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Xylophone:


Brief description

Xylophone
German: Xylophon
French: xylophone
Italian: silofono, xilofono

The term xylophone is derived from two ancient Greek words: xylon (= wood) and phoné (= sound). The name has been in use since the 19th century. Technically, every instrument that consists of a row of wood bars of various lengths which are arranged according to pitch and struck with mallets, is a xylophone. Nowadays the term is more narrowly defined and refers to the European and American orchestra xylophone, the bars of which are arranged in two rows, in the same way as piano keys.

Compared to the marimba, the xylophone has the higher and narrower range and its bars are made of a harder wood, resulting in a brighter and more penetrating timbre. Sometimes there is even mention of the xylophone family, which consists of the xylophone, the marimba and the xylomarimba.

The tuning and sequence of the bars differ from culture to culture, but what all xylophones have in common is the arrangement of the bars in scales from the low notes to the high. The number of bars can be anywhere from one to enough to cover several octaves. The xylophone is an old instrument and bears a variety of names in different cultures: In Africa, for example, it is known as the amadinda or akadinda (Uganda), the balafon (Sudan), the carimba (Angola), the kidimba (Congo), the kundung (Nigeria), the marimba (Congo) and the silimba (South Africa). In Asia it is called the bakagong (Malaysia), the gambang (Indonesia), the dan go (Vietnam), the gabbang (Bali), the gambang calung (Java), the muqin (China), the patatag (the Philippines), the patti taranga (India) and the ranat ek (Thailand).

The arrangement of the bars in a scale makes the xylophone the ideal learning instrument, and as a result it is also played by children in many cultures. In around 1930, for example, Carl Orff was inspired by Asian trough xylophones to write his famous Method.

The possible playing techniques range from the simplest sequences of notes to virtuoso performance. In many cultures the xylophone has always been a feature of art music. In Europe on the other hand it did not attain this status until the latter years of the 19th century, after having spent the previous 400 years as a “lowly” folk instrument played by wandering minstrels.

There is no great difference between modern orchestra xylophones and their predecessors. The only significant changes were the addition of resonator tubes for each bar and variations in range.

Classification
Idiophone, percussion instrument with definite pitch, mallet instrument.

Bars
Hardwood (rosewood), Japanese birch. Synthetic materials: kelon, klyperion, fiber glass.
Width: 2.5–4.5 cm. Thickness: 1.5–2.5 cm. Length: 13.5–38 cm.

Resonator tubes

Isolating rubber

Trapezoid-shaped frame
Length: Between approx. 120–145 cm (3½ octaves) and 103–106 cm (3 octaves).
Width: 55–80 cm.

Stand
Metal stand with wheels so that the instrument can be moved around easily.

Weight
With stand: approx. 22–36 kg.

Height
83–95 cm.

Mallets
Shaft length: 30–40 cm. Head diameter: 2–2.8 cm. Material: ebonite, rosewood, Lexan, ABS, rubber, yarn wrapping.

Mallet rack