Xylophones are played by striking a series of wooden bars with a mallet. The bars are tuned after piano keyboards in the chromatic scale, usually arranged in decreasing pitch. The lowest keys are usually the longest. In modern xylophones, the bars are mounted on top of resonating tubes to produce sounds.
Types of Xylophones
Kinds of Xylophones include the following:
Amadindas consist of 15 keys tuned in the pentatonic scale. They are usually played in groups and accompanied by drums.
Akadindas have 10 to 20 keys smaller than those used in amadindas. Ten-key akadindas are played by two people, and 20-key versions are played by four people.
Embaires are large instruments consisting of 21 keys and measuring up to 12 feet long. They are usually played by six people with wooden sticks.
Balafons have 18 to 21 keys made of rosewood tuned in the pentatonic or heptatonic scale. The keys are placed over gourd resonators and mounted on bamboo frames.
Kulintang a kayo (xylophones)
These xylophones have eight soft wooden keys mounted on wooden racks. They are traditionally used as training instruments for the kulintang, a type of gong arrangement.
Gandingan a kayo (xylophones)
These are smaller versions of the kundingan a kayo, made up of four keys instead of eight. They are designed to sound like gandingans, an instrument consisting of four hanging gongs.
Luntangs consist of five logs hung from a rock in ascending pitch. Also called kwintangan kayo, they can be played alone or by two people striking on each side.
T’rungs have three rows of pipes tuned to the chromatic scale. They are suspended from slanted racks with the lowest keys on top.
Timbelas have keys mounted on various tuned gourds. They are struck by wooden sticks and propped up on the ground.
Choosing Xylophones (Buying tips)
Bar size: Choose a xylophone with wide bars so that you can hit notes accurately. Xylophones for beginners and children should be about an inch across for easier use. Choose hardwood keys and rubber mallets for children to avoid breakage.
Sustain: Choose a xylophone with a short to moderate sustain. Each strike should produce a brief note without any echoes or overtones. Make sure all the keys have a uniform sustain.