The standard instrumentation of the kangen orchestra includes sixteen instruments:
Nine woodwind insturments: three hichiriki, three ryûteki, and three shô.
Four string instruments: two koto and two biwa.
Three percussion instruments: one shôko, one kakko, and one taiko.
It is possible to perform kangen music in a chamber setting, in which case, the instrumentation varies between: ten (WW:1,1,1, String: 2, 2, Percussion: 1,1,1), five (WW: 1,1,1, String: 1,1), and three (WW: 1,1,1) instruments.
The eight different instruments of the kangen orchestra are divided into three choirs: woodwinds, strings, and percussion. Each choir has a prescribed function that is never altered. The hichiriki and ryûteki from the woodwind choir present the melody. The three instruments of the percussion choir collaborate to create a single rhythmic pattern, which marks off time units. Finally, the two plucked string instruments: the koto and the biwa, and the remaining woodwind instrument – the shô create a bridge between the woodwind and percussion instruments by coloring key unpitched percussive attacks with pitched motives and harmony related to the melody.