The vibraphone is one of the melody instruments in the percussion group. This is true of all mallet instruments (glockenspiel, xylophone, marimba, lithophone) as well. The tasks performed by the mallet instruments in the orchestra are determined by their sound characteristics and are consequently many and varied:
Vibraphone: mellow sound, great resonance. Used to prolong notes or chords. In the lower register it tends to be drowned by other instruments, in the middle and upper registers it can assert itself better. Inaudible in tutti passages. Performs both harmonic and solo tasks, especially in smaller ensembles.
Vibraphone + woodwinds
Similarity with clarinets played with a soft embouchure. A good blend is also achieved with the saxophones.
Other mallet instruments
The extremely bright and high sound adds brilliance to melody lines and doubles them an octave higher. Thanks to the increased brightness provided by the glockenspiel the melody line becomes more prominent. In smaller ensembles the glockenspiel also performs solo tasks.
Thanks to the short and very high-pitched sound of the xylophone, note sequences become more sharply defined and can be distinguished even in an orchestra tutti. The sound of the xylophone is audible in every combination of instruments. The xylophone’s specialty in the orchestra is the precise definition of immediately recognizable contours and not the blending in with other sounds.
Unlike the xylophone the mellow, warm and gentle sound of the marimba is very well suited for tonal blends with other instruments. It performs chiefly harmonic tasks in keeping with its low register. Its ability to assert itself is limited.