Physical description

The celempung is a type of plucked-zither that is set on four legs with the front legs higher than the two rear legs; hence, the instrument slopes downward toward the player. The celempung has thirteen pairs of strings, which are stretched between the tuning pins at the higher and lower ends of the instrument. The strings rest on the bridge that is placed across the sound board (body of the instrument).

Musical, Cultural, and Social Contexts

Celempung is a dispensable instrument in the ensemble. If the celempung player is absent, the ensemble can perform without it. In any event, the sound of celempung enriches the total sound of the ensemble. It is most suitable to be played in smaller gamelan ensemble. There is a small ensemble that primarily consists of two or three celempung, supported by kendhang and gong. Commonly, this ensemble is made up of itinerant musicians.

Historical background

Although evidence of its existence can be found in the early period of Javanese history, plucked-zither type instruments have never had wide distribution in Java. It seems that this instrument never achieved an important position in the development of Javanese music. The limited use of celempung in today’s full gamelan ensemble supports this assertion.

Playing technique

The celempung is played with thumbnails, while the fingers damp the sound of the strings.


Java, Indonesia


314.122 (chordophone) True board zither (the plane of the strings is parallel with that of the string bearer) with resonator box (the resonator is made from slats) (box zither)


Javanese gamelan


Sumarsam (2004)



“Celempung,” Wesleyan University Virtual Instrument Museum 2.0, accessed April 13, 2024, https://wesomeka.wesleyan.edu/vim2/items/show/13.