Balinese Gamelan Tuning

Balinese music has another twist, the tuning of the gamelans themselves, as well as the internal tunings of each pair of instruments. As a musician from the west studying violin for many years Richard at first found himself wanting to tune the instruments until he realised the pulsating sounds of the gamelans are produced by these tunings within the gamelan."The difference in pitch between two similar instruments,(the male and female) in the gamelan is very precise and the effect is dependant on this precision."--Richard
Each gamelan is painstakingly tuned by gong smiths, filed and hammered, to a five or seven note scale. Without a reference to go by, the gamelans of Bali are not necessarily tuned to the same pitch. Therefore each gamelan is unique with its own spirit.

Modes of Ensembles:

The Pelog Gamelans: (See Pelog)

Gong Kebyar ---- Gamelan gong kebyar instruments have five keys in the pelog selisir mode

Gong Gede -------- Pelog

Gamelan Semara Pegulingam ---- 7 tone Pelog

Gamelan Gambuh ----- 7 tone pelog

Gamelan Gong ---- The scale is five tone Pelog

Pelegongan ( Legong Music )------------ is a Pelog gamelan

Beleganjur - (the music played during processions)-------hypnotic Pelog music


Semar Pegulingan ------ . The scale is seven tone pelog. From the addition of two tones to the scale, many more different modes are possible. The mode of any given section of the music will only use five of the tones at a time, creating the illusion of "key change" when one of those tones is substituted for another

Jegog ---------- --. is tuned to an unusual and haunting 4-tone scale which, it is speculated, was derived from tones 2, 3, 5, and 7 of the full 7-tone pelog

Gong Saron --------- The scale is seven tones

Gender Panerus

Pelog Barung

Pelog Demung

Pelog Panerus

Pelog Slentem

Suling with five finger-holes are used for playing pelog scales.

The Slendro Gamelans: ( see Slendro )

Gender Wayang -------------- The scale of Gender Wayang has five pitches per octave and is called Slendro. Slendro, although theoretically an equidistant scale, consists of roughly whole steps and minor thirds. The specific tuning is unique to each set of instruments but may be very loosely approximated by the "black keys" of the piano.

Angklung ------------- usually uses only four tones of the Slendro scale. There are reportedly Angklung with up to nine slendro tones but they more typically have only up to six. Four tones is the standard.


Typical Angklung gangsa with four tones

Tiklik ------------ The scale is five tone Slendro, tuned a little sweeter than Angklung or Gender Wayang

Gender Panerus
Slendro Barung
Slendro Demung
Slendro Panerus
Slendro Slentem

Gandrung ---------

Suling with four finger-holes are used for playing slendro scales.

Other Tunings of Gamelan:

Gambuh and Gong Suling - flute ensembles -------- Balinese flutes, or Suling (Soo-Ling), , can play all of the modes well. Hence, the Suling becomes a focal point in any discussion of Balinese scales, however, Sulings with Five finger-holes for pelog system and four for slendro system.

The pre-Majapahit style is called Kidung (Kee-Doong)

Kidung also has it's own set of scales and modes. Although they are sometimes sonically similar to those of Kekawin, the scales are derived from a unique seven tone system. The intervals of this seven tone scale differ somewhat from the seven tone scale of Semar Pegulingan and that of Java.

Salunding ----- use a seven tone scale close to the Kekawin scales of the Majapahit empire.


The seven tones of the selonding

Gambang ---------- The most visible of the Kidung Gamelan ( Pre-Majapahit ) is the bamboo xylophone ensemble known as Gambang. But the spacing of the forked mallets correspond to the placement of the bars to produce parallel intervals, essentially fourths and fifths


The unusual layout of the Gambang, note the forked mallets to coincide with the spacings of the bamboo slats.



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