The onomatopoeic name vibraphone refers to the instrument’s vibrating sound and is derived from the Latin vibrare (= vibrate, tremble) and the Greek phoné (= sound). The terms vibraharp and vibes were also common.
This very young instrument, which emerged in the USA at the time of the First World War, is a metallophone with resonators and an electric motor and is based on the metal marimba. The instrument’s vibrating sound takes its inspiration from the human voice. The vibraphone is the most mechanically complex and sophisticated of all mallet instruments.
The new instrument, which combines melodic and harmonic characteristics, quickly became a firm favorite with jazz and dance bands and from 1945 succeeded in establishing itself in art music too.
Idiophone, metallophone, percussion instrument with definite pitch, mallet instrument
Light metal, aluminum alloy; width: 3.9–5.7 cm, thickness: 1–1.3 cm, length: 18–35 cm
Aluminum, 5–6 cm diameter, with covers, that periodically open and close, producing a pulsing note (vibrato effect)
Frame in the form of a table
Length: between approx. 124–143 cm, width: 74–82 cm
Metal stand with wheels so that the instrument can be moved around easily
Between 38 and 61 kg
81–94 cm (adjustable)
Stops the damping of a note
Material: wrapped in yarn, cord or cloth; soft rubber
Tuned to 442 hertz equal temperament