What are the different types of xylophone available around the world? Where did xylophone originate? What are xylophone sticks called? Do xylophones go out of tune? Are you a fan of the musical instrument, xylophone, or just curious about it? Join us as we are going to discuss some of the most common types of xylophones that you can typically see globally. We are also going to check out how they work, their origins, and do they go out of tune or not. Lastly, we are going to tackle some of the best xylophones you can try out if you are planning to get one.
So, do you know that there are different types of xylophone that can try to play globally? Here are some of them:
A musical instrument that originated in Buganda, which is now modern-day Uganda, the Akadinda is considered to be the largest in the family of Ugandan musical instruments that are known for their uniqueness, as they are also handcrafted, and produce a xylophone-like melodic tone.
Based on its history, the Akadinda started as a twenty-two key-xylophone and later became a seventeen-key xylophone. The musical instrument is usually placed above a pit in the ground with an estimated 70 centimeters deep and almost two meters wide. The xylophone keys are parallel to one another, and they are kept in their place as they are threaded using wooden nails.
After the Akadinda is built, it is then tuned by a community member carefully as he strips layers of the wood used off the belly of the xylophone keys using a tool with some similarity to a small axe.
Because of its vast size, it is typically played by three musicians at the same time. One musician can play the far-left side of the Akadinda, and one can play its middle part; another can play the far-right of the musical instrument. Musicians use a wooden beater and the palm of their hands to hit the keys of the Akidanda for it to produce its sound.
Looking back to its roots, the Akadinda has been an important musical instrument as it was only played for the Ugandan King in the old days. All musicians that are assigned to play the Akadinda are instructed to live in the palace to study and teach apprentices to play it while also playing for the King.
As we go now to the Asian region, they also have a type of traditional xylophone that is widely used, especially in Southeast Asia, and this musical instrument is famously called the gambang. A xylophone-like musical instrument, the gambang, is popular with many Indonesian musicians as it is usually used when playing, especially those traditional and cultural performances.
As a wooden instrument, the wooden bars of the gambang are usually made of teak, but you also see some of the bars that are made of ironwood. Serving as a resonator, the wooden bars are mounted in a deep case. A gambang usually has 17 to 21 keys that can be easily removed from time to time, and they are kept in place by having a hole where a nail is placed through them.
To play the gambang, musicians use a pair of long thin mallets that are made of flexible water buffalo horn tipped with felt. It is usually played at high speed, and it is also known for having a wider melodic range than other musical instruments. Lastly, there is no solid evidence of the gambang’s history and when it was first made; however, many historians suggest that its origin could have started 250 to 300 years ago.
If you have not seen a xylophone that uses a gourd for its resonator, then maybe you have not heard of the Balafon. The Balafon is a 21-key musical instrument that is believed to have originated in the 12th century with the rise of the Mali Empire. Visitors from Europe who saw the Balafon in the 17th century described it as similar to the instrument you can see nowadays.
The keys of the Balafon are fixed together with leather straps on a wooden frame with a calabash under each of its keys as a resonator. There are also some setups where the keys are free and are just placed on any padded surface.
If you have visited some countries, such as Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Mali, then maybe you have already seen this magnificent musical instrument played by the people living in these respective countries. The Gyil is an instrument that is usually played in pairs. Most of those that are assigned to play the instrument have also been playing it since they were still young.
The instrument can also be played by one person, and it is not necessary to be played by two always. It is made of 14 wooden keys that are held together using leather and antelope sinew and are stabilized by using a wooden frame. With the calabash gourds serving as its resonators, the Gyil has a louder volume you can listen to as it is played using rubber-headed wooden mallets.
In these modern days, a piece of modern equipment is also needed to achieve the best music possible, and with that, the concert xylophone has become a highly recommendable part of an ensemble and instrument that is highly important in playing some specific music.
Aside from being used in orchestras, the concert xylophone has also been used in famous films, such as Bad Lands, True Romance, and many more. There are also lots of artists that have employed the instrument in their big hits, such as My Chemical Romance, Green Day, and many more.
Where Did The Xylophone Originate
So, where did the xylophone originate? Although there is no solid evidence that historians can legitimately point to its exact location, many suggest that it could possibly originate in either Oceania or Southeast Asia. Based on the Vienna Symphonic Library, the first musical instrument that can be related to the xylophone was first introduced in eastern Asia around 2000 BC.
A definite proof that xylophones do exist in southeast Asia was found in the 9th century, as these musical instruments are as simple as they can be. Its first design comes with wooden bars laid across the musician’s legs. After some time, the design also evolved as resonators were added to the bottom of the instrument’s bars. This innovation also helps increase the sustain of the notes played.
In the 14th century, the xylophone was gaining some ground, as it became one of the more famous musical instruments that are used by tribes. With many years of development, more and more materials were also discovered to be of great use in making a xylophone, including bamboo, rubber, and many more. With these innovations, this also helps in the making of more different types of xylophones, such as the Marimba, Gyil, Gambang, Mbila, and many more.
At a time when the Crusades were happening, the xylophone was also first introduced in Europe, and it became immediately famous for many musicians because of its use in playing folk music. As they have a very simple design, they do not come with resonators, just like today. The word xylophone was also first mentioned in Europe in 1511, as it is known as the Strohfiedel, as its bars were supported on straw.
There were also lots of designs that were developed in Europe, including Michael Josef Gusikov’s four-rowed xylophone, which uses the same notes as a piano. This innovation was a huge help in turning the tide for the creation of the modern xylophone we see in musical stores nowadays. The design also helps expose the musical instrument to the European music scene, making it an integral part of instruments used in concerts.
In 1866, Albert Roth was able to invent a two-rowed xylophone with a chromatic note pattern, which became today known as the orchestral xylophone. With this innovation, the modern xylophone became part of many orchestras and theater performances. Lastly, in 1903, John Calhoun Degan started to mass-produce xylophones, which allowed many people to get a hold of the instrument so that they could learn with it. Today, the xylophone has become an integral part of the orchestra and still probably will be in the future.
What Are The Xylophone Sticks Called
So, what are the xylophone sticks called? As we all know, the modern xylophone needs to be struck using a stick for it to produce a sound, and these sticks are called the mallet. Using a mallet, you can now strike the bars on the xylophone and play with it.
If you are looking for a sharp and punchy sound from your xylophone, it would be best if you are going to use a mallet with hard plastic tips as they are known to give a bright sound; however, if you are searching for a softer and gentler sound, it is highly recommended for you to use a mallet with a soft tip.
Do Xylophones Go Out Of Tune
So, do xylophones go out of tune? Just like other musical instruments, the xylophone can also get out of tune. As its bars are usually made out of wood, they will surely change with time, depending on the temperature and humidity where it is stored. Generally, the dry air makes the instrument’s tone go up while being exposed to high humidity will make the xylophone’s tone go down.
Best Xylophones To Try Out
Kolberg 2495 Concert Xylophone
If you are looking for a professional xylophone that you can proudly use in performances where there are many people that are watching you, like a concert, the Kolberg 2495 Xylophone concert can be the one you can trust on. Perfect for touring musicians, the Kolberg 2495 is a premium option that you can proudly use in any application you can imagine.
Coming from its Concert Series, the Kolberg 2495 uses Honduras Rosewood for its sound plates, which really gives the xylophone a premium look that perfectly matches its premium sound. Its tonal range starts from f1 to c5 with 3.5 octaves and is tuned at 443 Hz, although you can tune it to other pitches depending upon request.
Its sound plates all have the same width of 40 mm, and its fixing pins are coated with rubber and are placed below the beating surface, so it won’t get hit accidentally. It also comes with high-tension chords to stop any vibration that can produce an irritating noise. Thanks to its premium aluminum tube resonators, it can amplify the xylophone’s sound greatly.
Its bridges and frames are made of solid beech, while its bottom board is made of glued laminated beech. It uses a guard rail to surround the xylophone and protect it from any impact that could damage the frame and maybe more, which can be very costly to repair or even replace.
The Kolberg 2495’s height can be adjusted quickly with a range of 75 to 100 cm, depending on your comfortability as the one who is going to use the musical instrument. As it can also be compactly folded, it makes traveling with the xylophone easier. Lastly, it comes with mallets for playing the instrument.
Yamaha YX 500R
Another premium xylophone that you can use in performing on big stages, the Yamaha YX 500R is a professional xylophone that is made for the big stages. So, if you think that Yamaha can only make high-quality guitars, drums, bass, pianos, and not a xylophone, you are making a big mistake. With the integration of its patented technologies from the other industries it has entered since the inception of the company, Yamaha’s musical instruments, such as its xylophone, come with the durability that the company is known for.
Coming with Honduras Rosewood bars with a width of 40 mm and a thickness of 22 mm, they are designed to give you a consistent tone quality that you’ll surely love throughout the musical instrument. It has a range of f1 to c5 with 3.5 octaves and is tuned at 442 Hz, but it can still be changed depending on the customer’s request.
With its gas shock feature, height adjustment of its frame won’t be a problem with this xylophone, as it allows for an effortless adjustment option to the height where you are most comfortable playing the instrument; it is really such a premium feature to have, where not all xylophones have.
The Yamaha YX 500R also has a foldable feature, making it easy to transport and more convenient to set up. So, now you won’t have any problem bringing your gear with you if you are a touring musician who prefers to use and bring a high-end instrument to the performance.
Bergerault KXPS35F 3.5-Octave Performance Series
The third premium xylophone brand that you can try out in the market is Bergerault. One of its xylophones, the KXPS3.5F 3.5-Octave Performance Series, is a great option that you should try if you are into playing the xylophone professionally. Equipped with the famous Bergerault tone and coming with a very elegant look that is perfect for any stage, this xylophone is a dream to have for many musicians out there.
The xylophone comes with high-end Techlon composite bars with a width of 40 mm that can generate a warm, clean tone with top-notch quality dynamics and timber. It has a range of F4 to C8 with 3.5 octaves. It also comes with Charcoal powdered coated resonators that are made to complement the xylophone bars’ clarity, as it can produce solid projection and strong volume.
The xylophone comes with a field cart height adjustment, which allows you to conveniently adjust the instrument’s height to where you are most comfortable playing with. It is also equipped with no-flat locking tires, so transporting it to any part of the stage won’t be a problem. Its field frame gives more space so that you can attach more percussion instruments if needed.
With all of its features, the Bergerault KXPS35F 3.5 Octave Performance Xylophone comes with an outstanding tone that is perfect for all musical applications and has a top-end balance that suits any ensemble that you can think of.
So, what are the different types of xylophone? Although there are still lots of different types of xylophones, those you usually see worldwide nowadays are the Akadinda, Balafon, Gambang, Gyil, and the modern version, Concert Xylophone. Still, there are more types of xylophones that you can check out around the world.