Gamelan may be played traditionally, such as in a traditional Javanese gamelan performance. It can also be played in a contemporary-fusion style or to perform new compositions.
Learning gamelan is a communal experience. Gamelan is not difficult to learn, although it takes a long time to master the skills. As a group experience, gamelan conveys a sense of community. Gamelan groups operate on an “open-door” concept, accommodating the needs and availability of their members. Regular rehearsals are required before a performance. Nowadays, music notation is used in teaching, although gamelan is traditionally taught orally and aurally.
Multi-cultural influences in gamelan include the incorporation of Malay and Chinese folk tunes. Some schools have adopted the international system for tuning the gamelan ensemble than the traditional Javanese slendro or pelog tuning systems so the orchestra can incorporate both Southeast Asian and Western instruments.
Gamelan instruments cannot be purchased in just any music shop. They are usually custom-made in Indonesia. A set of instruments is considered by the Javanese to be a pusaka, or heirloom, that should be treated with care. In Singapore, gamelan musician Mr Faezan Redwan instructs his students to walk around and never over the instruments, partly as a sign of respect and partly for safety.