Depending on the regional genre, a suling can be tuned into different scales. Sulings can be found in the following regions:
- Borneo Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia
- Bali, Indonesia
- Java (Central Java), Indonesia
- Maluku, Indonesia
- Sunda (West Java), Indonesia
- Malay Peninsular, Malaysia
- Mindanao, Philippines
- Sulu, Philippines
Playing a suling
There are two factors that affect a fine suling's tone:
- Fingering position.
- Speed of the airflow blown by the mouth.
The fingering position changes the wavelength of sound resonance inside the suling's body. Depending on the distance of nearest hole to the suling's head, different notes can be produced. The airflow speed also can modify the tone's frequency. A note with twice frequency can be produced mostly by blowing the air into suling's head's hole with twice speed.
In the music of Bali the suling is an essential instrument and it appears to be similar to other forms of Javanese suling. The way it is played, however, sets it apart from other forms of Indonesian suling. Namely, it is necessary for the performers to use the technique circular breathing in order to create a highly strung sense of constancy that continues even at moments of dramatic climax by the percussive gamelan instruments.
- Slur, is dynamically changing note from one tone position to another position without stopping the airflow. For example, changing from 5 to 4, 4 to 5, 2 to 1 etc.
- Puruluk, (Sundanese term) is an effect produced by a-repeatedly-fast opening-and-closing of suling's hole by one or more fingers. The produced sound is similar to voice of a pigeon. The easiest puruluk can be produced by opening and closing mid-finger as shown by the following picture:
- In Sundanese technique, there are other known effects such as wiwiw, keleter, lelol, gebos, petit, jengkat, and betrik.
In the Sundanese region, a suling is used as
- one of the main instruments in kacapi suling
- accompanying instrument in Gamelan Degung, Tembang Sunda
Sulings can have either 4 holes or 6 holes. The 6-holed Sundanese suling can play at least three different scales.
- Pelog Degung: da mi na ti la da [1 2 3 4 5 1],
nearly corresponds to do si sol fa mi do [1' 7 5 4 3 1] in the Western diatonic scale.
- Madenda or Sorog: da mi na ti la da [1 2 3 4 5 1],
nearly similar to fa mi do si la fa [4’ 3’ 1’ 7 6 4] in the Western diatonic scale.
- Salendro: da mi na ti la da [1 2 3 4 5 1],
nearly similar to re do la sol fa re [2’ 1’ 6 5 4 2] in the Western diatonic scale.
- Mandalungan: a rarely used scale
Famous Sundanese suling players
- Endang Sukandar, 1996 2nd Winner of International Festival of Wind Instruments in Seoul, South Korea
- Burhan Sukarma
- Uking Sukri
- Bang Saat(Additional player of Dewa Budjana, He cames from kalimantan) He also called as "saat"
The Suling can be many sizes
Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore suling
In Brunei, the suling today is played during a cultural festival and other events together with other Bruneian traditional instruments especially the Gulintangan. While in East Malaysia, especially in Sabah with a wide variety of aerophone, the instrument is played by all the ethnic groups in the state. In Sarawak, the suling is mostly played by men in a longhouse.
The Maguindanaon suling is the smallest bamboo flute of the Maguindanaon and the only one classified as a ring-flute (the other two bamboo flutes of the Maguindanaon, the tumpong and the palendag are both lip-valley flutes). Air is passed through the suling via a blowing hole found at the bottom of the instrument and pitch is controlled via five finger holes on the top and one finger hole located on the bottom. Traditionally only the palendag was commonly played but because of the difficult nature of playing the palendag, both the tumpong and the suling have come to replace the palendag as the Maguindanaon’s most common aerophones.
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