Sounding the gong

Shape and structure

"Gong and drum creates a happy atmosphere, dong dong...dong, cymbals produce sounds as high as the sky..." This is a folk song named Temple Fair. We can see that gong is an extremely important traditional percussion instrument, which holds a major role in Chinese traditional orchestra. It is for accompaniment for operas, songs, and dances. Gong is an inseparable instrument to attract people at temple fair, assembly, lion dance, or market.

Gong can be classified by its playing methods, sounds, shape, and size as follows:
Classification of gong
Playing methods
Danmianluo
(Gong with a single surface)

Big danmianluo can produce the least sounds yet with the most important status. It is often played with the most senior person. It is used at the beginning and end of a long phrase like a period of an article.

Combined gongs
Gongs of different scales (due to different sizes) are arranged together to form a solo instrument with rich expression.
Sounds
Low pitch gong
Its sounds are low and deep, such as Suluo or Guangluo.
Middle pitch gong
Its sounds are more solid and loud than a light low pitch gong, such as Fangsuluo or Middle pitch jingluo.
High pitch gong
Its sounds are higher than a middle pitch gong, such as Fengluo or High pitch jingluo.
Appearance
Navel gong
Its center bulges a bit like a belly button, which is the main part to produce sounds. The size and thickness of the belly button and its area proportion against the surface determines the highness of sounds, such as Dashaluo, Suluo, Daluo, and Shouluo.
Flat gong
It has a round and flat shape with clear sounds, used for accompaniment. It can also be used in transitional scene. There are Douluo, Tangluo, and Liuziluo.
Breast-shaped gong
Its middle bulges like a breast. A small wooden drumstick is used to beat the middle part to produce long and deep sounds. It is often used in folk wind music. Mangluo is a common one.
Size
Big gong
Its diameter is from 50 to 135 cm. It has loud and strong sounds, suitable to strengthen emotion and rhythm, enhance atmosphere, and highlight characters' personalities.
Small gong
Its diameter is below 50 cm. It produces clear sounds with a touch of humorous tone. It is often used together with big gong to enhance performance effect.
Photo credit: Thunder King of Drums

Reference:

  1. http://www.lyltgc.com/gywhInfo.php?gid=22
  2. http://catalog.digitalarchives.tw/item/00/2f/ed/59.html
  3. http://www.baike.com/wiki/低音锣
  4. http://nrch.culture.tw/twpedia.aspx?id=8124
  5. http://www2.cyut.edu.tw/~chimusic/new/tools/percussion/gongs.htm
  6. http://ap6.pccu.edu.tw/Encyclopedia_media/main-art.asp?id=6213

  

Introduction to Gong mallets

A mallet is a device used to beat a gong to produce loud sounds. It is mostly made of wood like cypress, aceraceae, or maple. Modern mallets can be made of bamboo, bronze, or gilded iron.

Type of traditional gong mallets
Type of traditional gong mallets
Type of gong mallets
Photo

Wooden stick

It is suitable for small gong. It is often made by cypress thinned from old furnish with solid texture. Its length is about 30 cm, while its width, 3.3 cm, and thickness, 0.35 cm. When it beats a gong, it produces clear and high sounds.
Small
stick
It is suitable for small gong, Shimianluo, and Yunluo. It is made by wood in a round and short shape. A rubber ball is attached to its end. Its length is about 25 cm, while its width is about 3 cm, and height, about 3 cm. When it beats a gong, it produces loud and high sounds.
Big
mallet
It is suitable for big gong or low pitch gong. The old-fashioned cloth belt is used to tie the end of the mallet . The gong mallet is made of wood with a length of about 40-50 cm. The other end of the mallet has a hole. One can holds it in his small finger or ring finger of the right hand by tying it with a rope. Along with the movement of wrist, it produces deep and loud sounds.
Photo reference: Thunder King of Drums
Type of cloth wrapping a gong mallet
A gong mallet can be wrapped with cloth or not. A big mallet is wrapped by cotton to form a big ball-like mallet, which produces deep and loud sounds. A mallet without cloth can produce clear and melodious sounds. Modern gong mallet is wrapped by threats, while its end can be in different shapes. Hence, the same mallet can produce various sounds and performance effects.
Type of cloth wrapping a gong mallet
 
Type
Description
Photo
Gong mallet without cloth
Wooden
mallet

Made by thinned wood sheet

 

  Photo credit: Thunder King of Drums

Wood
gong
mallet

It is made of wood in a round shape.

  Photo credit: National Museum of Taiwan History
http://ap6.pccu.edu.tw/Encyclopedia_media/main-art.asp?id=6213

Modern
gong
mallet

It is wrapped by rubber at different angles to produce four types of pitches.

 


  Photo credit: Elgar Musical Instruments
http://www.elgar.com.tw/product/product_class_second.php?topid=&bid=18
Gong
mallet
with
cloth

Big
gong
mallet

The cotton wrapping its end is bigger than that of a big gong mallet, allowing the gong to produce mellow and deep sounds.
  Photo credit: Thunder King of Drums
Modern
gong
mallet
It is wrapped by threats, producing mellow and clear sounds.
  Photo credit: Elgar Musical Instruments
http://www.elgar.com.tw/product/product_class_second.php?topid=&bid=18

Reference:

  1. http://art.tnnua.edu.tw/ethnomu/talk_s01_7.htm
  2. http://collections.culture.tw/nmth_collectionsweb/AAA/
  3. http://ap6.pccu.edu.tw/Encyclopedia/data.asp?id=6213
  4. http://nrch.culture.tw/twpedia.aspx?id=8124
  5. http://www.elgar.com.tw/product/product_class_second.php?topid=&bid=18
  6. http://www.kuan-yu.com/webPage/products_07.html