Gamelan Instruments

The gamelan comprises many families of instruments:

At the rear of the gamelan ensemble are the punctuating instruments gong, kempul, kenong, kethuk and kempyang that mark the structure of each gamelan composition.

Across the centre of the gamelan is the saron family comprising loud metallophone instruments. They provide the Skeleton melody of the music alongside the softer metallophone called slenthem. In the centre of the gamelan are the drums, called kendhang - the drummer is the rhythmic leader of the ensemble.

At the front of the ensemble are the loud style melodic leaders called bonang. These anticipate the direction of the melody and embellish louder style lively playing styles with interlocking patterns.

We then have the ‘softer-style’ instruments that lead and embellish the melody in more refined compositions. These consist of the gender, gambang, rebab, siter and suling.

Singing is also a key part of gamelan music and many compositions feature solo female vocalists called pesindhen and a male chorus or gerong.

Central Javanese Gamelan Playing Techniques - Kenong

Playing gender