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Sheila Whittaker
Category: Gong Work

Buying a Gong

I’ve been meaning towrite an article on buying a gong for some time. It’s very necessary thatsomeone in the know tackles this important subject, as it really is quite aminefield out there now for anyone coming along who is new to the gongs. I getlots of emails from people asking my advice on which gong to get, how much dogongs cost, what type is best, etc. I always answer sensible emails asking forinformation, but I don’t have time to go into all the relevant details foreveryone who asks. I can only point people in the right direction and encouragethem to do their own research. This is one of the reasons I wrote my first book: Sound Healing with Gongs, as it covers this subject and you will have muchmore of an idea of what to buy (and where to get it) if you read the relevantsections. I also recommend my colleague Phil McNamara’s excellent book : Gongs& Tam-tams, which goes into more detail about the types of gongs available.Both books available from my website – see end.

To some extent, thegong you choose will depend on your budget. If money is no object, I would gofor the highest quality gong you can afford in the largest size to suit yourneeds and space. That way you’ll get a good range of tone – obviously thelarger the gong, the wider the tone spectrum. If you’re on a tight budget, andmany are, then there are options which will cost less and still do a great job,as long as you choose carefully and buy from a reputable supplier, as qualitycan range from excellent to pretty ropey! And if you’re choosing a gong to playfor yourself or with the intention of using it for therapy at some point, youdon’t want something that’s going to sound like a dustbin lid! And don’t forgetto factor in the cost of at least a couple of mallets (Paiste or Chalklin arerecommended, in sizes right for your gong) and a suitable stand to hang thegong on. Gong stands is a subject I may cover in a further article as there’s alot of choice out there now.

So let’s start atthe lower cost end of the spectrum : Chinese gongs, which are aroundhalf the price of their Western counterparts. Gongs have been made in China foraeons, and Chinese gong-making is still a thriving business in modern times.Nowadays most gongs are made in the Wuhan province in a few large factories.There are several types of Chinese gongs but the ones you’ll want for therapyare of two different types : Chau gong - with rim, or Wind (Feng) gong – moreor less flat. Which you choose is down to personal preference – they are both suitablefor this work. Chau and Wind gongs come in many sizes from 12” to 50”. The larger gongs are very impressive indeed, with a huge range of deep tones. As I mentioned above, they vary considerably in quality so don’t buy one on Ebay! You’ll need to go to a shop or warehouse to try them before choosing, or alternatively order it from one of our recommended reliable suppliers who source the highest quality Chinese gongs. In the UK I recommend contacting either Sound Travels  or Soulnote Both stock the best gongs and will be very helpful with your choice. In the USA go to GongsUnlimited Chinesegongs with the “Dream” logo are reputed to be the best quality Chinese gongs around at present.

If you have moremoney to spend, then you’ll probably want to go for a German gong. Yes, the best gongs in the world, with a few exceptions, are made in northern Germany.There are several factories making wonderful gongs, and there are new variationsof gongs coming out all the time. In the last few years there has been a bigincrease in the type and number of high quality gongs being made. Which meanswe now have a lot of choice, sohence this article to give you an idea of what you could get. There are nowseveral German factories making different gongs : Paiste, Meinl, Broder Oetken(who also makes Meinl gongs), Sona, Tone of Life. All these gongs are made byhand by skilled craftsmen – they are handmade masterpieces. Let’s have a lookat the individual factories :-

PAISTE – arguably the best gongs in the world, Paiste have been making gongs since c1930. Theyhave three ranges for therapy work : the Symphonics, the Planet gongs, and theSound Creation gongs.  Symphonic gongshave the biggest tonal range and come in sizes from 20” up to 80”. Highlyrecommended. There are seventeen Planet gongs ranging from 24” up to 38”with all major and minor planets being represented, plus two Moon gongs (newand full moon), and three Earth gongs. You might find yourself drawn to aparticular Planet gong – if so my advice would be to go with that intuition.The largest at 38” are Earth, Sun and Sedna – all very powerful gongs andhighly recommended. The Sound Creation gongs are, in my opinion, notsuitable for complete beginners – go with a Symphonic or a Planet gong to startwith, then you could maybe add a Sound Creation gong later on down the line.

MEINL – Meinl introduced high quality gongs into their range of products several years ago when they discovered Broder Oetken – ex-Paiste gongmaker - who had left Paiste and was making his own gongs. They snapped him up and have not looked back! Symphonic gongs in five sizes are available – 24”, 28”, 32”, 36”, and 40”. These aresuperb quality instruments – highly recommended. Meinl also have their own range of Planet gongs in the same five sizes – all the major Planets are represented and there are fifteen available. Highly recommended. Meinl also offer two special gongs - the Flower of Life (36” – very beautiful warm watery sound), and the Wu Xing which represent the Elements (24”, 28”, 32”, 36” and 40” – deep complex range of sounds). Both highly recommended. Meinl gongs are a little more expensive than Paiste.

BRODER OETKEN –Broder also makes his own range of gongs as well as the gongs for Meinl – theseinclude a Heart gong, a Water gong, and a Thor’s hammer gong. You’d need tolook on his website www.oetken-gongs.defor what’s currently available, as Broder is a master gongmaker (trained by gongmaster Walter Meyer) who likes to try out new ideas and experiment with producing different gongs. He also makes gongs for Oliver Hess. And Broder is also the maker of the Practitioner Gong, which we commissioned from him last year as a recommended starter gong for the Gong Practitioner Course, for anyone confused with the amount of choice available. The Practitioner Gong has a specially designed logo in the centre representing Heaven and Earth and is 28”.We plan to add a 32” version as well. It’s available to order through ECymbals– see below.

SONA – The Sona company has been making gongs in the far north of Germany since 2006. In the early years, the ex-Paiste gongmaster Heiko Palkus (who worked with Walter Meyer) ran the workshop and trained other gong makers. Heiko left Sona a few years ago and now the gongs are expertly made by Johannes Heimrath and his small team. The two main gongs that were available in the early days - the Cosmos gong and the Erde (earth) gong - have been added to. Nowadays Sona make gongs exclusively for Tone of Life – see below.

TONE OF LIFE – Tone of Life gongs are made by Sona, and are among some of the most interesting gongs available. They are more expensive than the other gongs we have mentioned, but they are very high quality and the ones I have seen and tried are superb. Their main range is the Four Elements gongs – Water, Fire, Earth and Air (Cosmo), plus the Shemoon, and the Maitreya Peace gongs in several sizes – 25”, 30”, and 42”. Their little Dance gong is a masterpiece of a small gong at 22” – I have one and like it immensely. Sona gongs are highly recommended if you can afford them!

Tone of Life supplytheir own gongs –  but the other German gongs mentioned hereneed to be bought through an official supplier – Paiste and Meinl don’t selldirect. I recommend ECymbals Soulnote (as above) in the UK, in Germany, or Gongs Unlimited in theUSA.

In the UK and Europewe are fortunate to have a small number of talented gong makers : Matt Nolan,Steve Hubback, Joao Pais Filipe, Michael Paiste, and Michal Milas spring tomind immediately. In the USA there is Ryan Shelledy. Do some research on theInternet for details and contact information for these solo gong makers, most ofwhom make gongs to commission only. 

I hope that briefoverview is of some help to those who are only just starting off on their gongjourney. In an article like this it’s impossible to cover all the points Iwould like to mention – I’ve literally just topped and tailed here to give youat least a basic idea of what’s out there. I recommend the two books I mentionedat the beginning, plus of course there is no substitute for coming to aworkshop (I run regular 2-day Gong Intensive workshops) where you will meetlots of different gongs and be able to try them out while learning playingtechniques. Seeing the gongs in person in a workshop, you can then get a feelfor what would suit you at this time on your journey of life. I wish you muchfun and joy choosing your gong and working with it!

©SheilaWhittaker 27.8.16

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