The origins of the xylophone and its versatility

Martín Agrícola is the privileged man who deserves the title as creator of the first xylophone, although there are similar instruments from Asia and Africa that perhaps inspired him to make it. This percussion musical instrument was called Strohfiedel and had 25 bars, each providing its respective musical note.


Origin of the xylophone

Regarding its origin, according to some historians and anthropologists they affirm that it comes from Asia and was taken to Africa through migrations. Later, it is known in the 15th century in Europe and in 1528 the first version appeared, which was called Strohfiedel, being manufactured by Martin Agrícola with 25 bars.

Later, in the seventeenth century they made a xylophone with 15 bars, this was made by Michel Preatorius. However, it was not until the 19th century that it was of significant importance, as it became known by musician Michael Josef Gusikov, who used it in his performances while on tour around Europe. However, in the 20th century it reached a greater boom and was used in symphony orchestras, for example, that of Russia, thanks to the interpreters Gayanech, Satrauss and Prokoiev.


Parts of the xylophone



They are the ones that amplify the vibration of the bars and produce the sound that we hear, in addition, these resonators extend to the middle of the frame with a different length each, depending on the note under which they are.



By this we mean the bars, which are normally made of rosewood or metal. In the instrument they are placed horizontally one after the other, following an order with respect to the chromatic musical scale. These sheets are attached to the xylophone structure by means of two screws located at each end.



They are also known as drumsticks, as they are plastic and wooden sticks that are used to hit the sheets of the instrument. They are mostly covered in one part by soft materials such as rubber or felt, in order to produce a pleasant sound and protect the bars from scratches or very strong blows that can split them.


Metal frame

It has the shape of a table with legs, which is responsible for holding the plates, resonators and other parts of the xylophone. This frame provides stability to the instrument while the musician plays it.




How to Play the Xylophone Properly

If you want to learn to play this instrument, we recommend a series of steps that will help you make it easier. However, you should keep in mind that it requires a lot of practice and effort, that is, dedicating time for you to obtain good results.


The position of each note

Each bar gives a specific note, so you must learn the name and position of each one. Generally, notes start with C, that is, C, from left to right. For example, Do, Re, Mi, Fa, etc. They always carry the order of the notes on a piano, from low to high.


Chords on the xylophone

To play chords it is necessary to know musical harmony. After learning chord formation you will realize that it is compulsory to play several notes at the same time, unlike scales, for example, C, E and G; this is the chord of C Major, C, E and Sol. Each letter of the xylophone corresponds to a musical note.


The scales 

Scales are a set of notes that are played progressively, not at the same time as chords. For example, on the xylophone you can start by learning the C Major scale, which carries the sounds Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, A, Si, one note after another. It should be noted that it is one of the simplest scales to play on this instrument, since it does not have sharps or flats. 


Using the drumsticks properly

Knowing how to hold the drumsticks when playing the instrument is something that you must be very clear from the beginning of your classes. The rod should be above the middle finger and the thumb, the ball or tip has to rest in the middle of your index finger and with the thumb you will provide pressure on the top. If you don’t use the drumsticks properly, your fingers will hurt, getting tired very quickly.




Respect the rhythm when playing

We recommend using a metronome if you are a beginner, as it is very important that you keep the beat while you are playing a scale or song. You can also turn to web pages or music schools that will help you in this regard.


Playing the first song on the xylophone

If you follow all these steps and are guided by a music instructor, you will be able to play the first song. In addition, it should be noted that, even if you have the best xylophone ( Here you can find some options to buy )  of the moment at home, you will not be able to advance without practicing daily. Remember that it is also vital to apply the knowledge that you previously learned, for example, reading music, that is, solfeggio, in this way it will be much easier for you to play a song. However, he begins by playing simple songs.


Differences between xylophone and marimba

Although they are physically similar instruments, they are not the same nor do they sound the same. This is because the xylophone has 2 1/2 to 4 octaves, whereas the marimba has 3 to 5. This makes the marimba register a bit wider.

Also, the construction is almost always the same on both instruments, rosewood or synthetic materials. However, the marimba can also be made from paduk, a cheaper wood.

In addition to this, another notable difference is that the xylophone has shorter resonators, that is, we refer to the tubes that carry under the keys. The marimba always brings them longer, thus offering differences in sound with respect to the xylophone. Likewise, the latter is played with drumsticks covered in rubber or plastic. The marimba for its part must be played with drumsticks covered with string or padded cord. This aspect also differentiates the sound that each instrument emits.

On the other hand, the xylophone is an instrument that is normally played in symphony orchestras and concert bands. Instead, the marimba is used as a solo instrument or in small bands. Even the xylophone provides a clearer tone, the marimba, in turn, produces a smooth sound. In this way, although many people think that they are the same, they are two percussion instruments with very important differences.



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