One way to think of irama is to use the most consistently struck instrument in the gamelan, the saron panerus. In some pieces, it plays once per note in the balungan (such as played by the saron barung). In others, it may play twice as often, or four times, as the notes of the balungan are more spread out. This corresponds to a slower irama. In most cases, the more spread out the balungan is, the longer it takes to reach a gong.
There are five irama:
|Irama number||Irama name||Saron panerus beats per balungan note|
|III||Irama dados (or dadi)||4|
Some writers use the numbers 1 to 4 to refer to tanggung, dados, wilet, and rangkep, respectively.
In slower iramas, there is more space to be filled, and typically elaborating instruments become more important.
Each irama can be played in three laya ("tempi"): seseg ("fast"), sedeng ("medium") and tamban ("slow"). Frequently the changes of laya will signal a different section.