Comments on A Gamelan Manual


From the blurb on the back of the book

An immensely valuable resource for any serious student of Javanese gamelan, packed with useful information and challenging ideas

Alec Roth, composer, founder of the
Royal Festival Hall Gamelan Programme
and the South Bank Gamelan Players

As very much a recent newcomer to playing in and directing a Central Javanese gamelan—trying to get up to some sort of functional performing and directorial speed within less than a year—I’ve been obliged to gather pragmatic and applicable information from many sources. Javanese gamelan scholars and teachers present an extraordinary continuum of points of view on nearly any theoretical and practical subject.

Richard Pickvance has done us all a great service in assembling, synthesizing, and evaluating both theoretical and practical sources as they apply to the understanding and performance of this (as the author says) “addictive” music. Having this work available to me when I embarked upon my quest would have made my work immeasurably easier.

The author seems to have very perceptively put his finger on many of the “typical” challenges learners face in striving to understand (including, of course, the differences between the Yogya and Solo “dialects”) and function within this performative world: he knows the questions many of us ask, and patiently and empathetically lays out a variety of possible answers and solutions for playing (as he says) “acceptably.” His “Tips and Tricks”, practical suggestions to address these problems, are very insightful and helpful. In asking excellent questions and providing such a nuanced and thoughtful variety of answers, he helps us respect the richness of the tradition all the more, while avoiding any impression of “oversimplification.”

Completeness and clarity, both in writing style and presentational organization (see, for example, the very user-friendly marginal notes) are the hallmarks of this very admirable and sorely needed work.’

Ted Solís, professor of ethnomusicology,
founder of the Arizona State University gamelan program,
editor of Performing Ethnomusicology: Teaching
and Representation in World Music Ensembles


From a review by Tim Byard-Jones in Seleh Notes

… great effort has been made to present complex concepts in creative ways – the illustrations are a model of clarity, and the book overall is clearly structured and beautifully designed … a very useful contribution to the available literature on gamelan.  


From other readers

How starving the gamelan world was for a book like yours.

JG, Montreal

I'm in awe of what you have achieved with this book.

Prof. GH, Brisbane

… an enormous amount of information … very impressive

PF, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

I highly recommend this book, altho a little pricey ($48). For once, an encyclopedic approach to the various gamelan topics of interest primarily to the gamelan group member (i.e. not a doctoral committee, ethnomusicologist, or instrumental specialist). A tremendous amount of information for the beginner and intermediate student, notable for its breadth and detail -- including notation, laras, pathet, irama, bentuk, ALL instruments, garap, ensemble configuration, etc. not to mention handy tips and notes on a variety of topics (javanese terms for pitches and instrument parts, charts of hand positions for rebab...). Fleshed out a lot of things I almost kind of knew; also contains stuff I am not yet ready to digest. Generally easy to read if you are comfortable with basic gamelan vocabulary. The ideal textbook for the serious beginner or intermediate student. Central Java only; clearly differentiates between Yogya and Solo. Comfortable making distinctions but also identifies fuzzy areas as such. Well written, organized, illustrated, and typeset by Richard Pickvance ….

(web review), Oregon

Your book is truly amazing and I cannot put it down.

IR, Australia

It is a "beyond the basic" introduction to Central Javanese karawitan, which would be very difficult if not impossible for a Javanese gamelan scholar to write, because, among other reasons, it is devoid of regional bias, but it includes discussions on the point of views of different Javanese teachers and "schools," as well as comparison with Western musical practice for those who are more familiar with Western music. It deals, among other things, with pathetan, lagon, ada-ada, kawin, bonangan, soran, imbal kinthilan, imbal saron wayang, imbal demung, imbal banyakan, different gaya of peking elaboration, as well as an instruction on how to derive bonang panembung part (not just play every other stroke of the saron). I enjoy the book very much. Thank you for writing it, …

HS, Javanese professional musician

This is to thank you for your marvellous Gamelan Manual. It is the book I've been waiting for since I started studying about Javanese music through Kunst's, Hood's, Beckers's books.

I think that you have applied the correct "hands on" approach, the perspective of the musician and the composer. I keep reading on and on because the matter is dense but so clear and rewarding. All gamelan community should be thankful to you.

JE, composer, Canada

This book is a fine detailed explanation of Javanese gamelan music, suitable both for beginners and for more experienced listeners and players alike. The descriptions of the various instruments, their functions in the gamelan orchestra, and related cultural aspects are all very well presented.  ***** rating

MG, on

Richard Pickvance's book "A Gamelan Manual" should be required reading for anyone playing or attempting to understand one of the world's most beautiful musics--central Javanese royal court gamelan music. The book is presented in incredible detail.  ***** rating

DM, on

An amazing book from which you can easily take as much information as you need. It's not too complex for the complete beginner, yet also has a huge amount of info for the dedicated performer.

Nice clear layout and some very important cultural differences explained for Western readers.

Thanks!  ***** rating

AC, on



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