Music Information

The Gong - An Instrument Everyone Can Play


What exactly is a Gong?

The gong is a musical instrument in the percussion family. A gong can have either a definite or an indefinite musical pitch. Usually gongs that produce a definite, specific tone are played with other specific-tone gongs in a setting like traditional Gamelan, or an innovative rock concert like the Grateful Dead.

Are there different types of gongs?

Gongs come in a variety of sizes, styles, and shapes. Like dialects of language or sects of religion, the instrument evolved differently in each location and culture it was used. Many gongs are flat, but some have a central dome, also called a nipple. The outside rim of the gong is usually turned down; it is not sharp-edged like a cymbal.

Generally, you can think of gongs as having two basic styles: Suspended and Bowl.

Suspended gongs, which are more flat, are called such because they are literally suspended. They are hung vertically using a chord that is passed through holes close to the rim. Suspended gongs are played with a mallet or bamboo stick.

Bowl gongs are called such because they are literally bowl-shaped. They can rest on the ground or special cushions. Bowl gongs can be played in several different manners. A musician can bang a bowl gong with a mallet, but might also rub the rim with his or her finger to elicit a whole other sound.

How are they made?

Gongs are constructed of hammered metal. Most are made out of bronze or brass, but with an amalgam of other metals.

Although a lot of gongs are made in China, they are not mass produced like televisions or plastic toys. Each one is handmade.

If you hear a particular gong, like it and order that style, you must expect that the one you get may not sound exactly like the first one you heard. Minor differences are to be expected, and should be embraced. Don't worry though! Most gong styles, thanks to design specifics, maintain a similarity of tone to the untrained ear.

Andrew Borakove is a media writer and gong aficionado. He also is the proprietor of the internet store, Gongs Unlimited. http://www.gongs-unlimited.com

You can find more info on Gongs there, and all kinds of gongs and related instruments for sale.

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