Finding Your Voice

No one picks up an instrument for the first time and produces a fully formed, unique style of playing. Often our first moves are tentative, hesitant, and not quite understood by ourselves. To play Gongs, Bowls, and Bells presents us with unlimited possibilities for sounds, but to the novice, most of these sounds are unknown. And even if they are known, the novice has not yet developed the ear, the sense of touch, the required skills to makes many of the sounds they hear others produce.

Michael Bettine (L) & Mike Tamburo (R) finding their own voices

So where do you start?

There are 2 basic ways to start:

1 - Explore your instruments. Makes sounds, take chances, see what both you and the instrument are capable of. Do this in private so that there is no need to feel embarrassed or inadequate. This is a time of learning. Keep track of the sounds you make and how you made them, because you want to be able to repeat them in the future. 

Also keep track of what sounds you find pleasing/positive vs what sounds you find dissonant/negative.

2 - Watch and copy others. Go see other players and pay attention to what they do and how they do it. If possible, introduce yourself and ask a few questions. Watch online videos of players and do as above. Also, note what you find pleasing or dissonant in what others are playing.

Where do we go from here?

Copying others is a time honored traditional way of learning. The important thing here is to copy others, but then change what you copied to be more your own. It doesn't have to be a big change, as even something small can create something new out of something old.

Keep copying. Keep changing things. Slowly you will find the sounds and ideas that you gravitate towards. Work with these sounds and ideas to develop them further. As you refine things, they will become more you than a copy of someone else. Keep on doing this.

The more you refine things, 
the more they will become your own voice. 

Understand that this is a never ending process. If you keep working at it, you will always find new sounds and new musical territory to explore. You will also most likely experience direction shifts, sometimes drastic ones, as you grow into something new and different. Keep at it. 

Find your voice and then refine it. 
Keep finding it again and again.

~ MB

Chop Wood / Carry Water / Play Gongs™


  1. All very good points indeed !
    I come from a drumming perspective ...


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