Instruments in a Balinese gamelan orchestra

gamelan051105.jpgA gamelan is the traditional musical accompaniment for religious ceremonies and celebration in Bali. The rattle-rattle, glong-glong sound is more than a bunch of people banging instruments and in fact is a complex musical choreography. Gamelan is a Javanese word that means bronze instruments. The style played in Java, such as you will hear on the CD Degung Instrumental: Sabilungan (the gentle flowing music played in many hotels in Bali) is typical of the Javanese gamelan style. In Bali the style is much more like a Jamaican steel band marching down the street bashing dustbin lids. Its is highly syncopated, lively and filled with energy. Gamelan orchestras come in many sizes ranging from 4-50 instruments.

Instruments in a gamelan include:

  • Metallophone:
  • Metal xylophone made from bronze and set in wooden jackfruit stands. The largest have 14 keys, the smallest 4 keys. The bars are strung out in a line on top of bamboo resonators. The frames are usually painted bright red.

  • Kendang:
  • A double-ended cylindrical drum.

  • Gangsa:
  • The mostly commonly used metallophone, which comes in 3 parts.

  • Ugal:
  • The largest and deepest sounding part of the Gangsa. The Ugal takes care of the melody

  • Pemade:
  • A medium sized and sounding part of the Gangsa that takes care of the melodies and trills.



  • Kantilan:
  • The smallest part of the Gangsa, with the highest sounds.

  • Trompong:
  • A bronze kettle drum usually played in a row of 10 or more.

  • Reyong:
  • A group of 4 kettle drum players sitting side by side.

  • Gong:
  • A single large hanging gong indicates the beginning and end of a melody.

  • Ceng Ceng:
  • A set of players holding pairs of symbols of different sizes.

  • Suling:
  • A bamboo flute.

  • Rebab:
  • Classical 2-stringed violin.

  • Genggong:
  • A type of Jews harp made from palm wood.

    Each of the instruments takes a long time to learn and requires an understanding of the rhythms and intricacies of the music.