In Bali, sheet music hardly exists. Balinese gamelan players know their music by heart and so do not need a score. Non-Balinese, on the other hand, learn to play the gamelan more quickly if they can read the music from paper. However, not everyone can read a Western style music score. 

For this reason I use a modified version of the Javanese method of writing down music, which uses numbers. The numbers stand for the notes (1= ding, 2= dong, 3= deng, 5= dung, 6= dang). 

Pelog scale

Now all my scores are of melodies from the repertoire of the Gong Kebyar and Semar Pegulingan orchestras. These orchestras are always tuned in pelog (in Bali, only the Gender Wayang ensemble is tuned in slendro) and pelog is a seven-tone scale. But as these orchestras leave out the 4 and the 7, in my notations you will only find the numbers 1. 2. 3. 5 and 6.


Jublag (or jegog) and calung have five keys, tuned 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6. The gangsa and kantilan have ten, so these instruments span two octaves. Their keys are tuned 2, 3, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 1. In order to differentiate between the lower and the higher octave, my notation underscores the lower notes (2, 3 etc.).


Using numbers instead of symbols does not allow me to give the duration of the note at the same time, as with the symbols (whole, half, quarter-note etc.) of Western musical notation. Instead, I use the timeline. At the top and bottom of each page you find a row of eight dots. If you draw lines between the dots at the top and the bottom, this will give you eight vertical lines. This is the beat of the music (incidentally, this is where the empluk, the “beat-keeper” will play). Within these beats, the space between the notes gives you the moment a note is played. The points I use between the notes are for easier reading: I use them to make clear that an instrument does not play a note where you might expect one. Sometimes, the expected note may be shifted. That, too, is indicated by a point. Thus, 2 3 5 and 2 .35 will sound different.


The gong-line in the scores gives the interpunction by the various types of gong. The t stands for kelentong, the P for kempur and if only one large gong is used, the G stands for gong. Where two gongs are used, as in most melodies for the topeng-play, L signifies the - slightly higher-pitched - gong lanang, W the lower-pitched gong wadon.


For the reong, the letters L and R mean the left- and right-hand player of a seven-gong reong, respectively. In a twelve-gong, four-player reong and counting from the lowest to the highest notes, the players number 1 and 3 are the left-hand players, players number 2 and 4 the right-hand ones. 

In reong notation, p stands for pinggir - rim. The left-hand player plays the rim of gong 5, using the wooden ends of his mallets. The right-hand player does the same on gong 2. At the | sign, the player plays two gongs simultaneously. The left-hand player plays gongs 3 and 6, the right-hand player plays gongs 1 and 3.

Kendang strokes

The kendang may produce a variety of sounds. In the music scores these are represented by letters.

D - dag (wadon) or dug (lanang; pronounce “doog”). The four fingers of the right hand hit the skin between rim and center, or the panggul hits the center. The left drumhead is not muted.

T - tet (wadon) or tut (lanang; pronounce “toot”). As with dag/dug, but the left hand mutes the left head.

P - pung (“poong”). The left hand strikes with outstretched index and little finger. while the right hand half-mutes the right drumhead with the index and little finger. 

p - pak. A sharp slap by the four fingers of the left hand. The right drumhead is completely muted by the full right hand.

t - teng. The highest sound the kendang can make. The middle, fourth and little fingers of the left hand strike the drumhead at the rim; the right drumhead is muted.


In these notations you will not find an indication of the overall speed. Quite a lot of the music is for accompanying dances, and the speed will depend on the mood of the dancer. To get an idea of the speed, you should listen to recordings.

Downloadable notations (all PDF-s):

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