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Kulintang notation is a form of cipher notation wherein the top row represents the right hand (R) and the bottom row is the left hand (L), as illustrated in the figure below.

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In contemporary contexts, western notation may be used. Below are two forms of mixed western notation and kulintang cipher notation used by the performer with AYE during PGVIM’s 2018 symposium. In the first form, the pitches can be easily seen:

First example- Book Pongtorn's Lost in t

First example : Book Pongtorn's Lost in the Jungle

The second, however, is closer to kulintang cipher notation wherein the performer can easily see which notes to play with the right hand and/or the left hand. Both of these forms of mixed notations are valid.


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Second example : Jose Buencamino’s Hininga

It is also best to specify the eight selected gongs at the beginning of the piece, as shown below.


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Third Example : Sunghyun Lee’s Dances of the Lights

Pieces for kulintang may also utilize a change of tuning during the piece as long as the piece provides enough time to change. An example of a tuning change is shown below.


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Fourth Example : Book Pongtorn’s Lost in the Jungle

The next example maximizes the improvisatory nature of the kulintang. The composer simply notes that the performer may freely vary the Binalig pattern (a very common Maguindanaon rhythmic mode) for six bars. This, of course, requires the composer and the performer to communicate properly to rightfully achieve the intended execution of the piece.

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Common Kulintang Techniques

It is absolutely interesting and enjoyable for both the composer and performer to use new techniques and find new colors for the kulintang but, at the same time, it is essential that both first know the traditional techniques of the instrument so that they can build on the common techniques of the kulintang that are idioatic to its traditional sound. 


Possible Tunings

A kulintang set consists of 8 gongs laid in a row with no strict tuning. Traditionally, it is often tuned to a pentatonic scale with no strict pitch center (doesn’t matter if it’s major or minor, modal, etc.) These are the pitches of the gongs I own. A composer may choose 8 gongs to work with at a time.  

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available pitches of Harold’s kulintang set -- choose 8 at a time



You may watch videos explaining all of these techniques here:

See the video AYE 2020 | Kulintang Video 1 (Demonstration) for an extended look on the instrument  and the complimentary video AYE 2020 | Kulintang Video 2 (Notation) for tips on notating the instrument with western notation.


Both of these are unlisted videos, please do not share without permission from the owner.

For academic references, you may wish to consult:


Butocan, Aga Mayo. Palabunibunyan: a repertoire of musical pieces for the Maguindanaon kulintangan. Manila: Philippine Women's University, 1987.

Dela Peña, La Verne. Crossing Borders: the Migration of the Mindanaoan Kulintang. Paper presented at the conference “Restoration of Asian Unity: A Search for New Directions in the Development of Asian Traditional Music," UP Balay Kalinaw, April 7, 2015.

Liao, Janine Josephine Arianne A. Rippling Waves: Aga Mayo Butocan and the Transmission of the Maguindanao Kulintang. Unpublished Undergraduate Research Paper, University of the Philippines-Diliman. College of Music, 2013.

Otto, Steven Walter. The Muranao Kakolintang: An Approach to the Repertoire. University of Washington, 1976.

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