The origins of the xylophone and its versatility

Martín Agricola 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 one providing its respective musical note.

Origin of the xylophone

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

Later, in the 17th century, they made a xylophone with 15 bars, this was made by Michel Preatorius. However, it was not until the 19th century that it had any significant importance, as it was made known by the musician Michael Josef Gusikov, who used it in his performances while on tour around Europe. However, in the 20th century it reached a greater height and was used in symphony orchestras, for example, in Russia, thanks to the interpreters Gayanech, Satrauss and Prokoiev.

xylophone parts


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 located.


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


They are also known as drumsticks, since they are plastic and wood sticks that are used to hit the sheets of the instrument. Most of them are 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 break them.

metal frame

It has the shape of a table with legs, which is responsible for holding the plates, the 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 a lot of practice and effort is required, that is, spending time so that you get 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, the notes begin with C, that is, Do, 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 the chords it is necessary to know musical harmony. After learning the formation of chords you will realize that it is mandatory to play several notes at the same time, unlike scales, for example, C, E and G; this is the chord of C Major, Do, Mi 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 like chords. For example, on the xylophone you can start by learning the C Major scale, which has the sounds Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si, one note after another. It should be noted that it is one of the easiest scales to play on this instrument, since it does not have sharps or flats. 

Use drumsticks properly

Knowing how to hold the drumsticks when playing the instrument is something that you should be very clear about from the beginning of your classes. The wand should be above your middle finger and thumb, the ball or point should rest in the middle of your index finger and your thumb will provide pressure on top. If you don’t use the drumsticks properly, your fingers will hurt, tiring you out 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 time while you are playing a scale or song. You can also use websites 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)  at home, you will not be able to advance without practicing daily. Remember that it is also vital to apply the knowledge 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, start 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 and a half to 4 octaves, while the marimba has 3 to 5. This makes the range of the marimba a little 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 are under the keys. The marimba always brings them longer, thus offering differences in sound compared to the xylophone. Likewise, the latter is played with rubber or plastic covered drumsticks. The marimba, on the other hand, must be played with drumsticks covered with thread 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 sharper tone, the marimba, in turn, produces a softer sound. In this way, although many people think they are the same, they are two percussion instruments with very important differences.

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