It took eight months all told involving 20-30 individual case studies and several group gong bath sessions. I have Martyn Cawthorne to thank for steering me all these month as my tutor and mentor through the Northern School of Soundsmiths. I am a member of the IPHM, and a qualified Gong SoundSmith with the Northern School of SoundSmiths (whose courses are accredited by the IPHM).. Massive thanks as always to Natalie Hewett for her love and patience throughout and suggesting this route in the first place.
Here is a certificate.
Here is another one Craig-Winterburn-Gong-SoundSmith-Certificate
Here is a written piece for finishing off my studies.
Musical connections – drums and gongs
An exploration into the relationship between gongs and drums and their potential for self healing through vibrations, sounds and rhythms.
Over the last 40 years of studying and playing as a musician – drums in particular, I have become aware of the enormous benefits in self healing that the drums have given me and since I started out as a drum circle facilitator, the students I have taught. It was by my intuition and instinct alone that drew me to drums but since my journey with them over the years I have become aware of the healing properties that they have been giving me and others who place themselves into direct contact with them.
Science has now proven the benefits of drumming and the ailments it can have an effect on and the potential detrimental conditions of the body and mind that it can keep at bay. One study I have found particularly interesting that puts things in layman’s terms sites from neuroscientists as well as giving the views from contemporary drummers we have all heard of. Neuroscientist David Eagleman talks about the early theories of musicians like Brian Eno. “It turns out Eno was right” sites David “We now know there is something anatomically different about drummers. Their ability to keep time gives them an intuitive understanding of the rhythmic patterns they perceive all around”.
In my early years of playing drum kit there were many times I found myself in a transcendental state, a state I now recognise as being the same a life times meditation can bring, where I was at total peace and at one with the rhythms I was playing. I never really perceived it was also making me more intelligent. I was one of those that took the brunt of the drummer jokes for many years half believing, half not but left very upset on the whole with this joke. I’m not one for gloating but as the saying goes, “who’s laughing now”..
As ancient as the drum is, the gong is and the Buddhist community have been using both in mindfulness and meditation for 2500 years. Buddhist students who say they struggle with “the monkey mind” site that “the simple driving beat of a drum would instantly cancel out the over active and stressful mind” and go on to say “this brings a much more intense and fulfilling mindfulness session”.
I am still in awe of my moments of transcendental drumming and it is now through the study of gongs and mindfulness I am beginning to fully understand the connection of the simple procedure of calming the mind through the practice of rhythms, sounds and vibrations.
The rhythms and sounds are working in a way that we are able to disconnect the monkey mind while we concentrate on the sounds and the repetition of rhythms while the vibrations gently massage our body. The result is a calming of the mind and well being of the body.
With the gongs there is sometimes more musicality as there are a lot more harmonies present but the frequencies and sounds produced are giving a very similar effect as drums to our internal and mental well being. With the gongs layers, bass, harmonies and over-tones, a state of calm and well being through the use of different size mallets, rhythms and tempos is as instantaneous as it gets with transcendental meditation. Having said this not always does the listener experience total calm as some of the sounds may be unfamiliar and challenges may be brought up with the clients own experience and visions as they are carried on a dreamy journey, so it always best to explain that this may happen, to every participant before a session.
While the outcome might be the same for both drums and gongs and last for days, the gongs seem to have the edge as far as having an immediate effect of relaxation whilst the initial result of drums is invigoration. Both produce the same conclusion however in relaxation and invigoration.
In my experience in both drums and gongs people seem to know instinctively, almost primevally, there is a general feeling that self healing will take place.
While research is on going in the clinical world it is my belief that instinct and intuition comes a lot from genetic memory passed on through generations of DNA that in turn helps us when we come into contact with certain sounds and rhythms that allows us to trust in the process of self healing. It is also taught too however, that a deep relaxation will be reached through sessions with both gongs and drumming.
Scientists have studied the make up of the physiology of holocaust survivors grandchildren and have discovered that they “ have lower levels of the stress-hormone cortisol in their blood, which means they’re more vulnerable to stress and fear”. The authors of a new science paper call this more precisely as “transgenerational transmission of environmental information.” They say there is a good chance this is passed down through our genetic make up but scientist go on to say in equal measures that when we see a child genius with no simple explanation there maybe a link in the genome structure that there maybe an ancestor that was equally talented in some form or another.
A study by Dr Rechavi of the Tel Aviv University was conducted on worms which have a very similar make up structure of DNA to humans, but understanding the principles behind the process of passing on epigenetic information will ultimately lend itself to a more comprehensive theory of heredity, especially for humans.
In nearly everyone that I have come across in my drumming world and now the gong world people show that they have a familiarity and a certain understanding of what is being played to some extent with either the rhythms or the sounds that are being produced. I doubt this is by chance! This is also shown when people dance even though they have never had a lesson in dancing yet they seem to instinctively be able to dance to rhythms they like and understand. People know rhythm and sound, it seems to me to be a genetic trait.
To summarise I play a lot instinctively, with my musical training and ability, and intuitively but is there some genetic make up also guiding me!? The jury is still out with me and I will continue to keep an open mind whilst playing gongs as every client and every sound scape is different.
Appendix: After sending a few of my case studies a questionnaire that I know have experienced both drumming and gongs, these are their responses.. Here are the questions I asked:
1 do you ever feel any health benefits from drumming and being gonged.
2 do you ever feel you have reached some meditative state with either
3 do you do these things because you know you will benefit or is it just for fun.
4 have you experienced any similarities between gongs and drums.
Please see below, I’ve attached a picture, the benefits of drumming, I think these are all true as well!
1 The sound of drumming and gongs can be very therapeutic. Drumming has helped me in many ways, its sociable aspect is massively important to me, it’s good for concentration and has a calming influence on my life. The experience of the gongs was peaceful, but energising. It made me sleep well, which I had struggled with the previous nights.
2 With the gongs I felt I was rising into a meditative state with the energy in the room, I found it a powerful experience. I feel that if I listened to them more I would be able to meditate with more ease than with nothing.
3 I have done these for fun, drumming in a big bateria (spanish – drums) is purely for the excitement, as being in carnival, the joy of being submersed in all the big sound and colour, but when I have felt down or anxious/stressed, drumming has helped to bring me back into the now, it’s something I can concentrate on and I come out feeling like I can cope with things better.
I did the gongs for fun, but with having stress at work etc, I knew it would help me to find balance.
4 The similarities between the 2, the way that the sounds have a calming influence on your mind, the way that it brings you into the present moment and lowers stress.
Drumming has been a massive influence in my life. It’s also become an essential outlet for me, a wonderful hobby, and not only have I met some great people, I’ve made many lifelong friends through the drumming community in Manchester. I would like to mention something very important to me: the one who inspired me to play the drums in the first place was my brother, Francis. He played the drum kit back when we were both in secondary school (early 2000’s) when he played in just-for-fun metal bands with his school friends. I wanted to do that too, and eventually we started jamming together, playing Metallica and Pantera songs, with me on bass. It was awesome! Later on, in 2009, Fran went to The Gambia, West Africa for 6 months on a teaching volunteering expedition. As he was there, I heard all about the African drumming. “Ahh dude, ya gotta come Gambia and try this mate, you’ll love it!” And so, with very little persuasion, packed, guitar and all jabbed up, off I went on my 2 week trip to The Gambia! It was at the very moment I arrived outside the airport, there was Francis and Cosmos, his drum teacher, playing djembe, and all the way from Banjul to Makumbaya they both played. It’s one of my happiest ever memories. And 2 years later, in 2011, my brother joined the Manchester drum circle, whilst I was still finishing off my final year at art college in Carmarthen. I then joined at the class in Prestwich, and there I met Craig, my drum teacher. Now he’s my best mate, and I’ve been drumming ever since. I’m now really into playing drum kit as well as the dunduns, and I love it. I can tell you simply. Drumming is wonderful. Dom 🙂 x
I certainly felt very calm and relaxed after both the gong baths I have experienced. To be able to take yourself out of the busyness of your day and transport your mind and body to a different world is helped by the sounds and rhythms of the gongs. It’s not always easy to relax your mind when meditating but being in the gong bath definitely helps engage you in the experience. It immediately eases stress and is very soothing. Gong baths are definitely meditative because you are focused on the journey of the sounds and rhythm as well as physical sensations with the vibrations, and this helps clear your mind and be immersed in the experience.
I think this is like drumming where you have the physical presence of the drum/gong and the stimuli of sound, rhythm and vibrations; they engage your brain and also relax you at the same time. Both activities definitely have a positive impact on my body and mind-easing tension in both.
I definitely do enjoy both drumming and gongs. Gongs are a particularly unique and interesting experience. And drumming is great fun and full of energy. But I do also definitely see them as a form of self care. I know I will feel good after them both so I also use them therapeutically.
Articles of genetic memory and DNA being passed on through generations.