Xylophone: The Original Dance Band Instrument

About the Xylophone

  • The xylophone has thick, hardwood bars to create a sharp, short, crisp notes.  Many are made of hardwood, but some are constructed from other woods including maple and bamboo.  Each wood gives it a different sound.
  • The bars of the xylophone are laid out in the pattern of the piano.  The length of the bars determines the pitch; shorter bars are higher, longer bars are lower.
  • Beneath the bars are resonator tubes to amplify the sound.
  • Mallets are used to strike the bars.  Mallets can be made of a variety of materials including rubber, wood or metal.

More Fun Facts

  1. The bright, lively sound of the xylophone fit well with the syncopated dance music of the 1920s and 1930s making it one of the original dance band instruments.
  2. The sound of clanking bones is often made by the xylophone, making it an important instrument in Halloween movies.
  3. Vaudeville acts between 1910-1940 used the xylophone in their bands.
  4. Harrigan and Hart’s comedy duo used the xylophone on Broadway and may have led to the popularity of the xylophone in American musicals today.
  5. Jazz musicians often used the xylophone in their bands until the 1940s when vibraphone gained popularity.
  6. In Senegal, xylophones were used to scare birds, monkeys and other pests from the gardens.
  7. Ragtime music in the 1970s used xylophone.
  8. Xylophone comes from the Greek words xylon meaning “wood” and phone meaning “sound.

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