This article is about the musical instrument. See also slit gong, and for other uses of the word, see gong (disambiguation).
A gong is one of a wide variety of metal percussion instruments. The term is Malay-Javanese in origin but widespread throughout Asia. The instrument itself appears to have origins in the bronze drums of China, cymbals of central Asia, and perhaps even in European bell-casting techniques.
Gongs are broadly of three types. Suspended gongs are more or less flat, circular disks of metal suspended vertically by means of a cord passed through holes near to the top rim. Bossed gongs have a raised center boss and are often suspended and played horizontally. Bowl gongs are bowl-shaped, and rest on cushions. Gongs are made mainly from bronze or brass but there are many other alloys in use.
Types of gong
Suspended gongs are played with beaters and are of two main types: flat faced discs either with or without a turned edge, and gongs with a raised center boss. In general, the larger the gong, the larger and softer the beater. In Western symphonic music the flat faced gongs are generally referred to as tam-tams to distinguish them from their bossed counterparts, although the term "gong" is correct to use for either type.
Large flat gongs may be 'primed' by lightly hitting them before the main stroke, greatly enhancing the sound and causing the instrument "speak" sooner, with a shorter delay for the sound to "bloom". Keeping this priming stroke inaudible calls for a great deal of skill. The smallest suspended gongs are played with bamboo sticks, or even western-style drumsticks. Contemporary & avant-garde music, where different sounds are sought, will often use friction mallets (producing squeals & harmonics), bass bows (producing long tones and high overtones), and various striking implements (wood/plastic/metal) to produce the desired tones.
Western bossed gongs are available in tuned chromatic sets ranging from one, to four and a half octaves. These are used by various percussion ensembles, orchestras, and solo percussionists (Pierre Favre from Switzerland, Andrea Centazzo from Italy).
Pot gongs are small (6"-13") heavy gongs with a raised center boss (also known as a cup, knob, or nipple) that are suspended on cords within a wooden stand or framework. There can be from 8-10 gongs in either one or two rows. They are commonly played with padded mallets (although wooden sticks may be used) on the boss, producing a fundamental pitch with little overtones. Bossed gong sets are tuned to various scales (pentatonic, 7 note, etc.) and are used as the melodic element in Gamelan music (Indonesia/Java), Kulintang (Philippines), or Piphat (Thailand).
Bowl gongs (also called cup gongs) are similar to Tibetan singing bowls and may be played in many different ways, not all of them strictly percussion. The rim may be rubbed with the finger, for example, or the gong may be struck with a beater. Bowl gongs are used in temple worship, especially in Vajrayana Buddhism.