Take This Gong Outside!
With the approach of Summer Solstice, I got the following email: “I was invited to a yoga festival to play the gong during relaxation. Any advice about playing the Gong outside?”
First of all, playing the Gong outside is amazing. The ambient sounds of nature, the wind on the skin during relaxation, and the attraction (and sometimes participation!) by the wildlife can be extraordinary.
Don’t be surprised if the birds find you – they love the tones of the gong and we actually had a bird dancing outside our yoga studio in Costa Rica to the rhythm of the Gong. A gong playing friend in Utah attracted a flock of eagles that circled over her head while she was playing. (Another friend suggested there were actually vultures being called to dinner with the sound of the gong.)
When the gong stops outside, all the sounds around you become so much richer. You can hear distant sounds of waves on a shore or wind moving through the trees in a profound new way, as if the hearing palate had been completely cleared.
So what are the considerations for playing the Gong outside?
A common mistake is that you need to play the gong louder outside than inside, so players sometimes wail and crash sounds as if they want to fill up the empty space. You do not necessarily need to play the gong any louder than you do inside, and in fact the sound will be “clearer” than inside a room where you do not have the sound bouncing against the walls and floors. You may, however, discover that the perceived pitch of your gong changes slightly.
At festivals, they sometimes amplify the sound of the Gong like they do for singers and other musical instruments, thereby distorting and masking some of the beautiful overtones and harmonics of the gong.
The only time I ever amplified the sound of the Gong was when we played outside to 20,000 people for a New Year’s Eve fireworks show. The sponsors insisted and with cannon fire booming in the background, maybe they were right.
Instead of amplifying, arrange the gongs around the audience and have the people positioned so that every person is within some reasonable range of a gong.
You may wish to experiment having people in a circle, or arranging gongs in the middle of a group to create a more equidistance for everyone, rather than playing only at the front or back of gathering, And of course handheld gongs can fill in nicely as you move the gongs among the people.
Another consideration is to allow the gong to acclimate to the outside temperature for an hour or so if possible, and even more importantly make sure that the humidity outside does not cause condensation when you pack the gong for travel. This is important if you are playing near large bodies of water (which incidentally can make the sound even more fantastic!) and especially if you are near the ocean or beach.
Dry the gong thoroughly after playing outside and especially if you are flying with your gong afterwards with the large temperature change that can sauce condensation during travel.
There are many other possibilities and opportunities when playing the Gong outside so you can use what nature has provided. Hanging the gong from a tree limb or playing the gong so people can hear it as the sounds travel over the water are some possibilities. You can even dip the gong after you strike it in the water for an unusual sound and the ultimate “gong bath”!
Want to learn more about how to play the Gong outside? Join me on the island of Mallorca and we take the gongs outside for mountain and beach adventures!