kenong rèntèng

Title: demo: Javanese kenong renteng. Format: DAT.

Contextual Associations

The kenong rèntèng is a metallophone idiophone of the Javanese people of Java, Indonesia. It is a phrase-marking instrument that is part of the Javanese gamelan. The iron gamelan to which the instrument pictured on this page belongs has two kenong rèntèng--one for each of the set’s tuning systems, laras sléndro and laras pélog. The kenong rèntèng is viewed as an inexpensive, and sonically inferior, substitute for a full set of kenong jaler.


The six keys of this kenong rèntèng are made from recycled sheet iron (besi) and are of nearly identical length. Pairs of holes to receive the rope by which they are suspended are drilled at one-quarter of a key’s total length from each end, which are nodal (dead) points in the mode of vibration for rectangular keys. A boss/knob is located at the center of each key. The keys are suspended over a teakwood casing (rancak) and above cylindrical tube resonators, one for each of the instrument’s six keys, made of PVC tubing. Although externally the resonators are all the same length, internally they are stopped with a wooden disc so that each has a unique operative length. Suspension supports made of wood are located between each key. A single length of rope runs through holes in each support, through the end boards of the case, and through all the holes in the keys. Two wooden stick beaters with rope padding (tabuh) are used to strike the keys.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

A single performer seated on the ground plays the instrument; from the player’s perspective, the lower-pitched keys are to the left, the higher-pitched keys to the right. Holding one beater in each hand and striking the keys on their boss, the performer fulfills two phrase-marking roles with this instrument. The lowest-pitched key fills the function of the ‘kethuk,’ the other keys that of the ‘kenong jaler’. Each key is tuned to a specific pitch and the keys are sequenced to produce a pentatonic scale over a range of one octave. See the ensemble entry Gamelan Besi (Iron) from Central Java for tuning and register information for the kenong rèntèng in this gamelan. When struck, the keys produce a clear tone that has a sharp attack with a moderately fast decay. The instrument is played at a constant dynamic level.


Nothing is known for certain of the origins and history of this instrument. However, because it includes the full range of pitches covered by the kenong jaler in a modern gamelan, it is unlikely that it predates that late-19th century instrumentation innovation. Bronze gamelans of that era did include single-octave keyed instruments with bosses (slentho and saron slenthem), and it would be but a small morphological leap to get from them to the kenong rèntèng. Some bronze gamelans also have as a substitute instrument for the gong ageng the gong kemodhong, which consists of two large keys each with a central boss that are suspended over a common resonating chamber.

Bibliographic Citations

“Kenong.” 1984. NGDMI v.2: 376.

Kunst, Jaap. 1973. Music in Java. 3rd ed. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

Pickvance, Richard. 2005. A Gamelan Manual. London: Jaman Mas Books.

Vetter, Roger. 2001. "More than Meets the Eye and Ear: Gamelans and Their Meaning in a Javanese Palace," Asian Music 32/2: 41-92.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: Southeast Asia

Nation: Indonesia

Formation: Javanese

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.222 idiophone--set of percussion plaques of different pitch are combined to form a single instrument, struck with a non-sonorous object (hand, stick, striker)

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: block - oblong bar

Sound objects per instrument: multiple sounded discretely

Resonator design: separate resonating space/s attuned to pitch/es of sonorous object/s - built into instrument

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - direct

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - partially padded stick/s

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Pitch of sound produced: definite pitch

Sound modification: none


36 in. length (case) 11 in. length (longest key) 4 in. width (longest key) .11 in. thickness (longest key) 10 in. length (shortest key) 3.8 in. width (shortest key) .16 in. thickness (shortest key)

Primary Materials

tubing - PVC

Entry Author

Roger Vetter