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> INSTRUMENTOLOGY > PERCUSSION > Marimba > Sound Characteristics

Sound characteristics

Dark, mellow, gentle, velvety, earthy, full, sonorous, dull, hollow, resonant, round, melodious, wooden.

The sound of the marimba is composed of the attack and resonance, which in the low register can last for two to three seconds.

The marimba’s timbre is darker, richer, more mellow and more sonorous than the xylophone’s. Its notes also resound for far longer.

The sound depends on the diameter and hardness of the mallet head: the harder the mallet the louder the initial attack and the more prominent the higher partials (at the bottom end the timbre is so hard that the pitch can hardly be determined). Soft mallets damp the higher partials making the timbre somewhat darker, mellower, rounder and more gentle (although the sound at the top end is muffled and the pitch cannot easily be determined).