From the Mail box: Should I Change My Gong Cord
This week I'd like to look at a question that comes not from my mail box, but from a recent Facebook discussion. Someone posted this:
“The Gut Cord on my Gong is beginning to shred a bit. What is a good cord to buy to hold my 32" Paiste?…How often does the Gut cord need replacing? Mine is starting to shred after only 4 months on my 32" Paiste.”
Of course there were many suggestions as far as what to do, mostly about using different types of cord/wire to hang their Gong. I gave my suggestion as per a replacement cord, but then asked a very important question: how 'frayed' was their cord?
They posted this photo:
In actuality, this is not very frayed and not a problem. I can certainly understand their concern, but Paiste has long chosen to use gut cord for their Gongs because it's extremely strong and durable, and also flexible. As for my own Paiste Gongs, most of them have cords that look like this photo. I have 20 year old ones that look like this. Gut cord will fray like this over time, but it's really not a problem until the cord is nearly cut through.
For an example, I recently replaced the gut cord on my own 19 year old 32" Symphonic Gong. The cord had become very frayed after years of extensive use (it's my main Gong out the 100+ I have). At no time was I worried about the cord failing and my Gong falling, but I felt that since gut cord is relatively inexpensive, I might as well get a new, better looking cord that I don't have to worry about or replace in the future.
This is the cord I replaced. It is well worn and frayed, but again, not in danger of breaking:
Gong & Cord Maintenance
Here are some tips for keeping your Gongs hanging safely;
- Check you cords every time you set up your Gong/s. Check to make sure the knot is tight and check for cord wear/fraying.
- If you have excessive fraying or cord breakage, take the cord out of the Gong and examine the holes. Is there a bur or rough spot that is cutting/wearing the cord? If so, you need to use emery cloth or a small file to smooth it out.
- If you cord wears out by the hook, then check the hook for burs/sharp edges. Again, use emery cloth or a small file to smooth it out. On some stands you may be able to replace the hook if it is too worn. I had a hook that got bent from being in the case with the other stand pieces. It rubbed the cord when I took the Gong on and off the stand. I used a pliers to gently bend it back out so there was no contact on the cord.
Ask 10 Gong players what type of cord to use, and just like this Facebook discussion, you will get 10 different answers.
What Cord Do I Use?
For my non-Paiste Gongs, my bells, and other hanging metal percussion I use Climbing Accessory Cord. This is the type of cord climbers will use to haul their gear up while climbing, or outdoor enthusiasts use for staking tents or as guy lines. I generally use 3mm cord because it fits most holes. A few years ago I bought 100 feet of it for around $20. I have strung up a lot of instruments and still have a lot of cord left. I like it because it's strong (none of my instruments come even close the the weight bearing capacity of the cord) and flexible. It also doesn't seem to affect the sound of the Gongs any.
14" Michael Paiste Gong on 3mm cord
Other suggestions people made are paracord (I've had less success with this and find it frays easily, with the inner core pulling out of the outer sleeve), plastic coated wire (strong, but not flexible enough for me), starter rope, cotton clothes line (this is usually what Chinese Gongs come with and it frays way too easily for me), and even kevlar boot laces!
I do have some old Gongs that have very large holes, so I use thick, braided nylon rope from the hardware store. But these are an exception and it's not my favorite type of cord.
So what should you do?
There are a lot of choices out there. I tried a lot of different things over the years before I found what works best for me. I would suggest buying a small length of a few different types of cord/rope (you can often buy it by the foot/meter/etc.) and trying them out to see what works for you. Everybody has their own preferences.
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