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A Gamelan is a common Indonesian musical ensemble containing a variety of different sub-instruments, most notably drums and pitched percussion, but also including flute-like instruments, plucked string instruments, and horns. The name is derived from the Javanese word Gamel, which means to strike with a hammer.


Here is a list of sub-instruments commonly seen in an ensemble. They are considered "sub-instruments" because the gamelan as a whole is seen as one instrument, functioning as a whole. [1]

  • kempul
  • gongageng
  • kenong
  • gong suwuk
  • ketuk
  • kempyang
  • saron barung
  • kendang batangan
  • kendang gending
  • rebab
  • suling
  • saron demung
  • saron panerus
  • saron panerus
  • gambang
  • bonang
  • slentem
  • gender


Gamelan music

Musical Ideology

The common western/European system of music theory is based around a "well-tempered" scale consisting of exactly 12 pitches, evenly spaced in terms of the ratio to which the frequency of the sound is altered between each note. In Gamelan, however, there are two scales, or laras, neither of which are compatible with the standard system.

One is the Slendro, which contains 5 notes making it Pentatonic. They roughly correspond to the major pentatonic scale (C, D, E, G, A). This scale may be demonstrated by playing the five black keys (e.g. F#, G#, A#, C# and D#) on a piano.

The other lara is the Pelog, a seven note scale that may sound quite dissonant to western ears due to the pitches falling between many of the pitches of the well-tempered system. [2]