by Cliff DeArment

There are many types of gamelan instruments. This listing is very general and favors names which are most commonly used.


Suspended Gongs

Bass Gongs

Gong Ageng (ah-g-ng) - Java. The largest and deepest of gongs, the gong ageng is often over a meter in diameter. There may be one for each scale in the Gamelan. The gong ageng begins and ends the complete metric cycle.

Gong Wadon (wah-doan) - Bali. The largest Balinese gong, measuring slightly under a meter. The wadon is "loose", meaning the face is relatively thin and vibrates freely. The wadon trades with the lanang in ending the metric cycle.

Gong Lanang (lah-nahng) - Bali. A mate to the wadon (lanang means male and wadon means female), it is slightly smaller and about a step higher in pitch. The lanang is a "tight" gong, the face being thicker than the wadon. The lanang trades with the wadon in ending the metric cycle.

Gong Suwuk (soo-wook) - Java. A secondary gong, smaller than the gong ageng, there are usually two suwuk per scale, pitches 1 and 2. The suwuk is used to begin and end metric subcycles.

Middle Voice Gongs

Kempur (kehm-poor) - Bali. Punctuates mid points in the metric cycle. In some smaller ensembles, a kempur takes the place of the gong. A kempur can be anywhere from 16 to 25 inches in diameter.

Kempul (kehm-pool) - Java. Punctuates half way to the mid points of the metric cycle which is played by the kenong. Kempul are generally between 15 and 20 inches in diameter.

Bheri (beh-ree) - Bali. A hanging gong with a recessed nipple (see Kajar below), played with a soft mallet. The gong bheri subdivides between kempurs in a syncopated pattern. Also called bheri is a flat faced gong of Chinese origin.

Treble Gongs

Kemong (keh-mohng) - Bali/Java. Kemong is a high pitched gong played with a soft mallet, like a very small kempul or kempur. The kemong may punctuate smaller time divisions, but is rarely used today.

Klintong (klihn-tohng) - Bali. A high pitched gong played with a hard mallet to produce a piercing sound. The pitch is usually from outside the scale of the ensemble which lends clarity. The klintong subdivides the cycle and sometimes takes the metric place of the kempur when a kempur is being used as the gong.

Horizontal Gongs

Gong Racks

Reong (ray-ong) - Bali. A horizontal row of small gongs with conical nipples, tuned to a scale and played with cord wrapped sticks by one or more players. Two reong pots can also be mounted vertically on either end of a stick.

Trompong (trohm-pong) - Bali. A horizontal row of usually 12 Balinese gongs with conical nipples, tuned to a scale and played by one person only with cord wrapped sticks. The trompong has a lower pitch range than reong.

Bonang (boh-nahng) or Bonang Barung - Java/Bali. A double horizontal row (usually) of from 10 to 14 gongs with rounded nipples, tuned to a scale and played by one person with a pair of cord wrapped sticks. There is usually one bonang per scale.

Bonang Panerus (pah-neh-roose) - Java. An octave higher than bonang. Bonang Panembung (pah-nehm-boohng) - Java. An octave lower than bonang.

Kenong - Java. A row of large, deep, "stupa shaped" gongs, usually one for each pitch of the scale but sometimes less, played with heavy cord wrapped sticks. Each individual kenong pot is suspended on cords over a box resonator. The kenong directly divides the Javanese gong cycle and is one of the most important musical markers.

Single Horizontal and Hand Held Gongs

Reong (ray-ong) - Bali. A set of small individual hand held gongs tuned to a scale and played with cord wrapped sticks, one per player.

Tawa tawa (tah-wah) - Bali. A small gong carried cradled in the lap or arm and played with a soft mallet. The tawa tawa plays the beats of the cycle like a metronome.

Kempli (kehm-plee) - Bali. A small gong laid over a lace of cord strung within a box which functions as a stand. Kempli is usually played with a stick wound with cord. The kempli plays the beats of the cycle like a metronome.

Kelinang (klih-nahng) - Bali. A very small gong (about 5 inches in diameter) resting in a stand or held in the hands. It is played with a cord wrapped stick, playing every second beat of the tempo with the kempli or tawa tawa.

Ketuk (keh-took) - Java. A small gong laid over cord strung across the opening of a small box, played with a cord wrapped stick. The ketuk divides the kenong period of the cycle, highlighting specific beats to delineate form, such as off-beats, or the second or fourth beat of every or every other grouping.

Kempyang (kehm-pyahng) - Java. A very small gong laid over laced cord strung across the opening of a small box, played with a cord wrapped stick. The kempyang alternates with the ketuk to further subdivide the cycle.

Kajar (kah-jar) - Bali. A small gong with a recessed nipple, held on the lap and played with a hard stick. The kajar plays a reduction of the drum part, accenting important gestures.

Bar Instruments


Saron (sah-rohn) - Bali/Java. The generic Saron is a mid register instrument with typically six or seven but occasionally up to fifteen bars, resting over a carved out wooden trough which serves as a pedestal and a resonator. The bars are played using a rounded softwood hammer and muted with the non-playing hand. Bars may be removed by lifting them off the frame of the instrument. The bars are held in place by metal "nails" which fit through holes at the nodal points of the bars. Small pieces of padding at the nails, between the bar and the edges of the wooden trough, are made of rubber or woven plant fiber. Saron bars are usually forged bronze but can also be made of iron, brass, bamboo, or hardwood. Saron bars have a distinctive double curvature to their surface. All gamelan bars are curved over their length so that the center is higher than the ends. This adds strength to the bar (arc principle) as well as resonance. Saron bars are similarly curved across the width of the bar.

Saron Demung (deh-moohng)/Saron Panembung - Java. The Demung is a low register saron with large bars, typically consisting of an octave plus one or two pitches.

Peking (peh-king)/Saron Panerus (pah-neh-roose) - Java. The Peking is a small high register saron. The Peking is played with a hammer made of bull's horn.

Saron/Gangsa Jongkok - Bali. Saron Jongkok are paired saron de-tuned in the standard Balinese pengisep/pengumbang relationship. They are most often played with a horn shaped mallet, like gangsa. Jongkok are often combined with Jongkok Kantilan one octave higher. They are used most extensively in the archaic and classic ensembles such as Gong Gede and Semar Pegulingan.

Saron Gambang - Bali. Saron Gambang are similar to Jongkok in their paired tunings, but the scale of Saron Gambang is derived from a song cycle source known as Kidung. Others are based on scales of the Kekawin.

Gender (gehn-dare) - Bali/Java. Gender is an instrument with bars suspended on rawhide straps or cord over tubular resonators. Most Gender have fourteen bars. Gender bars are primarily hexagonal in cross section and arched so that the middle of the bar is higher than the ends. Gender are typically played with two disk shaped mallets, requiring specialized muting techniques.

Gender Barung - Java. The primary bar instrument of the Javanese ensemble. Standard pelog/slendro gamelan have three gender barung, one in slendro, one in standard pelog, and another in pelog barang, replacing pitch one with pitch seven. Gender Barung is played with two padded disk shaped mallets.

Gender Panerus - Java. One octave higher than Gender Barung.

Gender Panembung/Slenthem - Java. A seven bar bass Gender played with one padded disk shaped mallet.

Gender Wayang - Bali. Two or four ten-bar Gender in slendro, each played with two hardwood disk shaped mallets. Gender Wayang accompanies Wayang Kulit shadow play and various rites of passage. Gender Wayang music is contrapuntal, playing the melody, variations, gongs, and elaborations of larger orchestras with only two or four instruments.

Gender Rambat - Bali. A pair of gender in pelog which are part of gamelan pelegongan and semar pegulingan. This gender is played with two hands but plays traditionally only in octaves.

Salunding - Bali. A cross between Gender and Saron, and possibly a historical bridge between the two instruments, Salunding has suspended iron bars over a trough resonator. The largest instruments feature heavy iron bars as gongs. The instruments of Salunding are modular with only four or eight bars per instrument and may be configured in a variety of ways.


Gambang (gahm-bahng) - Java. Javanese Gambang is a xylophone with hardwood bars resting over a trough resonator. It is played with two long handled disk shaped mallets. A pelog/slendro gamelan will typically have three Gambang, one in slendro, one in standard pelog, and one in pelog barang, replacing pitch one with pitch seven.


Gambang - Bali. A pair or quartet of bamboo xylophones played with double, forked, mallets. The bars of Balinese gambang are placed in a non-scalar order to facilitate particular double-stop intervals. Gambang is used for cremation rites and draws it's repertoire and scales from ancient Kidung literature.

Gamelan Joged Bumbung/Tiklik/Rindik - Bali. A ten bar bamboo xylophone. The bars are suspended in a wooden frame. The bamboo bars are cut with part of the bamboo cylinder remaining intact to serve as a resonator. It is played with long handled rubber headed mallets.

Jegog - Bali. A large ensemble of instruments resembling tiklik with bass bamboo bars reaching up to a foot wide and eight to ten feet long.


Ceng Ceng (cheng cheng) - Bali. Six small bronze cymbals are mounted upside down and played with two held in the hands. The cymbals are typically mounted on the back of a wooden sculpture of a turtle.

Rincik (reen-cheek) - Bali. A tiny ceng ceng, usually on a decorative pedestal resembling a frog or other animal.

Ceng Ceng Kopyak - Bali. Pairs of large heavy bronze cymbals used mostly for processional music.


Kendang Ciblon (kehn-dahng chib-lone) - Java. A barrel shaped two headed drum. The inside of the drum is carved in an hourglass shape. The drum is mounted horizontally on a stand and played with the hands.

Kendang Ageng - Java. Similar to Ciblon, Kendang Ageng is very large and deep in pitch.

Kendang Kitipung - Java. A very small version of the Ciblon. Kendang Bedug - Java. A very large two headed drum of similar to a Japanese taiko.

Kendang Bali - Bali. Drums in Bali come in a variety of sizes depending on the usage. Conical in appearance, Balinese drums are carved in an hourglass shape inside. Most are played with the hands but some larger varieties are played with a ball headed stick on the larger head. Drums in Bali are always paired, with the lower pitched drum called the Wadon, or female, and the higher pitched drum called the Lanang, or male.


Suling Java - Java. An end blown bamboo flute. Javanese flutes are tuned to correspond with various patet and several different flutes may be part of the same gamelan.

Suling Bali - Bali. An end blown bamboo flute which can be played in both the slendro and pelog scales using variations of fingering. Suling in Bali are played with a circular breathing technique allowing the flute to sound continuously without stopping the sound for breath.


Bowed strings

Rebab - Java/Bali. A two stringed bowed string instrument, the body of the Rebab is a coconut shell with goat skin stretched over it to produce a resonating chamber.

Plucked strings

Ziter - Java. A small box shaped zither with a set of strings on both sides of it's body, one side in pelog and the other in slendro.

Celempung - Java. A large archaic zither rarely used in the modern Javanese gamelan.

Kacapi - east Java. Another form of zither usually combined with suling.