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 personal
I'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 difference. If it's your 1st Gong, I would suggest something like a Paiste/Meinl Symphonic or Planet, or a Chinese Chau Gong, between 24" and 32" is a great place to start. 

The size might be determined by your budget, how much you plan to travel with it, or both.  Obviously, it's both cheaper to buy, and easier to travel with, a 24" Gong than one that's 32".

Another criteria is how do you plan to use it? Is it for a rock band, meditation, hanging above your fireplace, or for your book club to call meetings to order? If you are in a rock band, you might want something big and powerful. If you have a book club, a 10" table gong might do.

I already have 1 gong, what should I buy next? - I always say to look for contrast. While you might really like both the 32" Mars and Saturn Planet Gongs, they are both tuned to a D, with the Mars at 72.36 Hz, and the Saturn at 73.92 Hz. Unless you are specifically looking to produce a dissonant beat pattern between those 2 gongs, you are essentially buying 2 of the same gongs, because the tunings are so close to each other.

If you have a 32" Gong, then a nice contrast would be a 24" or 26" Gong, with its higher pitch and quicker response (or vice versa).  If you have a Paiste/Meinl, then get maybe a different size Chinese Chau. Or for something different, add a Wind/Feng Gong.

Think contrast
Think variety of sounds

I have 2/5/11 Gongs already. What would go good with them? - Again, to me, contrast is the key. I've never understood people who have like, 10 Paiste Planet Gongs, and that's it. I find that so limiting. While they might be great Gongs, they all produce the same sound, just at different pitches. I'd much rather have 2 Planet, 2 Chau, 2 Wind, 2 Bossed Gongs, and maybe 2 made out of brass or steel, just get some different sounds.

My basic set up (missing 2-3 Gongs on the far right due to the room size)

For example, my current meditation set up uses the following main Gongs:

32" Symphonic
32" Sound Creation #3 Earth
28" Planet Venus
26" Sound Creation Air/Sky Prototype
13" Michael Paiste Heavy Volcano

In addition, I usually pick 2 additional ones from a rotating group of Gongs I have, depending on my mood, or the place I'm playing. These are all contrasting Gongs:

24" old UFIP Tampang (B20 bronze)
22" old Zildjian Gamelan Gong (B20 bronze)
24" Paiste Venus Planet
24" Sound Creation #4 Water
24" Michael Paiste Wasser
22" Wind
24" Chau

Beyond this, if you have a lot of Gongs that you are using, I would suggest on branching out into other sounds, like bells, bell plates, Burma bells, bell cymbals, etc. I like using a lot of these to give a high pitched contrast to the bigger, lower pitched Gongs.

What type of mallet/s should I get? - Again, a variety of styles and sizes in order to get a wide variety of sounds. If you own a big Gong with a big mallet, you should also have a small and medium mallet, and even soft/medium/hard versions of these. Also look for fur, yarn, felt, rubber, wood, and other types of materials that will give you a variety of sounds.

What bag/case should I buy? - This really depends on the context of what you do:

1) If you stay at home and never move your Gong, then no case is required, or you might just want a bag for storage.
2) If you travel locally, or infrequently, a nice padded bag should do.
3) I you travel/tour a lot, hard cases, either fibre or plastic, are recommended. If you fly, tour a lot, or travel internationally, you might want to invest in a flight case. Also, don't forget bags/cases for your stands and mallets. 

Everything you own is an investment. You need to protect it so it lasts a lifetime.

So there we go. I've done all the heavy lifting for you. All you need to do is investigate what's out there and discover what fits your needs.

~ MB

Chop Wood / Carry Water / Play Gongs™


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