RS transparentthe official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

  • Button Gongs

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | May 18, 2023

    The terms “gong” and “tam-tam” are often used interchangeably. Technically, gongs have an identifiable pitch while tam-tams are indefinite-pitched instruments having a wider spectrum of overtones. 

    A gong with a raised “boss” in its center is often called a button gong, and such instruments are prominent in Javanese gamelan orchestras.

    21 Inch Gong

    21" Thai button gong, with etched face and mallet. On loan from Randall Eyles
    Button Gong

    Detailed view of a button gong, showing the deep side flange, raised center boss, and ornamented face and side. Donated by Keith Aleo

    Seven Gongs

    Set of seven button gongs from the Philippines, ranging in diameter from 6" to 7 1/2", displayed around a highly-ornate 14" button gong. Donated by Keith Aleo


    Learn more about percussion history and historical instruments in the Rhythm! Discovery Center online collection, always available to the public at

  • Angklung

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Apr 13, 2023
    Angklung RDC

    (L to R): Bass Angklung, Deagan Aluminum Chime, Chromatic Bamboo Angklung

    Angklung are idiophonic instruments native to Indonesia. Tradi- tionally, large numbers of them are shaken for ceremonial dances. They can also be played by a group of musicians, each of whom has one instrument of differing pitch in each hand. The entire group performs a single melody in much the same way as a handbell choir, with each performer shaking an angklung at the appropriate time in the melody. 

    Each angklung consists of two or three bamboo tubes of differing lengths tuned in octaves. The tubes are mounted in a frame so that a slot on each tube aligns into a cross-piece that strikes the tube when the instrument is shaken. Carl Orff included unpitched angklung in his “Catulli Carmina” and “Weihnachtsspiel,” and scored “Prometheus” for two angklung pitched in G-flat and B-flat. 

    In the early 20th century, J.C. Deagan developed an American version, called Organ Chimes or Aluminum Chimes, constructed from metal. When mounted on a rack, which allowed one or two people to perform solo pieces, Deagan’s Organ Chimes became a popular novelty instrument for vaudeville and radio shows. 

    Donated by Emil Richards
    One of several large bass angklung owned by the PAS Museum, this instrument is 45 inches long and sounds the pitch F. Note that these tubes are not slotted and are sounded by striking the large curved section of the frame as the instru- ment is shaken. 

    Donated by Emil Richards
    A single J.C. Deagan Aluminum Chime. This is distinguished from Deagan’s higher quality Organ Chimes, which have four sounding tubes instead of three, although they are in reality the same instrument. This chime is 9 1/2 inches long and tuned to E-flat. These were available in mounted, chromatic sets of up to 49 chimes, with a range of four octaves. 

    Donated by Emil Richards
    A set of chromatic bamboo angklung, mounted upside-down, so that they can be played by one person. These angklung range in length from 19 inches to 32 inches. 

    Learn more about percussion history and historical instruments in the Rhythm! Discovery Center online collection, always available to the public at

  • Deluxe Neo Classic Concert Grand Vibraphone

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Feb 13, 2023

    Neo Classic Vibraphone

    The Deluxe Neo Classic Concert Grand Vibraphone was designed and built by Clair Omar Musser around 1941 for competition in the International Paris Musical Instrument Exhibition. It is the only one ever built and remains in  excellent condition, including the bars, which are still perfectly in tune.
    This three-octave F–F vibraphone has the narrow steel bars used frequently by early vibraphone makers. The bars are longer than standard bars to allow for “incomparable sostenuto” (longer ring). Though the gold-colored plating is common now, it was less common when Musser made this instrument.
    The ten lowest natural bars have holes or indentations drilled in them to accommodate the posts that hold the accidental bars. This was necessary because of the combination of the unique twin damper design and the need to have the accidental bars overlap the natural bars. The modern vibraphone is dampened by a single dampener bar because the accidentals are flush (or flat) with the naturals. The Neo Classic vibraphone has one dampener for each row of bars.
    Musser advertised the Neo Classic as being an “ultra-modern design, black and gold with simulated white leather ends.” The instrument was designed to be very portable. It breaks down into two parts: the bars and resonators housed in the top portion of the frame, and the supporting, lower portion of the frame. The front grill panel hinges backward and locks to the main part of the frame.
    Perhaps the most unique feature of the Neo Classic is its resonator design. The resonators for the lowest six accidentals and nine naturals are made of metal and are bent at right angles to keep the vibraphone as compact as possible. The upper resonators are made of heavy-duty cardboard tubes, possibly to keep the instrument lighter in weight.
    The instrument was donated to the PAS Museum by Joel Leach.

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Indianapolis, IN 46204
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