Many people start their gong playing career with a mid-size gong that can produce a wide range of sound. The 26” to 32” gongs are the friendliest to learn to play, not as hard to control as a small gong and easier to manipulate than a large gong.
However, maybe you should think small – like a gong you can hold with one hand when you play it.
Hand-held gongs offer the gong player a wealth of opportunities and flexibility of performance. Easy to transport (you can put it inside luggage or in an overhead airline compartment) and with no stand needed, a hand-held gong can take your gong playing to places and people you may not be able to “gong” otherwise.
Hand-held gongs allow you to move through space and around your listeners so the sound of the gong, while smaller than a larger gong can produce, is more intimate and felt by the listener.
What are guidelines for selecting and playing a hand-held gong? Obviously number one consideration is: Can you actually hold it with one-hand?
For the majority of gong players, a 24” gong is usually the largest they wish to play. I have used a 26” size gong for hand-playing (particularly the lighter weight wind gongs), and I have a gong-playing weight-lifting friend in Greece who has carried around 32” gongs and played them very well, thank you.
The good news is that you can use hand-held gongs as small as 12” and get nice effects. The Thai gong pictured here is a recently acquired 14” gong that is a joy to travel with and it produces a clear sustaining tone.
What are good candidates for a hand-held gong? You do have choices among the 24” planetary gongs (Moon, Venus, Neptune, and Uranus) or even the German symphonic gongs that come as small as 16”.
As mentioned, wind gongs also work very well and make great sounds as you play them while moving about, and they are a good complement to the larger gongs on stands.
Some of my favorite hand-held gongs are those with the bossed or raised center, popularly in Indonesia and Thailand. Yes, they only produce one tone when struck on the center, but the sound is powerful and penetrating and sustains well as you move around.
Some players make the mistake of over-sizing the mallet for their hand-held gong. Too large a mallet can produce a crashing sound and too much movement in the gong itself. Generally, a smaller mallet is best since you will be carrying the sound to the listener and it will give you better control over the movement of the gong itself.
There are other guidelines for selecting and playing hand-held gongs (such as do not swing your gong toward your listener’s head!) but that is a course or workshop of itself.
Which, you can do. Come to my Advanced Gong Playing retreat this March 16-18 near Austin and Houston (and later this year in international locations), and we will have a workshop on the amazing hand-held gongs (as well as some to purchase).
Think small and Gong On!