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Showing posts from 2017

Choosing Gongs

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A question was asked in a Facebook gong group this week:
Can anyone make a suggestion of what may go well with a Paiste 24" Planet Venus and a Paiste 40" Symphonic Gong?

What should I buy next?
I responded that a 28" Jupiter Planet Gong would work well, as I use both a Venus and Jupiter with a 32" Paiste Symphonic, and have had enough experience with various 40" gongs to know that would work well also.

Other people responded that you need to match the astrology/planets/tunings/etc. in order to make things work. I suppose that's alright if you are really invested in that sort of thing. 


When choosing gongs, I use my ears and nothing else.
This has been my feeling for over 40 years. For many years, I worked in drum shops, helping people find the right gear for them. When selecting cymbals, I always told them to, “just play them and not worry about what type of model it is.” The printed designations on cymbals are just someone else's idea of how they sound, or …

Where Do We Go From Here?

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If you're not in my general Facebook circle, you might not be aware of how my last 2 blog posts literally started a massive fire on Facebook. I think we're now approaching 300 response posts. If you haven't read the blogs, you can find them here and here. Please read them before you go any further. Here is the link to most of the Facebook responses.

As happens on Facebook, after a while, it gets difficult to follow and keep track of things. The conversation often veers off on tangents, and sometimes the original thought is lost. For the most part, this stayed on track and presented a very valuable and needed discussion.



The journey is long, the path is never ending.
So where do we go from here?

People who play Gongs and/or Singing Bowls in a group setting—whether it's called meditation, therapy, or healing—need to hold themselves to a higher standard. There's much too much misinformation and sleight of hand out there. A lot of this misinformation is perpetuated by inst…

Certification, Part 2

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I originally wrote this week's post shortly after the last one. But since then, things have blown up on Facebook, with well over 150 comments/posts in response to last week's blog. Some of the discussion took a turn off on a tangent, so I'd like to address that before presenting this week's blog post.

A number of people in the UK brought up that in order to get insurance, covering their sound healing practice, they need a certificate showing that they have completed some sort of course. While I understand this, it's a completely different subject that has nothing to do with what I was talking about. 

As these Facebook discussions go, they often vere off into various tangents, bringing up related subject matter. This has happened numerous times in response to blog posts of mine. I always welcome it, because as a writer, getting people to both think and respond to what I write, is my whole purpose of writing in the 1st place. Writing is one of those strange things wher…

Are You A Certified Gong or Bowl Practitioner?

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I had just been talking to someone about various classes that certify you as a Gong or Bowl practitioner, when this blog came across my radar: Tarot certification: do you need it?, written by The Tarot Lady, Theresa Reed. Before you go any further, please click on the link above and read the blog post. Every time the word tarot comes up, replace it with Gong or Singing Bowl.




OK, I must admit that everything she said on there I feel much the same. That's a reason I don't give certificates out to people who study with me. I am only passing on the information and knowledge that I have acquired over the years. After you have studied with me, what you do with what you have learned is up to you. I also have no set program. I prefer to approach each person on an individual basis, giving them the information they need at that particular time. If you study with me over a period of time, then you will receive a growing and deeper base of knowledge. But there's no way I could just han…

Touch The Sound

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Touching Your Instruments

Touch. It's so simple, we do it all the time. But what about touching your sound? Have you really felt the vibrations? I know a lot of people are afraid to touch their Gongs or Bowls, because they don't want to get fingerprints on them. Many people wear white cotton gloves when handling them. This is partly because someone once posted online that fingerprints will affect the sound, deadening the Gong or Bowl. This is only slightly true. You would have to accumulate years and years of fingerprints and dirt to actually deaden the vibrations of your instruments. Just touching your Gong/Bowl won't change it's sound.

Modern Paiste Gongs, and some others, come from the factory with a protective wax coating. All you need to do is take a soft cloth and wipe them off after each use to keep them clean. If they get dirtier, use some mild dish soap and water, then dry with a towel. That will clean things up nicely. Unless the wax coating has worn away, ther…

Listening to the Inner Sound

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A Tale to Tell

This past week has been very trying for me. Last Tuesday, I tried to brush something away from my left eye. When it didn't brush away, I realized it was inside my eye. The next morning, my eye doctor gave me a thorough exam and then said, “I need to send you to the Eye Institute (at the big medical center). You may have a retina tear.” As I got ready to leave, they were already calling over there to set things up and faxing my paperwork.

I arrived at the Institute and got right in. Once again my eye was dilated and thoroughly checked out. “You have a tear in the corner of the retina. As soon as we can, you're going in for laser eye surgery.” I sat in the waiting room for a few minutes, then was ushered into another room, where the eye specialist shot a laser into my eye hundreds of times (I lost count), sealing the tear. Fortunately, it was in the edge of the retina and my vision, so no vision problems should occur.


Laser beam eye: yes, it was like Star Wars/Star T…

The Art of Breathing

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If you play trumpet, sax, piano, or even strings, chances are that you were taught to breathe with your phrasing. This then becomes a natural part of your practice and performance. But I have often found that percussionists tend to hold their breath! 

There seems to be this sense of extreme concentration, where the breath is held until the musical figures are completed. Then a quick breath, and the process repeats itself. Is it any wonder some music sounds stilted? In order for rhythm to sound flowing and continual, it needs to breathe.

This is especially true of playing long lasting sounds, like Gongs, bowls, and bells. It's important to find the breathing rhythm that works with your performance.



EXERCISE #1:

Take a breath. Then start by striking your Gong/bowl/bell and breathing out at the same time. Feel your breath move out with the sound. Notice how as the sound fades, so does your breath. When both breath and sound have faded enough, take another breath in and repeat the process…

528Hz, 432Hz, and Other Fallacies

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OK people, it's time to get real and actually do some reading and research, instead of just passing around articles that are so blatantly false! The latest one to come across my desk from Facebook is: The Healing Benefits of 528 Hz & Other Solfeggio Frequencies. Follow the link and take a minute to read through this article.


“I don't really care if it's true or not, it's just fun and interesting.  I'm sure you'll feel the same.”
Can 432Hz save the world? (photo from: Forever Conscious)
Let's get real here. As a professional musician, I care about whether something like this is “true or not.” I also don't find bogus information masquerading as science “fun.” Let's look at some of the “fun” ideas this article presents:

There is NO conspiracy to change our musical scales away from some “ancient and sacred 6-tone scale” to something sinister and menacing.The Solfeggio system is just one of many, many musical systems used throughout history. To say that…

Practical Matters: Regular Maintenance

It's been a busy summer here (hence the lack of posting) and I've found myself thinking of various things while gigging. Here's a list of quick maintenance tips:
Whenever you set up your Gongs, check the Gong cord for fraying and make sure the knot is still tight. There's nothing worse than having a Gong fall off your rack! I always have some spare cord in one of my cases in case I need to make a quick replacement.Also check your Gongs/Bowls/Bells for wear. Nothing is indestructible. It's possible to crack or dent/bend your instruments, especially during travel. Regularly check each instrument out to make sure it's fine. Cracks can ruin a good instrument, but if caught early, they can often be drilled & filed to keep them from spreading, keeping your Gong usable for months/years to come. Note: never pack your Gongs and stands together! You are just asking for trouble. Always keep Gongs and stands in separate bags and/or cases.Check your mallets. It's the…

I Don't Know Everything (And Never Will)

The deeper I get into this sound thing, the more I realize that I don't know. Even after all these years of playing with sound, I still find new sounds, new vibrations, everyday. Playing the Gongs/Bowls/Bells can be compared to things like Yoga, exercise, etc. You don't practice Yoga, or workout, and then one day stop, because you have reached your ideal weight, or some sort of goal. If you do stop, for most people, everything that you worked for will eventually start to fade away. 

Playing the Gongs/Bowls/Bells is the same way. No one can ever reach a point where they can honestly say, “I've done it all, created all the sounds I ever can.” It's an ongoing process. The last few performances I did, found me doing a lot of things I've never done before and creating new and different sounds. While these things happened in the moment, none of them were by accident. They were all the result of years of hard work and exploration with the instruments I have.

I keep at it. I…

The Way of Mindfulness

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The water is warm, with bubbles dancing on the surface. I immerse my hands and pull out a plate, feeling its porcelain smoothness against my skin. It drips a steady, diminishing stream back into the water as I pick up the dish rag, then make a series of steady swirls across the white surface. The little clumps of dried food are released and disappear beneath the bubbles. The room is quiet and I can hear my own breathing as I rinse the plate and position it in the drying rack. I repeat these steps with more plates, then cups, then tableware. There is a serenity about it. I focus on what I'm doing. The water is warm. The air is cool. These sensations dance across my skin. There is nothing else in this moment. I am content.


Mindfulness

Mindfulness is just another term for paying attention. Too often in today's world we are constantly distracted by sights and sounds crowding into our personal space. We always seem to have our phone, our computer, our television, or some other distra…

The Alchemy and the Ecstasy

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alchemy [al-kuh-mee] 


noun, plural alchemies for 2, 3.
1.
a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and concerned principally with discovering methods for transmuting baser metals into gold and with finding a universal solvent and an elixir of life.  2.
any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.  3.
any seemingly magical process of transforming or combining elements into something new.
Alchemy

For me it's a ritual. I play these sounds, these vibrations—and I try to transform them into something else, something more. I also try to use them to transform my surroundings. This idea of transformation is really central to working with sound, as sound is a very strong and transformative force. Think about how you feel when you listen to your favorite song or composition. What does it do to you, to your state of mind, your feelings? 

Think of chanting, singing toget…

Every Step of the Way

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This has been a long journey. My personal history with the Gong started over 40 years ago. This blog has been around for over 3 years/129 posts now. I haven't gotten this far without commitment every step of the way. Even when I'm tired, angry, frustrated, or any of a thousand seeming emotions, I can always come back to the sound. 

It is my life. 
It is my refuge.

I'm not as young as I was all those years ago, and carrying around all these instruments and stands is not as easy as it once was. 

I complain.
I Swear.
I wonder why I'm still doing this.

Atlas Shrugged
But it all becomes clear when I pick up the mallets and start bringing forth the sounds: “This is why I continue to do this.” Who wouldn't want to do this? 

It's magic. 
It's amazing. 
It gives so much back for the effort I put into it.

I have learned patience. I have learned devotion. I have developed a deep spiritual practice. And it's all connected to the sounds. It's well over 40 years now and I…

The Art of Devotion

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Devotion is an often misunderstood word and concept. Most people think of it in a religious way, as in being devoted to some sort of deity. Or they think of being devoted to a spouse/lover/family. Or quite often, being devoted to a sports team, as in being a devoted follower. But devotion is actually different from that.




The word devotion comes from the Latin, devotus, which means to vow, or consecrate


vow
vou/ noun 1. a solemn promise.
a set of promises committing one to a prescribed role, calling, or course of action, typically to marriage or a monastic career. verb 1.
solemnly promise to do a specified thing.

2. archaic dedicate to someone or something, especially a deity.

con·se·crate
ˈkänsəˌkrāt/ verb make or declare (something, typically a church) sacred; dedicate formally to a religious or divine purpose.
Be Devoted

How many of us are really devoted to our sound practice? It's often easy to look at instruments like Gongs, Bowls, and Bells and think, “There's really not much to them. …