

I use a table in front of me covered with Rin & Singing Bowls, Bells, and other percussion instruments. Even though I use a covering on the table—which itself is carpeted—sometimes things move around. Also, the Bowls probably lose some resonance by sitting flat on the table cloth. 

So what did I do? I went to Target™ and bought an 18" X 8' roll of a rubbery, slightly sticky cupboard shelf liner. You can find it in various colors at most variety and hardware stores, and of course on Amazon. I bought a very dark black/grey color. 

Shelf liner on top of my percussion table
My table is 2X4 feet, so I just cut the roll in half to have an 18" X 4 foot piece to lay on top. It's perfect! I now have 1 piece for my gigging set up and 1 piece for my…

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 …