Girish Mahajan (Editor)


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Suling, an Indonesian/Philippine flute made from bamboo

A suling or Seruling is a Southeast Asian bamboo ring flute especially in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore. It is used in gamelan ensembles.


Suling, an Indonesian/Philippine flute made from bamboo

Depending on the regional genre, a suling can be tuned into different scales. Sulings can be found in the following regions:

Suling, an Indonesian/Philippine flute made from bamboo

  • Borneo Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia
  • Bali, Indonesia
  • Java (Central Java), Indonesia
  • Maluku, Indonesia
  • Sunda (West Java), Indonesia
  • Malay Peninsular, Malaysia
  • Mindanao, Philippines
  • Sulu, Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Construction

    Suling, an Indonesian/Philippine flute made from bamboo

    Sulings are made mainly of "tamiang" bamboo (Schizostachyum blumei, Nees), a long, thin-walled bamboo tube. The mouthpiece of the suling is circled with a thin band made of rattan near a small hole.

    Playing a suling

    There are two factors that affect a fine suling's tone:

    1. Fingering position.
    2. Speed of the airflow blown by the mouth.
    Suling, an Indonesian/Philippine flute made from bamboo

    The fingering position changes the wavelength of sound resonance inside the suling's body. Depending on the distance of nearest hole to the suling's head, different notes can be produced. The airflow speed also can modify the tone's frequency. A note with twice frequency can be produced mostly by blowing the air into suling's head's hole with twice speed.

    Suling, an Indonesian/Philippine flute made from bamboo

    In the music of Bali the suling is an essential instrument and it appears to be similar to other forms of Javanese suling. The way it is played, however, sets it apart from other forms of Indonesian suling. Namely, it is necessary for the performers to use the technique circular breathing in order to create a highly strung sense of constancy that continues even at moments of dramatic climax by the percussive Gamelan instruments.

    Special effects

    Suling, an Indonesian/Philippine flute made from bamboo

  • Slur, is dynamically changing note from one tone position to another position without stopping the airflow. For example, changing from 5 to 4, 4 to 5, 2 to 1 etc.
  • Puruluk, (Sundanese term) is an effect produced by a-repeatedly-fast opening-and-closing of suling's hole by one or more fingers. The produced sound is similar to voice of a pigeon. The easiest puruluk can be produced by opening and closing mid-finger as shown by the following picture:
  • In Sundanese technique, there are other known effects such as wiwiw, keleter, lelol, gebos, petit, jengkat, and betrik.
  • Sundanese suling

    In the Sundanese region, a suling is used as

  • one of the main instruments in kacapi suling
  • accompanying instrument in Gamelan Degung, Tembang Sunda
  • Tuning

    Sulings can have either 4 holes or 6 holes. The 6-holed Sundanese suling can play at least three different scales.

  • Pelog Degung: da mi na ti la da [1 2 3 4 5 1],
    nearly corresponds to do si sol fa mi do [1' 7 5 4 3 1] in the Western diatonic scale.
  • Madenda or Sorog: da mi na ti la da [1 2 3 4 5 1],
    nearly similar to fa mi do si la fa [4’ 3’ 1’ 7 6 4] in the Western diatonic scale.
  • Salendro: da mi na ti la da [1 2 3 4 5 1],
    nearly similar to re do la sol fa re [2’ 1’ 6 5 4 2] in the Western diatonic scale.
  • Mandalungan: a rarely used scale
  • The following picture shows the fingering for a six-holed Sundanese suling.

    And below is the example of 'more realistic' view of finger positioning for the pelog degung scale.

    Famous Sundanese suling players

  • Endang Sukandar, 1996 2nd Winner of International Festival of Wind Instruments in Seoul, South Korea
  • Burhan Sukarma
  • Uking Sukri
  • Bang Saat(Additional player of Dewa Budjana, He cames from kalimantan) He also called as "saat"
  • The Suling can be many sizes

    Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore suling

    In Brunei, the suling today is played during a cultural festival and other events together with other Bruneian traditional instruments especially the Gulintangan. While in East Malaysia, especially in Sabah with a wide variety of aerophone, the instrument is played by all the ethnic groups in the state. In Sarawak, the suling is mostly played by men in a longhouse.

    Maguindanaon suling

    The Maguindanaon suling is the smallest bamboo flute of the Maguindanaon and the only one classified as a ring-flute (the other two bamboo flutes of the Maguindanaon, the tumpong and the palendag are both lip-valley flutes). Air is passed through the suling via a blowing hole found at the bottom of the instrument and pitch is controlled via five finger holes on the top and one finger hole located on the bottom. Traditionally only the palendag was commonly played but because of the difficult nature of playing the palendag, both the tumpong and the suling have come to replace the palendag as the Maguindanaon’s most common aerophones.

    Also called suling by the Tausug, Yakan, B'laan, and Tiruray. Other names for the suling include the lantey (Ata), kinsi (Bukidnon), dagoyong (Higanon) and a babarak (Palawan)


    Suling Wikipedia