Different Types of Musical Instruments in Indonesia

By Contributing Writer
Balinese gamelan playing at memorial for 2002 Bali bombing victims

In Indonesia, “gamelan” is a word meaning orchestra, and the instruments of this orchestra are primarily native to the island of Bali. Instruments involved in the gamelan include percussion instruments, flutes, gongs and various bronze metallophones. These metallophones are tuned to four-note or five-note scales. The Balinese gamelan has a distinct sound that represents the sonic signature of Indonesia.

Angklung

Members of gamelan playing music during nighttime festival

The angklung is the foundation of the gamelan. The anklugh consists of bamboo tubes secured to a frame. These tubes are carved in order to produce different tones. Several members of the gamelan will each play their own angklung. Although each angklung usually only contains a maximum of four unique pitches, separate angklungs will offer different tuning, allowing complex melodies to be created when several angklungs are played together.

Kulintang

Flute player and gong on display during Bali festival

The kulintang consists of a series of five to 10 miniature, pot-shaped gongs. These gongs are played with wooden beaters. The kulintang can either be played while sitting on the floor or played on a table while seated in a chair. Kulintang players will often include dazzling theatrics in their performances, such as juggling the beaters, crossing hands while, playing or changing the order of the gongs during a performance.

Kendang

Men playing traditional Bali music with kendang

The kendang is a double-headed drum included in the gamelan orchestra’s rhythm section. Indonesian kendangs feature two heads of equal size and can be played with sticks, hands or a combination of the two. Kendangs are typically made of wood, while heads are made of buffalo or goat hide. The kendang is available in four sizes; from smallest to largest these include the ketipung, batangan, ciblon and the ageng.

Gangsa

Men playing traditional Balinese music during festival

The gangsa is a xylophone-like instrument with metal bars, each tuned to a different note value. These bars are struck with a mallet, typically with only one hand. The opposite hand is used to dampen the bars before or after striking, in order to produce various timbres, volumes, and note durations. The gangsa is typically played while standing. The resonating boxes of gangsas often have ornate, beautiful designs.

Kecer

Men playing cymbals during parade in Bali

The kecer is a simple percussive instrument featuring two pairs of cymbals. The first pair is mounted to a rack, while the second pair is used to strike the mounted pair from above. Similar to the gangsa, the kecer’s rack generally features an ornate design intended to please the eyes of the audience.

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Writer/Musician