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Xylophones

Xylophones are musical instruments that belong to the percussion family. The instrument consists of one or more octaves of wooden bars coupled with resonators to prolong and enhance played tones. Different kinds of mallets are used to create different tones.

When were xylophones invented?

The first modern instrument was discovered in Southeast Asia; historians have determined that it had been created in the 9th century. The first recorded use in Western music was in the 14th century in Europe. The name originates from the Greek words xylon (wood) and phone (voice).

What are xylophones made of?

The bars are made of rosewood, although some used for educational purposes are made of synthetic materials. Tube resonators are made from aluminum tubing. The simple frames, legs, and supports are made of either wood or metal.

What does a xylophone sound like?

In general, it does not have much resonance and the tones sound precise, wooden, and brittle. Sounds produced from the instrument vary from the types of material used to play it. If the mallet is made of hard material, the sound will be brighter and shriller. Softer materials produce softer and darker tones.

What music is it used for?

These percussion instruments can be found in classical music orchestras, jazz bands, marching and orchestral bands, and percussion ensembles as effects instruments. It is used in folk music ensembles in countries such as Africa, Europe, and Asia. Many music educators use smaller-sized ones with fewer octaves to aid in children's musical development.

How is the xylophone played?

A player stands in front of it while holding a mallet in each hand; they are held between the thumb and first joint of the first finger. Arms move smoothly up and down from the elbows with fixed wrists. The xylophonist should strike on the centers of the keys for loud sounds, and on the edges for more muted notes. The lowest notes of the octaves are on left end on wider bars, while the highest notes are on the right end on the narrow bars.

How do you select a xylophone to buy?

If you are purchasing an instrument for a beginner, choose one with fewer octaves and wider bars, as they are easier to strike. Here are three factors to consider:

  • Material: Rosewood percussion instruments are more expensive and produce rounded tones. However, synthetic materials are good for playing outdoors.
  • Range: If you would like more range, consider one that has more keys and more octaves.
  • Frame: The type of frame can impact the tone and resonance. Consider which frames may be more durable or portable according to your needs.
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