.Philippine Kulintang Existing and New Techniques

Existing Techniques

1.Single stroke
2. Double stroke
3. Rim shot
4. Muted/Damped
5. Grace notes
6. Hitting two gongs with one stick (stick held horizontally) 
7. Sliding the stick from one gong to another (stick is on horizontal position)- this position could make an easier glissando effect compared to the one where the stick is vertical. 

New Techniques

1. Changing Mallets
2. Wrapping the gongs with another material
3. Placing the gongs beside each other and making it ring
4. Altering the gongs at the middle of the piece
5. Not following ascending 
6. Using the frame
7. Playing the gongs upside down
8. Alternative as Kulintang gongs (Bottles, Containers, etc)

Changing Mallets

Normally the Kulintang is played using a pair of softwood sticks. For a change of sound, I have tried using yarn mallets resulting in a softer sound. I’ve also tried drumsticks for the Kulintang. With the form and material of the stick it tends to slide off the gong easily and it produces a really sharp sound.

Wrapping the Gongs with Another Material

Using this technique actually gives the composer a lot of colors because you can wrap each gong with a different material. In my experience, I tried wrapping some of my gongs with bubble wraps and the others with paper. With the added material to the gongs, it produces an additional sound together with the then subtle sound of the Kulintang.

Placing the Gongs Touching Each Other, Making Both Gongs Ring

Normally in playing the Kulintang, we make sure that the gongs have a small gap between each other so that there would be no other ringing sound. But placing the gongs touching each other is another way of creating more sound. Imagine using this technique with sticks played horizontally? It would create a blanket of vibrations. 

Altering the Gongs at the Middle of the Piece

For most contemporary pieces I’ve played. Composers, in my experience, tend to look for a variety of tunings for the Kulintang. Given that the Kulintang is a set of (8) eight gongs in a row, changing gongs at the middle of the piece would become the solution for this. Changing gongs would only require some time depending on how many gongs is there to change.

Not Following the Ascending Scale

Traditionally the Kulintang gongs are arranged from left to right, the lowest to the highest pitched gong. This technique is usually applied when there is a drastic change of key. So the arrangement would be gongs 1-4 is for one key, 1 being the lowest and 4 the highest and then it would start again from a low pitch at gong number 5 going up to 8.

Using the Frame/Sticks

In contrast to the sharp-ringing sound of the Kulintang. Hitting the sticks with each other or the frame of the Kulintang creates a more wooden sound. 

Playing the Gongs Upside Down

Placing the gongs upside down on the rack and hitting it with along the rim creates a resonating sound that somehow produces overtones. The production of overtones are actually inconsistent depending on the gongs you have.

Alternative as Kulintang Gongs

Although I have seen this technique done by the natives of Mindanao, using bottles as a substitute for the Kulintang gongs. This technique has been quite personal for me because of the given Covid-19 pandemic that we are in right now. When the schools closed down during the lockdown we left our instruments at the university and only a few of us had our own Kulintang set. That is why I thought of a way to at least come up with our own instruments so we can still play in our houses. 

In a video project I made, I substituted the Kulintang ensemble with things that you can find inside your home like pots, cans and water containers. Originally my plan was to also substitute the Kulitang itself but since there were students who had their Kulitangs with them, I opted to use the Kulitang instead. 


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Katheleen Nicole Cahis

University of the Philippines College of Music,