Showing posts from 2017

What's The Best Gong To Buy?

I field questions nearly everyday from people asking about drums, percussion, and especially Gongs. Whether it's via e-mail, message, or even a phone call. the most popular question is: 
“What kind of Gong (or singing bowl, or bell, or ride cymbal, or hi-hats, or drum head, or various other things) should I buy?”And I wish that I could just give everyone a nice, tidy, easy answer. But there are none.

Part of my initial reaction to the question is, “How should I know?” This is not like buying toothpaste , where I can suggest a whitening one if your teeth look dull, or a freshening one if you have bad breath.
Sound is completely subjective and personalI'm sure you wouldn't like some of the instruments I own and use, because they create the most unmusical sounds. But they work for me and the music I'm involved in. But let's look some typical questions and the criteria for recommendations:

What Gong should I buy? - Is this your 1st Gong? 2nd? 27th? That makes a lot of diff…

It's Time To Meet Your Maker

Gongs. They've been around for thousands of years and are essentially unchanged. The Chinese Chau and Feng/Wind Gongs are sort of the archetypal shapes and sounds that many other Gongs are fashioned after. The modern day Paiste & Meinl Gongs are basically Chau style gongs made from flat discs of nickel-silver, rather than cast bell bronze. Even most large companies selling Gongs, like Zildjian and Sabian, are selling rebranded Chinese Gongs. UFIP, in Italy, is one of the few larger companies making different types/shapes of Gongs. Their TargoGongs are fundamentally solid bells cast into a lens shape. Their Art Gongs are sheet bronze/brass hammered into a flat Gong with a U-shaped collar, with or without a center boss.
But what if you want something different or unique. Where do you go to find sounds that move beyond the ordinary? This is where the many single man gong makers come into play. They are creative individuals looking to create unique sounding instruments.
The Birth of…

Further adventures in Choosing & Using Multiple Gongs

Today, more thoughts based on the continuing Facebook conversation on choosing a gong. If you are part of the FB conversation, be patient, as I will repeat some of the thoughts I have posted there.
As a note of disclosure, I must tell you that I have played Paiste products for well over 40 years and that I have been an endorsing artist for the past 15 years.
I love Paiste gongs and will most likely love them until the day I die. While I find their sound amazing and very useful for the work I do, currently Paiste only makes 1 type of gong with 1 type of sound (OK, there are 2 minor exceptions in their greatly reduced Sound Creation line). The Paiste Symphonic & Planet Gongs are essentially the same thing, with the same sound characteristics. The Planets Gongs are really just a more focused sounding Symphonic. They are centered around a specific pitch, while the Symphonic is not. But if you play 2 same sized Symphonic and Planet Gongs side by side, they will sound a lot alike. In fac…

Choosing Gongs

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?

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

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?

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

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

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

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.


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…