Also:       gendèr panembung      

Title: demo: Javanese slenthem. Format: DAT.

Contextual Associations

The slenthem is a metallophone idiophone of the Javanese people of Java, Indonesia. It is a melodic instrument that is part of a Javanese gamelan. The iron gamelan to which the instrument pictured on this page belongs has two slenthem--one for each of the set’s tuning systems, laras sléndro and laras pélog. The slenthem is one of the few gamelan instruments that in times past might be played by women. A stylized representation of the mythological garuda bird decorates the caps of the instrument’s end boards (see the first detail image).


The slenthem (also called gendèr panembung) is a single-octave metallophone with seven thin rectangular keys (wilah) suspended by rope (pluntur) and posts (sanggan) over tuned tube resonators (bumbu). The keys of this slenthem are made from recycled sheet iron (besi), but brass and bronze are also commonly used metals for Javanese metallophones. Graduated in size, the keys are arranged in a horizontal plane from the longest, widest and thinnest one at one end to the shortest, narrowest, and thickest one at the other end. Holes to receive the rope by which a key is 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. The keys are suspended over a teakwood casing (rancak) and above cylindrical tube resonators made from galvanized sheet metal, one for each of the instrument’s seven keys. Each resonator is tuned to the frequency of the key above it by inserting a circular wooden plug. Although externally the resonators are all the same length, internally they are stopped so that each has a unique operative length. Most of the resonators are topped with caps that have central holes of varying diameters; this makes it possible for them to resonate sound waves that are longer than their physical length. Posts made from buffalo horn are located between each key. A single length of rope runs through the eyelet at the top of each post, through the end boards of the case, and through all the holes in the keys.  The rope loops around a short bamboo pin on the bottom side of each hole. One wooden stick beater with a padded-disc head (tabuh) is used to strike the bars.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

A single performer seated on the ground plays the instrument; from the player’s perspective, the longer, lower-pitched keys are to the left, the shorter, higher-pitched keys to the right. Striking the keys near their middle with the beater, the performer sounds the skeletal melody (balungan) of a piece (gendhing). Each key 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 slenthem in this gamelan. The instrument is played at a constant dynamic level. When struck, the keys produce a clear, sustained tone that necessitates a simple damping technique. Because the beaters’ rims are padded, the produced tones, and especially their attacks, are relatively mellow in comparison to metallophones that are sounded with hard beaters. Performing the slenthem necessitates no specialized technique, so all competent gamelan musicians are able to perform it.


The slenthem was most likely developed in the latter half of the 19th century as a functional replacement for the saron slentem (or slentho), an instrument still found in some 18th an 19th century gamelans but whose use has been usurped by the slenthem. Structurally the slenthem can be seen as simply an enlarged version of roughly the lowest octave of the gendèr barung given its own casing. 

Bibliographic Citations

Kartomi, Margaret. 1984. “Slenthem,” NGDMI v.3: 402.

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

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


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 - stick/s with padded disc end/s

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Pitch of sound produced: definite pitch

Sound modification: none


33.3 in. length (case) 13.1 in. length (longest key) 3.8 in. width (longest key) .1 in. thickness (longest key) 11.3 in. length (shortest key) 3.6 in. width (shortest key) .16 in. thickness (shortest key)

Primary Materials

metal - sheet


Raden Riyo Mangkuasmara

Entry Author

Roger Vetter