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> INSTRUMENTOLOGY > PERCUSSION > Xylophone > Sound Characteristics

Sound characteristics

Hard, wooden, bright, rattling, incisive, penetrating, sharp, accentuated, precise, piercing, brittle, dry, bubbling, drop-like, shrill, hollow, ticking, transparent, clear.

What distinguishes the sound of the xylophone is the impression of precision it creates and the lack of resonance.

A further characteristic of the instrument is that it is often difficult to hear the octave positions correctly, especially the highest registers. This is due to the greater proportion of higher partials. Consequently it is admissible and sometimes necessary to transpose individual xylophone parts down an octave in order to meet the requirements of the room.

The sound depends on the diameter and hardness of the mallet head: the harder the mallet the higher the number of partials that sound and the brighter, harder and shriller the timbre. Softer mallets damp the higher partials, the timbre becomes darker, softer and rounder.

The point at which the bar is struck can also influence the sound.

The xylophone’s timbre remains consistent throughout its compass, differences between the registers are not distinguishable.