Sacred Tibetan Music Instruments

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Excerpt of music from the Tibetan Sacred Orchestra on the Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, Vajrakilaya CD

Chagdud Rinpoche, Vajrakilaya CD

“Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche’s voice represents the sublime accomplishment of the prayer, ‘May whoever hears me find liberation.’ It resonates in the heart and memories of thousands of people. This precious Vajrakilaya disc shimmers like a wish-fulfilling jewel, endowed with all qualities of lineage blessing, pure intention, profound meaning and sound inseparable from wisdom essence. May it benefitall beings!”               –Chagdud Khadro

Where to Practice Vajrakilaya:

Chagdud Gonpa Khadro Ling
February 21st to March 1st, 2009

Vajrakilaya overcomes obstacles to spiritual activities by using the skillful means of wrathful compassion to vanquish inner emotional poisons of our own minds, and to avert outer calamities.

Tibetan New Year of 2009 will mark the 28th year that extensive Vajrakilaya ceremonies have been performed in the western centers Chagdud Gonpa—in Tibet Chagdud Gonpa such ceremonies are a centuries-old tradition.

Jigme Tromge Rinpoche, son of H. E. Chagdud Rinpoche and truly a master of Vajrakilaya, will lead the ceremonies.
Saturday, 21st, starting at 9 am
Vajrakilaya Empowerment and Setting the Boundaries

Setting of Drubchen Boundaries and Averting Activities
Saturday, the 21st to Tuesday, 24th

These four days are a closed retreat. The commitment is to remain within the boundaries until Wednesday morning.

Losar, Tibetan New Year
1st Day of Earth Ox Year—Wednesday, the 25th
Celebration 5:00 am

Conclusion of Drubchen, Opening of Boundaries
Sunday, March 1st, lama Dancing 10 am

A Vajrakilaya Drubchod was just held at Odsal Ling in Sao Paulo.

Check here for other Chagdud centers doing Vajrakilaya practice:

See also:

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How do we do the breathing for the Conches and the Gyalings?

Here is an easy way to link to this video:

What you will hear about in this 10 minute video:

· The Eastern Oboe/Trumpet/Bagpipe — the Gyaling from Tibet and Bhutan

· Our Gyaling Playing Lineage (How We Learn to Play Gyaling in our School)

· The Circular Breathing Process Physically

· A Technique to Begin: A Small Straw with a Small Opening

· Breathing and the Lungs, the Cheeks, the Nose, the Mouth

· Applying the Breathing to the Bottle

· Applying this Exercise to the Gyaling — Use the Highest Note

· What Next:

· How to Make Reeds for the Gyaling

· Tuning the Gyaling

· Lineage Melodies only


The Eastern Oboe/Trumpet/Bagpipe — the Gyaling from Tibet and Bhutan

Today we are going to be talking about the gyaling. The gyaling (tib. rgyaling) is one of the instruments in the Tibetan musical ensemble or the Tibetan musical orchestra. It is one of the family of wind instruments and the closest instrument that we have in the West is probably the oboe. But you can see that the gyaling looks a little bit like a trumpet standing on its end but because we play with a double reed, it is very similar to the Western oboe.

The thing that is most unique about the gyaling is that it uses a technique called “circular breathing.” And that’s what we are going to talk about today: how to begin the circular breathing process.

The gyaling has a similar sound to a bagpipe in the sense of its melodies. [Plays an excerpt of a melody]. In that segment of music, I took two or three breathes inside, circulating the breathing without actually lifting my lips off the mouthpiece and that is what is unique to the gyaling — this way of breathing.

The actual musical part of the gyaling has the function of elevating the ceremony a bit and it’s coordinated very closely with the chant master and what is happening with the cymbal playing. It’s the only melodic instrument in the Tibetan orchestra so it has this function of alerting everyone and waking everyone up.

Our Gyaling Playing Lineage (How We Learn to Play Gyaling in our School)

Chagdud Rinpoche was my first teacher on the gyaling and he asked me to be sure to learn the breathing first and later when he asked me to teach the gyaling he asked me to teach the breathing first and that’s what we are going to do. The gyaling playing process is always passed down by a lineage which is kind of a fancy word for saying “how we do things.” Our lineage of playing was given to us here at Khadro Ling by Chagdud Rinpoche, Phurba, Lama Jigme and Jigme Rinpoche. We have several players now and it is because of their sharing their gifts with us that we can bring this music to the West.

The Circular Breathing Process Physically

So, we are going to talk about how to get this breathing going. Rinpoche always liked to use water. Now, on the internet these days, there are lots of good videos about how to do circular breathing with different techniques but I am going to teach you the technique that I was taught and it is by putting water in a bottle. You don’t need much. You can also just put it in a glass but using it in a bottle like this with a little hole in the top makes in the top makes it easier because when you start to blow the bubbles, the water doesn’t start splashing all over you. You want to just put a little bit of water.

A Technique to Begin: A Small Straw with a Small Opening

The best thing is to have a small straw with a really small opening like this. The reason why we have a small straw is to re-create the sensation of pressure that we feel inside the cheeks, of the air inside the cheeks, when we actually go to the reed on the gyaling itself. And with a small straw and a little bit of water, you get very close to how it feels to play through the gyaling channel. You can see that the metal channel here is also very small on the top of the gyaling and we just put the reed right on the top like that.

Breathing and the lungs, the Cheeks, the Nose, the Mouth

Here’s how it goes. What you want to do is that you are going to fill your lungs up to their capacity with air. Take air in through the nose like this. You can feel until you really just can’t breath anymore. And then you are going to make this funny face — you are going to fill your cheeks up until you have to get the air out. If you can feel the tension on your cheeks like you would on a basketball or a soccer ball that is really pumped up tightly with air, you are doing just fine.

Then the secret is to let a little tiny bit of air out of the smallest opening you can make with your lips. This is for gyaling. For the conch too which is a beautiful sea shell and is also played in the ensemble as well. At the end we are going to be talking about how to do the circular breathing through this instrument.

But actually it’s easier with the gyaling and you need to keep your mouth opening small. It looks really funny but that’s what you have to do. Pull in really tightly, put your cheeks out and start to blow out. When you cannot blow out anymore, you are going to circulate by sucking in very quickly and hard through the nose to get the air coming back in again.

Applying the Breathing to the Bottle

So, it’s going to look something like this on the bottle. Now you will know that you’ve done it correctly when the bubbles in the bottle do not stop. If you just do something like (demonstrates the wrong way) — you’re not circulating. Ok?

So now, you’ve got to keep your lips on top of the straw and then when you run out of air, and you feel like you’re going to (die), you pull back in, very fast and hard. (Shows on the bottle).

And that’s what it looks like — the bubbles don’t stop moving.

When you can do that for 5 minutes or 10 minutes, 15 minutes without stopping, you’ve built up a really good endurance to begin to play the gyaling as a gyaling player.

Applying this Exercise to the Gyaling — Use the highest Note

Now, if you have gyalings, and you want to move from the bottle onto the gyaling itself, what I recommend next to do is to play the highest note because it requires the least amount of air to make sound and it’s easier to practice for 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes. Just to develop all your muscles in your face, in your stomach, to keep the sound going and steady.

So here’s what it sounds like on the highest note. We’re not going to use any fingerings on this note. We’ll go like this: (demonstrates)

And that’s what it is. And in terms of developing it, you would just keep doing that for as long as you could and develop that capacity to keep breathing.

A couple of other things to know about the gyaling for some next steps would be :

How to Make Reeds for the Gyaling

The reed making process is something that all of us have to learn and the reed is what we call, really, the “gold” of playing. If you don’t have a good reed, you can’t play well. So that’s another important step to learn.

Tuning the Gyaling

The other important thing to know about the gyaling is that the tuning process is pretty difficult in the sense that each note (fingering) has the potential to play 3 or 4 or 5 notes, so you actually have to tune the gyaling, it’s not like playing the guitar with a fret or a piano which we called “tempered” instruments. You actually have to tune it. For instance, let’s look at this note here that has three fingers and you can see how many notes (can be played potentially). (Demonstrates)

So there are three different sounds basically right there and that has to be tuned. That is another aspect to learn.

Lineage Melodies only

And in terms of the melodies that we actually play, those are part of each lineage in the different schools of Buddhism and we can talk about that another day.

Liz Hamill
Gyaling, Khadro Ling
Tres Coroas, Brazil

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