The parts played by the bonang barung and bonang panerus are more complex than many instruments in the gamelan; thus, it is generally considered an elaborating instrument. Sometimes it plays melodies based on the balungan, though generally modified in a simple way. However, it can also play more complex patterns, obtained by combining barung and panerus patters, such as the alternation of interlocking parts (imbal) and the interpolation of florid melodic patterns (sekaran).

A single, l-shaped, row, bonang (kolenang) is also a leading melodic instrument in the Sundanese Gamelan degung.

The bonang is similar to the Balinese reong and the single row kulintang of the southern Philippines and Borneo.

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