top of page
  • Writer's pictureNathan Coles

New vs Old: A Look At the New and Improved Symphonic Gong Mallet and Rollers

Updated: Jun 25

Back by popular demand, the Black Swamp Symphonic Gong Mallet and Rollers have a lot more to offer than their predecessors.


Introduction and Historical Context

Unveiled at PASIC 2023, we are thrilled to formally introduce the Symphonic Gong Mallets and Rollers by Black Swamp Percussion. Following the discontinuation of the original Gong Mallet and Rollers around 2017, the demand for a high-quality symphonic mallet and roller set remained strong. These reimagined mallets and rollers feature a fresh new look and several noteworthy enhancements.

Gong mallets and rollers come in various shapes and sizes, each with unique features and benefits. While some use yarn or felt to cover the entire mallet head, Black Swamp opted for a different approach. The original design of the Gong Mallet was inspired by the vintage Ayoub Gong Mallet, which featured two playing surfaces and feet at the top of the head for resting the mallet. Despite extensive research, we only found a single Reddit post showing an original Ayoub mallet and its two-sided head design.

Black Swamp artist Keith Aleo also created a gong mallet based on this design for his own use, as demonstrated in this Facebook video.

Design and Materials

The Design of our new Symphonic Gong mallet and rollers took what was good from the older designs and improved upon those ideas for a refreshed look and feel that we absolutely love. Let’s start with the Gong Mallet.

The New Symphonic Gong Mallet

Large Side

The large side of the new mallet head is designed for softer playing. It features a layer of spongy foam beneath felt, making it ideal for larger instruments and achieving nuanced tam tam attacks. This new design enhances dynamic control, allowing for both subdued and resonant performances.

Small Side

The small side of the mallet head offers enhanced articulation, with a harder foam layer beneath felt for precise, direct sound production. This side is particularly effective for repeated notes and smaller instruments, where a more focused attack is desired.

Additional Features

The new mallet head includes several additional features for improved functionality and convenience. Four rubber feet at its base provide stability when not in use, and a convenient cord attached to the handle facilitates easy transportation. 

What's New and Improved

1st and 2nd generation Black Swamp gong mallets next to one another

The most noticeable visual difference between the two generations of Gong Mallets is the playing surfaces. The original mallet head had felt wrapped around the entire head, with two hardness levels across four sides. The new mallet head simplifies this design, offering two clearly defined playing surfaces: a large soft side and a small hard side. 

The hard side of the old mallet featured stiff rubber under the felt, whereas the new mallet uses a single layer of felt directly on the wooden head. The soft side now includes spongy foam beneath the felt, achieving a softer, rounder dynamic and significantly improved feel at all dynamic levels. Furthermore, felt wrapping around the playing surfaces on the new mallet head acts as a buffer against unwanted wood-to-metal contact, ensuring seamless performances and the same flexibility as the previous model.

1st and 2nd generation Black Swamp gong mallet heads next to one another

The new mallet handle, crafted from solid ash, has been elongated for better weight distribution and maneuverability. The new mallet shaft is 16.5 inches in length, made from ash, and features a rubber cap with a black cord. In comparison, the old mallet shaft was 15.75 inches, made from red oak, with a rubber cap and white cord. The new mallet is ever so slightly heavier and larger than the old one, providing a better balance and weight distribution. 

Material-wise, the old mallet used red oak with an open grain (with later generations moving to a maple shaft), while the new mallet uses ash with a tighter grain, enhancing durability and aesthetics. The new mallet head is made of ply-birch, while the old head was constructed from MDF. This material switch also offers increased durability in the mallet head. The new feet on the mallet head have stems for improved stability, replacing the peel-and-stick feet of the old model. Finally, the new logo is laser engraved, whereas the old logo was a sticker, adding a touch of modernity and durability to the design.

The New Symphonic Gong Rollers

Our new model of gong rollers maintains the core principles of the original design, emphasizing simplicity and functionality. Constructed with a ply Birch core and a solid ash handle, the rollers feature the same foam and felt composition as the large end of the new gong mallet, delivering a broad, fundamental tone when in use. Sold as a pair, these rollers offer effortless maneuverability on gongs, yet each roller can stand alone as a versatile tool for smaller instruments such as tam tams, wind gongs, and more.

What's New and Improved

1st and 2nd generation Black Swamp gong rollers next to one another

The new gong rollers have a larger mallet head diameter of 4.5 inches, compared to the 4-inch diameter of the old version. This increase in size provides a more substantial contact surface, enhancing the depth and resonance of the sound produced.

The new mallet shaft is 15 2/8 inches in length, made of ash, and features a rubber cap similar to the gong mallet. This is an improvement over the old shaft, which was 13.25 inches in length and made of Red Oak (later on, maple). The longer ash shaft offers better weight distribution and a more comfortable grip, improving overall playability.

Not only are these new rollers longer but are slightly heavier than the previous iteration. Despite this weight increase, the new design balances the weight effectively, making the additional heft barely noticeable in performance while providing a more robust feel.

1st and 2nd generation Black Swamp gong rollers heads next to one another

These enhancements ensure that the new gong rollers meet the high standards expected by discerning musicians, maintaining the simplicity and functionality of the original design while incorporating meaningful upgrades.

Performance and sound quality 

The new Symphonic Gong Mallets and Rollers significantly enhance sound quality and performance through thoughtful design updates. The new mallet head, streamlined to two distinct playing surfaces—hard and soft—eliminates the confusion of the previous four-sided model. This change allows performers to quickly and easily select the appropriate surface, improving the consistency and quality of their sound. The hard side, with a felt layer directly over the mallet head, produces a precise, articulate sound, ideal for repeated notes or when a more focused attack is needed. Conversely, the soft side, featuring foam beneath the felt, excels in delivering nuanced, softer tones, perfect for larger instruments and creating moody tam tam effects.

The updated mallet base, constructed from ply Birch, is longer and slightly heavier than its predecessor. This added weight and length provide more strike consistency and a broader, more robust response from the gong. The solid ash handle, now elongated, enhances control and weight distribution, further improving performance. Additionally, the felt wrapping around the playing surfaces prevents unwanted wood-to-metal contact, ensuring a seamless playing experience. 

For the gong rollers, the core design remains effective but now includes updated materials for better performance. The rollers, made from ply Birch and solid ash, retain the same foam and felt composition as the large end of the gong mallet, delivering a broad, fundamental tone. These improvements in design and material quality collectively ensure that the new Symphonic Gong Mallets and Rollers provide superior sound quality and a more enjoyable playing experience for percussionists.

Black Swamp Percussion's Symphonic gong mallets and rollers represent a thoughtful evolution of our percussion offerings, combining practicality with performance-driven design to meet the needs of discerning musicians.

What Artists Are Saying

Brad Meyer / Stephen F. Austin State University

"I LOVE the new Black Swamp Percussion gong mallets! The rollers are light with the perfect amount of felt, which allows for great control without hurting the wrist (especially for younger players) on long and loud rolled gong passages. The general playing mallet is super versatile with its smaller and larger sides, and it has a lot of natural weight in it, which can really brings out the low, massive sounds of your large gongs!! 10 out of10; I highly recommend!!" - Brad Meyer / Stephen F. Austin State University

Keith aleo

"The new Black Swamp Percussion tam-tam mallets are exceptional.  They are high quality in construction and feel GREAT when you play them.  The sound of the single mallet can produce two distinct sounds - a more pointed and direct sound (often used to match the sound of a piano or pizzicato) and, when flipped to the opposite side, a more warm and blossoming sound.  The rollers are fantastic as their weight allows the player greater expressivity and superior control.  Bravo BSP for doing the job right!" - Keith Aleo / Interlochen Arts Academy

Andrew Naughton holding a black swamp snare drum and two black swamp tambourines

“The symphonic gong beaters from Black Swamp are quite intuitive! The rollers are large enough to activate the full gong quickly while light enough since the material in the beater is foam and felt. You don’t have to work very hard to get consistent rolls with these! 

The single symphonic gong mallet has quite a bit of density to it, but not overbearing. The size of the beaters get a significant amount of activation from the gongs. The smaller side allows more articulation to be behind the strike, which is quite helpful for smaller gongs. The larger side adds depth to the stroke at soft dynamics while being great for when you really need those powerful hits out of a large gong.

These beaters are perfect for professional percussionists, percussion educators, and band directors looking for a broader depth of timbre within their ensembles and performances.” - Andrew Naughton / University of Nevada, Las Vegas


bottom of page