The Ongoing 'Learning How To Play The Gong' Debate

One problem with gongs, singing bowls and bells is that, it's all too easy to just strike them and get a pleasing sound. There is no training or long term study needed just to make a pleasant sound. Try this on most any other instruments, and you would not be as successful. Pick up a guitar, a trumpet, or a cello, and try to play some music without ever having played it before. For most of us, we wouldn't even know where to start. And when we finally did attempt something, it would most likely be some sort of noise and not a pleasing note.

This leads to a recent Facebook question and the ensuing responses: “A respected gong person said you should never hit a symphonic or planet or tuned gong with a clear centre ring, in that ring too often or gong will go out of tune. Any comments??”

The question is a legitimate question. In answer to the above question, there is nothing wrong with striking the gong in the center, or anywhere else. This is an ongoing myth, most likely propagated by Yogi Bhajan saying that striking the center of the gong was an offense and a curse. Now if you are a follower of Yogi Bhajan, or practice Kundalini Yoga, you are certainly free to believe what Yogi Bhajan said, but there is no legitimate reason to not hit your gong in the direct center, or anywhere else. But do note that you should not beat on the center of the gong with a very hard mallet, as this could cause damage. Abuse is just that, abuse. Any overplaying or abusive sort of play can cause damage, just as on any other musical instrument out there. 

Answers Seemingly Pulled From A Hat

There is nothing wrong with the above question, and it’s important to ask questions like this in order to learn. But I really hate answers like this one, that are completely irresponsible: “Use your heart and invite grace to guide you. You don’t need anyone else to affirm this. The gong is your teacher, ask it for guidance and how it would like to be played. Sat Nam.” 

Imagine if someone said that about the afore mentioned guitar, trumpet, or cello: “The cello is your teacher, ask it for guidance and how it would like to be played.”

This Is Why There Are So Many Shitty Gong Players Out There!

Unfortunately, unlike most other instruments, there is not an established tradition of musical instruction for the gong (also true for singing bowls and bells). If we wanted to learn any other instrument, we could find any number of highly trained and established teachers. Piano? There must be hundreds of qualified teachers in any major city. Guitar? Drums? Violin? Much the same. These instruments have been in use for hundreds of years and many of the people teaching them are themselves professional musicians and/or university trained on the instruments. Not so with the gong. 

“Use your heart and invite grace to guide you” is just not enough if you want to rise above mediocrity. If you don't already play another instrument, I would suggest that you should take lessons on another instrument. It's important to learn melody, harmony, and rhythm in order to become a better gong player. You deserve at least this much. Don't sell yourself short.

~ MB

Chop Wood / Carry Water / Play Gongs™


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