Should You Study Gongs?

Another interesting week on Facebook, with a large discussion where someone asked whether you should study with anyone if you play Gongs. Here's a comment that discussion that I often hear echoed by various people:
You do not need a teacher. Explore your gong and it will teach! Just as it taught the first gong master who then self proclaimed to be a master
I find this very short sighted, and frankly, a load of crap. It's a very simplistic idea that really does a disservice to those who have studied diligently for years. Let's take a look at it.

You do not need a teacher. Explore your gong and it will teach! 

As I said, this is a very simplistic statement. One thing with the Gong, is that it is very easy to play in a basic manner. There is no need to develop special technique, like you would in playing a wind or string instrument. You just hit the Gong, and you get a great sound. But as I said, that's very simplistic. Anyone, from a young child to the elderly, can play a Gong and get a sound. But…

Will that sound be pleasing/useful? 
Will it be good over the long term? 
Will they know what to do with the sound?
Will they understand what goes into creating the sound? 
Can they make other useful sounds?
Can they combine sounds or string them together?

None of this is easy to learn, especially on your own. Similarly, most anyone can learn to play some basic chords on a guitar, but does that make them a musician who can go out and play shows infront of an audience? I think not. How much interest can they sustain with those same chords over say, an hour, 2 hours, a year?

Can the Gong Teach You?

This is an interesting question where the answer is both yes, and no. A better question would be, can the student be open, aware, and learn from the Gong (or singing bowls, bells, ritual instruments)? 

And it goes deeper and further than this. Can the student learn the language of the Gong? Can the student devote time to not only practicing the Gong, but to researching music, art, physics, sound, and other connected subjects? Is the student willing to devote 1-2 hours (or more) a day to working with the Gong and studying for the rest of their life?

Not everyone can be self taught.

Face it, not everyone has the discipline, or the type of mind that allows them to be good at self learning. Most people are good at scratching the surface, but not at being able to get much deeper without any outside help. Let's look at some options for learning how to play the Gong:

1) There are a number of excellent, well trained people located around the world who teach various styles and approaches to playing Gongs. Many offer weekend, or week long training sessions, or they may offer private lessons. You can always take a course with one of them.

2) Attend Gong Bath/Meditation/Therapy Sessions done by others. See/hear what they are doing. You can learn a lot by observing others. If there is time, you can ask them a few questions.

3) If you know another Gong player, ask them if they'd like to go for coffee and talk. Or maybe get together to play and share ideas.

3) There are also some video courses out there, as well as many excellent videos on YouTube, Vimeo, etc. of great Gong/Bowl/Bell players. The big problem here, is that there are also a LOT of bad videos out there, and along with those, a lot of bad information. Trust me. I watch a lot of videos just to know what's going on, and a lot of them are shit. Really. I'm convinced many of these people just make up what they play and say, because it has no basis in reality to back it up. All I can say is, watcher beware!

Can Just The Gong Teach You?

I'd have to say, for most people, no. If you think you can just buy a Gong, sit in your living room, and the Gong will teach you what you need to know, you are mistaken. Yes, the Gong is capable of teaching you a lot, but you need to know what questions to ask, and to understand the answers given. A novice may have fun creating different sounds, but will they have any idea what questions to ask? Or how to understand the answer in order to learn from it and apply it to their own playing?

~ MB


2 things I need to add:

1) I was contacted to by someone today who said they paid big money for gong training and it was a total disappointment. I suggest that if you don’t know of the person offering the training, or have previous experience with them, before you put your money down, check them out! Ask for references, like former students. As in buying anything, you really need to do your investigating to find out what you are buying.

2) This is one of those “I know what I was talking about, but didn’t say everything I should have said, so others would know what I was talking about.” When I talk about studying, I don’t mean just with Gong players. You need to study with people in all sorts of areas to gain a complete and complex knowledge. You might want to study with a Shaman/Medicine Man or some sort of tribal elder, or study music theory, or plants, or sacred geometry, or physics, or a million other things that can be connected to the work you want to do with the Gongs. In every case, I’m sure you can find someone to formally study with, or even just someone you can learn from informally.

Chop Wood / Carry water / Play Gongs™ / Study Hard


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