The gambang (depicted below) is the only instrument in the gamelan with wooden (usually teak) keys. The sound is very similar to the xylophone, of which it is a direct relative: no tubular resonators, no sustain. The difference: no ‘black’ keys; all tones are laid out in one row, so missing the right key in playing is much easier than on a western instrument. Originally, the gambang is played with mallets ending in a small padded disk. The stem is made of bull-horn, which usually deforms after a while. In any case, the bull-horn sticks sway way too much to be able to play accurately, especially in higher speeds, so we use western vibraphone mallets instead.
The gambang has the largest range in the entaire gamelan: almost four octaves. Though the lowest octave lacks in penetrating power, the gambang is usually audible, even in tutti passages, thanks to its different sound color.
Slendro & pelog
Suling and Rebab
If you want to include suling or rebab in the ensemble, the best thing to do is to confer with the player. Sulings differ very much in size and character, and are usually chosen to the players taste and ability. Rebab playing is a matter of personal style and interpretation of tradition, so one should compose with the individual player in mind.
In addition, two kinds of zithers are part of the instrument set: a small box like instrument called siter, and a larger one, looking a bit like a harp turned on its side, called celempung. Thus far, Ensemble Gending has never used these instruments, and there are no players who really know how to play them.