Defying Gravity - Part 4

Mallets & Striking Implements

While I'm on the subject of mallet grip and action, let's look at all the different types of things I use to play the Gongs and how some of the grips differ.

L-R: wooden knitting needles, Pro•Mark Sabar sticks, Vic Firth BAMS, Pro•Mark TUBZ

The knitting needles give me a soft, delicate sound. 
I hold them lightly between my thumb & fore finger.

The BAMS are great scraped on the edge of a Paiste Gong. 
I apply pressure with the fore finger. 
They are also great for softer, atmospheric sounds 
when played like sticks.

I usually hold the TUBZ with a full grip. They are great for soft sounds, but you can smack the face of the Gong for a big whip crack sound.

An overhand view.

All Mike Balter Mallets, L-R: 

BB11 - Med Hard poly & BB10 - Hard PVC/BB9 - Soft Rubber & BB8 - Med Rubber: great on bells, bell plates, sound discs/crotales, and even Gongs (for very high pitched sounds)

BB6 - Soft Cord, BB5 - Med Cord, SC-2 - Med Soft yarn: Great on tuned Gongs, bells, bell plates, and large Gongs (for bright, high pitched sounds).

L: Orpheus Superballs, R: Balter Super Rub.
Space/whale sounds on large Gongs, drums, bell plates. 

Applying thumb pressure close to the ball to get maximum Gong response.

Applying pressure further back to get different tones.

Applying fore finger pressure.

Balter mallets, L-R: Wind Gong, Roller, GM3, GM1
The Wind Gong & Rollers are great for rolls on all types of large Gongs. I also use the Wind Gong mallets on large Tuned Gongs and bell plates. The Yarn wound heads tend to be harder than a fur covered mallet, so the GM3 & 1 are nice to bring out a quick, sharp sound on big Gongs. They are also great to get a very full sound on the large bell plates.

For the large Gongs, I prefer fairly large & heavy 
fur covered mallets. 
You need the weight to get the Gongs to speak, 
and the fur minimizes contact sound. L-R:

Orpheus Zero Impact for Gong rolls

Firth GB2 - small head

Balter GM2 with fur covering I added to make it softer. 
This one is VERY heavy, so it opens up Gongs quickly.

Old Paiste mallet (close to a modern M5)

Firth GB1 - large head &
SABIAN large (almost identical to the Firth GB1)
The GB1 & SABIAN are great because they have long handles which gives me a great reach.

Now people have asked me why, because I'm a Paiste guy, I don't use Paiste Gong mallets. The Paiste mallets are great, but I just prefer wooden handles. It's a personal thing. As you can see, my 1 Paiste mallet is an old one with a wooden handle.

Zero Impact Mallet in the pendulum stroke position.

These are some Balter Mallets I modified for specific sounds, L-R:

BB6 - rewrapped with a large yarn ball for certain tuned Gongs.

BB6 with added yarn around the shaft for the Kulintang.

CM2 Chime Mallets with heavy felt added to one end. These are great on larger tuned Gongs, bell plates, and other metals that need a firm, compact mallet. I also use the hard end on Burma Bells.

That's it for now. I also use various other implements depending on the sounds I need and the musical situation I'm in. If you just do Gong Meditation Sessions, you basically just need some rollers and a good large, padded mallet. If you work in more exploratory territory playing concerts of original Gong music, then you may want more implements for more sounds. Don't be afraid to experiment with both sounds & grips.

Coming in early 2013: a new series of Gong/Metal instructional videos on my YouTube channel (Gongtopia), including videos on the Defying Gravity techniques. 

Thanks for reading!

~ MB


  1. Hi, just wanted to say I find both this blog and your Youtube channel to be very educational and inspiring. I look forward to the new video series. Cheers!

  2. Thanks, Michael, for the great resources for experienced and new gong players! Look forward to more from you.

  3. Do you know where I can get Vic Firth Bams or the equivalent? -Randy Short


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