saron demung

Also:       demung      

Title: demo: Javanese saron demung. Format: DAT.

Contextual Associations

The saron demung is a metallophone idiophone of the Javanese people of Java, Indonesia. It is a melodic instrument that is part of the Javanese gamelan. The iron gamelan to which the instrument pictured on this page belongs has four saron demung--two for each of the set’s tuning systems, laras sléndro and laras pélog.


The saron demung (‘demung’ for short) is a one-octave metallophone with nearly rectangular keys (wilah) resting over a box resonator (rancakan kijingan). The steel keys on the demung pictured here are made from recycled leaf springs salvaged from trucks. Bronze and brass can and often are used for demung keys (see panerus). Holes for anchoring the keys on its casing 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. The keys rest on the top edge of the resonator’s sideboards, separated from it by cube-shaped cushions made of folded rattan (see detail photo). The keys and their cushions are anchored in place with pins (made from nails) that run through the holes in the keys and the cushions beneath them into the wooden sideboard. One hammer-shaped wooden beater (tabuh) is used to strike the keys.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The demung player sits cross-legged on the floor facing the instrument (the player would be situated on the far side of the pictured instrument facing the camera) holding the stem of the tabuh in his right hand. The keys are stuck with hammer-like blows of the tabuh at the midpoint of their top surface. The keys produce a clear, sustained tone that necessitates a simple damping technique (with the hand not holding the beater). Each of the six or seven keys on a demung is tuned to a specific pitch and the keys are sequenced to produce a scale over a range of about an octave. See Gamelan Besi (Iron) from Central Java for tuning and register information for the demung in this gamelan. Playing the demung necessitates no specialized technique, so all competent gamelan musicians are able to perform it. A performer sounds the skeletal melody (balungan) of a piece (gendhing) or some relatively straightforward elaboration of it. The instrument has a wide dynamic range. Because the beaters are not padded, the produced tones, and especially their attacks, are bright in comparison to other gamelan metallophones that are sounded with padded beaters. 


Kunst argues that a saron-type instrument is depicted in the reliefs of the 8th century CE Borobudur temple, but the image is vague and the identification questionable. It could be argued indirectly that Majapahit-period (14th and 15th centuries CE) ensembles included demung because some archaic Balinese ensembles, which might be viewed as Majapahit inheritances, have them.  The most archaic (pre-16th century) Javanese gamelans in existence (gamelan monggang and gamelan kodhok ngorek) do not include demung, although it is known that a demung was added to one of them in the mid-18th century (Vetter). The gamelan sekati, generally dated to the beginning of the 16th century and still used today, do include demung, so we can say with certainty that the instrument goes back at least to the 1500s CE. However, in all likelihood, the instrument predates that era.

Bibliographic Citations

Kartomi, Margaret. 1984. “Saron,” NGDMI v.3: 299-300.

Kunst, Jaap. 1968. Hindu-Javanese Musical Instruments. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

________. 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 Central 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 shared by multiple sonorous objects - built into instrument

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - direct

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - mallet-shaped hammer/s

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Pitch of sound produced: definite pitch

Sound modification: none


22 in. length (case) 13 in. length (longest key) 2.8 in. width (longest key) .23 in. thickness (longest key) 11.5 in. length (shortest key) 2.5 in. width (shortest key) .27 in. thickness (shortest key)

Primary Materials



Raden Riyo Mangkuasmara

Entry Author

Roger Vetter