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Eleven Questions with Sound Healer Alan Steinborn of Das Gongbad


by Max Holmquist October 18, 2021


Originally, Paiste's Accent Gongs were only made in the 7" to 22" range. After one of our customers, a prog rock and jazz drummer, reached out saying they were looking for the same style of gong in a larger size, we worked with Paiste to have some larger Accent Gongs made. They produced a 26", 28", and 32" after that. We fell in love with these larger Accent gongs. For anyone seeking a gong that is not huge, but has deeper flavors and complexity, we often recommend a 26" Accent and people tend to have a positive experience with them.

So we were glad to see Broder Oetken continuing to make them in his shop. When we saw and sound healer and GU supporter Alan Steinborn's videos and his appreciation of Oetken's 32" Accent Gong, we decided to reach out and ask him a little bit about his experience with this gong and others. Read on for our interview with Alan Steinborn of Das Gongbad.

GU: How many gongs have you owned before Oetken's 32" Accent Gong?
AS: I owned 2 gongs at the time I purchased the 32" Oetken Accent Gong. The two gongs were both Wu Xing Gongs, purchased at Gongs Unlimited (Thank you!)

GU: Thank you! What makes the 32" Accent one of your favorite gongs?
AS: I was initially intrigued by the idea of getting a gong without the lathing for the purpose of a pure drone. I wanted to see how clean I could get the sound. I had been experimenting a lot with the center of the two symphonic gongs to get this kind of clear sound and so I wanted to know what it was like if the whole gong was like that. What surprised me about this gong is that it does so much more than I had ever expected. I was thinking I would use it purely with the Bear Love Flumis, and on this account, I have been more than satisfied. True, it hasn't been great with the smaller flumis as I had hoped. Perhaps I still need to practice this more, but so far not much on this level, but if I play a mid size flumi, like a #4 or 5, I get some very characteristic drones going. These kind of remind me of a nice didgeridoo sort of dronea smooth main tone and incredible warbling overtones. I can keep a drone like this going for a good long whilea delicious sort of drone. If you play a bigger B Love Flumi, I get something totally unique. The sound is almost subsonic. It is like a sound without a source. It is everywhere and it has no character whatsoever, or rather a very light character. It is like white noise, but pure and clean. There isn't a gong bath that happens without the appearance of a big mallet on this gong... it just takes people DOWN.

If we are talking about beater mallets, things get interesting and unexpected. I usually play with a Olli Hess L460 and it is like a gentle depth charge into the deep ocean. The strike is like hitting the deepest sort of bell and then the after effect is that white noise space sound described above. Delicious. Lately I have been playing a lot with the larger Olli Hess Move Line Mallets. Thiswhen played super gentlyis like deep notes surrounded by a beautiful and unique wind. I can get the wind sound with other gongs, but not the combination of that wind plus the deep thumps from the strikes.

Where this gong really pays off, though, is in its role in the whole ensemble. At the time I got this gong, I also got a 24" Oetken Water Gong. Those two together are like peanut butter and jelly. They have such a gorgeous sympathy of sounds, each totally unique yet enhancing the beauty of the other, it is just incredible. When I play the Accent and the 36" together, I often do this with two deep drones, both with larger Bear Love flumis and the drone is wicked cool. It is so deep and also warbling, but the warbles are super slow and smooth and controllable, such that I can make the warble come into and out of silence at will. If I am playing the 40" Symphonic and getting going with smaller mallets instead of taking the gong into a climax by itself, I may strike the Accent Gong with that big Olli Hess Mallet and it creates a very special climax, like a deep and quiet emphatic note that leeds off into a low note. Then I can bring back the higher notes of the bigger gong in a great duet. I could go on and on and on. Basically, this gong plays well with every single gong I now own. There are 6 gongs in my ensemble and it is rarely the wrong move to go to the accent. Only when I have a very specific sound, likely a mid to high drone of another gong, should I leave off playing the Accent Gong, otherwise, it always brings value.

GU: Do you tend to play this gong by itself, with other gongs, or both?
Both. As said above, I use it extensively to support journeys where other gongs are primary, but this gong is big enough and varied enough that it can also be played by itself. I wouldn't necessarily get this gong, if it was the only gong I would get. That would be the 40" Symphonic, without a doubt. Still, if I wanted a second gong to go with that 40 inch gong, I am not sure I could do better than the accent.

GU: Do play any of Broder's other gongs?
AS: I only play Broder's gongs. I have wind gong at home which is like a family gong, but when it comes to my businessgiving gong bathsI stick with Oetken. I am not saying they are the best, but I am saying they work for me and so I just stick with them. Also, my approach is to keep the same kind of sound and so with the same gong maker, it keeps it similar enough so that all the gongs together are like one instrument. This is just me. Others will feel differently, but I came at the gongs as a sax player and my conception is to keep it unified.

GU: Which mallets do you like to use with the Oetken Accent Gong?
AS: Mid to Big Bear Love Flumis. Olli Hess L460 and big Move Line. The Dragonfly Resonance Series (small) are very nice. Gong Walkabout Mallets work lovely if they happen to be in my hand when I am feeling the need for some Accent, and this is often the case, and maybe Rohema Soft Mallets to end a performance or start one.

GU: Now, a little about you—how do you find your gong playing now, and where are you spiritually, emotionally, psychologically with your sound and your playing—is it enhanced by the Accent Gong?
AS: The Accent Gong is like a monk focusing attention in a gentle way or an alchemist mixing seamlessly with sounds of other sources or a point guard of a basketball team, running the show. As a gong player, it gives me confidence. It isn't always about breaking new ground, but about making the new ground which has been broken sound great. Getting this gong changed my playing from a serial single gong player (where I played one gong then went to another gong, etc.) to more of an ensemble gong player. It is the glue that holds it all together.

GU: Where do you come from, on any level, with your gong and with sound healing?
For me, the purpose is meditation and self-discovery, in the biggest sense of those words. The gongs are a tool for meditation and giving gong baths have been a tool of emotional mastery, service, and a way to transmit my truth in a way where it can be received without any words... this is the magic for me.

GU: How often do you find yourself playing just for yourself and not in groups (separate from Covid forced isolation)?
Daily, for about 2-3 hours when there isn't a performance and 1-2 hours when there is a performance.

GU: Can you tell us a little of your history and how you got into gongs?
AS: I have been teaching meditation for about 20 years, playing sax for 30 years and I wanted to get into gongs long before I actually did get into them. The story of how it all finally transpired is interesting and worth a read.

(Read it here at his website: How it All Got Started With Me and Gongs || Alan Steinborn at DasGongbad.com)

GU: Where do you think see yourself (and the world of gong healing in general) going in the future?
AS: I am working on something very exciting right now. It is something that will benefit the gong playing community, hopefully. I am working on making a case for people taking part in gong baths regularly, not like going to a musical event, but like a practice, like a yoga practice or a meditation practice. I am writing about how things get better and better as a person continues to attend gong baths consistently. This is exciting and if it works will help a lot of people. We will see :-)

GU: Is there anything we missed that you'd like to share?
AS: Thanks for asking me to do this. I hope it is helpful. It is late at night here after a very busy day, but I wanted to do this as I appreciate all Gongs Unlimited did for me when I was getting started with gongs.

Thanks for your time Alan! We're always happy to help spread the ever-growing hum of the eternal gong!


You can check out more from Alan on his website at:
https://dasgongbad.com/en/




Max Holmquist
Max Holmquist

Author




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