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Angklung musicBookmark

Learning area: The Arts
Year level: Year 5, Year 6
Country: Indonesia

This learning sequence explores the iconic Indonesian musical instrument, the angklung. Students will investigate the origins of the angklung, its unique sound, technique and performance style. Students are provided with the opportunity to listen to, create and perform a variety of musical pieces together.

Key inquiry questions

  • What are the key elements of angklung performance?
  • How is music such as the song Bengawan Solo played on an angklung using the musical elements as a guide?
  • How are musical elements manipulated to create an original piece of music for angklung?

Two angklung instrumentsAngklung instruments



Image: Angklung angklung by Kamillo ‪‪‬(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Related resources

Activity 1: Exploring various elements of angklung music

Students learn about the various angklung instruments and view a performance. They listen to angklung music and explore other examples of Indonesian music.

In this activity, you will you will investigate angklung instruments and performance.

Key inquiry question: What are the key elements of an angklung performance?

About angklung music

  1. Discuss what you know about Indonesia and its music.
  2. Break into groups of four students. Your task is to investigate the key elements of an angklung performance using a range of resources.
  3. Each group will prepare a report and present their information to the class. You should take notes while engaging with the resources and use the following questions to structure your report:
    • Where does the angklung come from?
    • How is it made?
    • What sort of sound does it make?
    • Is angklung the only kind of music from Indonesia?
  4. Read the background notes, About angklung instruments, on the right hand side.
  5. View the following film clip Indonesian Angklung created by UNESCO:

  6. Listen to some modern angklung music at ‪‬‬Soundiron.
  7. Explore the internet and/or available texts to find examples of Indonesian music.
  8. Present your report to the class and include a list of the key elements of the angklung performance. These will be used in Activity 3 where you learn how to play and notate angklung to assist with the structure of your own performances.
  9. Finish the activity by discussing as a group what you found interesting about angklung and other forms of Indonesian music.


Video: Indonesian Angklung by UNESCO ‪‪‬‬YouTube Standard Licence
Image: Angklung angklung by Kamillo ‪‪‬(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Activity 2: Bengawan Solo music and song

This activity may be completed with or without an angklung, either as song only, class instruments only, or any combination of these.

Key inquiry question: How is music such as the song Bengawan Solo played on an angklung using the musical elements as a guide?

About Bengawan Solo

  1. Read the information about the Solo River on the right side of this page. Look at the lyrics of the song and discuss why you think a song was written about this river.
  2. View the YouTube clip to the right, Bengawan Solo, which shows how the song can be played.
    Indonesian lyrics English translation
    Bengawan Solo Solo River
    Riwayatmu ini This is your story
    Sedari dulu jadi Have been since earliest times
    Perhatian insani Of sentient attention
    Musim kemarau In the dry season
    Tak seb'rapa airmu Your water is not much
    Di musim hujan, air In the rainy season, water
    Meluap sempai juah Spills reaching far distances
    Mata airmu dari Solo Your water springs forth from Solo
    Terkurung Gunung Seribu Isolated by Mount Seribu
    Mata airmu dari Solo Your water springs forth from Solo
    Terkurung Gunung Seribu Isolated by Mount Seribu
    Air mengalir sampai jauh Water flows to reach far distances
    Akhirnya ke laut Eventually to the sea
    Itu perahu
    Those boats
    Riwayatnya dulu In the past
    Kaum pedagang s'lalu The merchant folk had always
    Naik itu perahu Sailed in those boats

    (Lyrics and translation from ‪‪‬‬‬‬‬‬Wikipedia)

  3. Look carefully at the sheet music to Bengawan Solo. This can be done on the screen or your teacher may give you a paper copy of the sheet music.
  4. Read through the words of the song carefully and then look at the notes. Can you sight-sing the piece? Try breaking the music into smaller sections first, rather than just singing the whole way through. (Tip: It might make it easier if you write the notes in an alternative way on the music sheet for easier understanding by using letter names and/or sol, fa.)
  5. View the YouTube clip again, this time joining in where you can.

The next activities can occur either in small groups, or as a whole class. You are going to rehearse and refine your performance of the Bengawan Solo.

  1. Select your instrument/s and practise making a steady, even tone with your instrument.
  2. Read the notes on the music sheet and play your part when the time comes. Can you make a smooth transition from the note before your part to the note after have finished? (Tip: Concentrate and listen very, very carefully.)
  3. Identify aspects of the musical elements while you are learning the piece of music. When you do this, you'll have a structure to guide your improvement. Otherwise, you might not be sure of what you're trying to improve.
  4. Ask yourself questions about the piece of music as you rehearse. For example:
    • What's happening in the rhythm here?
    • How would I describe the texture of this piece?
    • What if we played that part softer than this part?
  5. Conclude this activity by performing the Bengawan Solo. Consider the best way you can perform the piece. You could perform it as a class concert, for a cultural day celebration, as a performance for younger students, as a video performance or as an exchange with a sister school in the Asia region.

Activity 3: How to play and notate angklung

In this activity you will investigate how angklung music is notated to create and play a piece of your own music.

Key inquiry question: How are musical elements manipulated to create an original piece of music for angklung?

Explore and experiment

  1. Read the information about how to tune and play angklung instruments to find out how this music is notated.
  2. There are many variations of the pentatonic approaches in Indonesian music, but the two that are most often referenced are the slendro and pelog:
  3. Explore and experiment with making similar sounds on your instruments.
  4. Once you are happy with them start creating different combinations of notes.
  5. Once you have chosen the music you like, write it out so that you can test and experiment with your music ideas at a later stage.
  6. Use available computer technologies to compose, sample, sequence and/or arrange music in traditional and fusion styles.
  7. You may wish to add a rock beat to a sample of an angklung piece or you could loop these snippets together.

Test and refine your work

  1. Consider different ways of altering the musical elements to improve and shape your piece of music.
  2. Combine other arts elements to enhance the presentation of your piece; for example, by adding costumes and/or traditional style dancers.
  3. Create ways to have accompaniment parts added to your melodies; for example a drum part or string sounds.
  4. Take turns to select a group from the class to play your composition.
  5. Show the group how to play your piece of music and then rehearse the performance.
  6. You will need to direct the group and guide them through the performance.

Document and share works

  1. Perform your piece of angklung music to a live audience.
  2. Record each performance.
  3. You may wish to film a live performance of your musical piece and upload it to your school's website.
  4. You could or share a 'musical postcard' via email to any partner schools you have in Indonesia, Australia or elsewhere.


Image: Angklung-arumbaKamillo(CC BY-SA 3.0)
The notated version and the associated sound of a slendro were accessed at ‪‪‬‬Wikipedia Commons and ‪‪‬‬Wikipedia.
The notated version and the associated sound of a pelog were accessed at Wikipedia: ‪‪‬‬Pelog on D and ‪‪‬‬Pelog.

Activity 4: Reflection

Discuss how you felt about your learning journey about angklung instruments and music. What did you learn? Were there musical elements you enjoyed or those you didn't feel comfortable with?

Compile a class album of your performances performed throughout the unit, including your own music and the music of others. Create a booklet to accompany this, with students contributing to various parts of the album. Include your learning journey observations.

This can be shared with others in a variety of ways:

  • produce a CD, DVD or film
  • launch a webpage designed to encapsulate the findings and performances of the class
  • launch a MySpace page
  • create and curate a social media group dedicated to sharing original music for angklung.

This learning sequence provides teachers with the opportunity to discuss with students the key elements of angklung performance, develop their cultural understanding and their musicianship.

Musicianship can be seen as a set of skills, techniques, understandings, attitudes and dispositions that allows students to engage in all forms of music making and interaction, and which underpins a person's musical identity. One structure for inquiry learning in music is to equip students with a set of elements of music. This allows them to access, make and think about music with a set of concepts that describe different parts of the music.

There are many theories as to what the elements of music might be, and below is a list that may assist in the enquiry learning of this module:

  • duration refers to the relative length of sounds and silences in music – rhythm, beat, pulse, tempo
  • expressive devices are ways of influencing mood and character of music – dynamics, louds and softs, contrast
  • pitch is the relative frequency of sound – melody, harmony, tonality
  • structure is the form and design of music – repetition, variety
  • texture is the density of sound – layers of sound, melody versus accompaniment
  • timbre is the characteristic quality of sound sources or tone colour – instrument combinations, brightness, mellowness.

Music elements are non-hierarchical, and not every piece of music will have every music element in it.

Activity 1: Exploring various elements of angklung music

At the beginning of the activity, find out what students know about Indonesia and its music. You may also wish to find out what they know about the traditional arts of ‪‪‪‬‬‬Indonesia.

As students begin their exploration of angklung performance, introduce the key music elements and discuss how they relate to this form of music. Students could research and make notes on angklung music that reflect their level of understanding. You may wish to liaise with library staff to assist students with their research.

Activity 2: Bengawan Solo music and song

In this activity students explore the Indonesian and Western notation of the song Bengawan Solo. Teachers should provide paper copies of the music so that students can notate them where appropriate. If angklung instruments are not available, the song can be sung or played using school instruments such as recorders or electronic keyboards.

Activity 3: How to play and notate angklung music

This activity provides an opportunity for students to explore the notation used for Indonesian angklung music. It is important during this activity to compare and contrast Indonesian music notation with Western conventions and discuss students' responses to the differences. Students should be encouraged to experiment with a fusion of sounds to create their own musical works.

Activity 4: Reflection

It is important that students have the opportunity to reflect on their work and the elements of angklung performance. The creation of a class album with an accompanying booklet should be prefaced with discussion about their learning process.

About angklung and gamelan

The traditional arts of Indonesia are extremely diverse, often interrelated and characterised by regional individuality. While this learning sequence focuses on the angklung, this is only a small part of Indonesian music and the other arts.


This is probably the best known of Indonesian music ensembles – an iconic part of Indonesian culture. A gamelan is an ensemble of musicians playing gongs, metallophones, xylophones, cymbals chimes and bamboo instruments such as flutes. The term 'gamelan' is also used to refer to the group of instruments themselves. Each group of instruments is built to work together, and they are tuned to the same pitches.

In contemporary music, gamelan sounds may be sampled and fused with other instruments or electronica. The hypnotic effect of the traditional ensemble reflects many contemporary techniques such as riffs, and styles such as trance. Gamelan music is traditionally not notated and relies on an oral tradition, in the same way as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music is non-written.

In many ways, the gamelan itself is a work of art, often with brilliant carving and decoration, and craftsmanship in the construction of bronze, steel, bamboo and wood instruments, and in the costumes of the performers which may or may not represent a region's groups.

Gamelan music has a hypnotic, shimmering and unforgettable sound. Its unique structure and brilliant sound has influenced many classical music composers since the time Claude Debussy heard gamelan music at the Paris Exhibition of 1889.

Both angklung and gamelan can be a part of performances which include dance, singing, puppetry, drama and other arts.

Background notes have been adapted from Access Asia Primary Teaching and Learning Units (pp. 6875) and the Wikipedia ‪‪‬gamelan entry.

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