saron peking

Also:       peking      

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

Contextual Associations

The saron peking 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 two saron peking--one for each of the set’s tuning systems, laras sléndro and laras pélog.


The saron peking (peking for short) is a one-octave metallophone with nearly rectangular keys (wilah) resting over a box resonator (rancakan kijingan). The iron keys on the peking pictured here are made from recycled sheet metal salvaged from an unknown source. Bronze and brass can and often are used for peking 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 peking 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 peking is tuned to a specific pitch and the keys are sequenced to produce a scale over a range of about an octave. See the ensemble entry Gamelan Besi (Iron) from Central Java for tuning and register information for the peking in this gamelan. Playing the peking 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 is depicted in the reliefs of the 8th century CE Borobudur temple, but the image is vague and the identification questionable. The most archaic (pre-16th century) Javanese gamelans in existence (gamelan monggang and gamelan kodhok ngorek) do not include the peking, although it is known that a peking 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 peking, so we can say with certainty that the instrument goes back at least to the 1500s CE. 19th century and earlier non-ceremonial and non-archaic gamelans in the possession of one Javanese cultural center (the Sultan’s Palace of Yogyakarta) typically did not include a peking in their original instrumentations; in the course of the 20th century some of these gamelans have had a peking added to them.

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


15.8 in. length (case) 8.8 in. length (longest key) 2 in. width (longest key) .12 in. thickness (longest key) 8 in. length (shortest key) 1.3 in. width (shortest key) .12 in. thickness (shortest key)

Primary Materials



Raden Riyo Mangkuasmara

Entry Author

Roger Vetter