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Keyboard Percussion Instruments

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Within the world of keyboard percussion, you'll encounter various instruments, each with its unique characteristics. A keyboard percussion instrument is a type of musical instrument that consists of a set of bars or keys that are arranged in a keyboard-like layout. When these bars or keys are struck with mallets, they produce musical tones or pitches. The term "keyboard" in this context doesn't refer to a traditional piano-style keyboard with black and white keys, but rather a layout where the bars or keys are typically arranged in a linear fashion, similar to the keys on a piano, but without the black and white color-coding.

Main Percussion Instruments Include:

  1. Glockenspiel: Typically made of metal bars, the glockenspiel produces bright and bell-like tones.

  2. Xylophone: Xylophones have wooden bars and produce a distinct, dry, and crisp sound.

  3. Marimba: This instrument features larger wooden bars than a xylophone and produces a warmer and mellower tone.

  4. Vibraphone: A vibraphone is a larger keyboard percussion instrument with metal bars that can be equipped with a motor-driven mechanism that creates vibrato in the sound.

Hear The Difference Between Keyboard Percussion Instruments:

Where Are Keyboard Percussion Played?

Keyboard percussion instruments are commonly used in various musical genres, including classical, contemporary, jazz, and popular music. They offer a versatile range of tones and are valued for their ability to add color and texture to musical compositions.

The Mallets Are Just As Important As The Instrument

The choice of mallets is crucial when playing keyboard percussion instruments because it significantly affects the instrument's tone, timbre, and overall sound quality. Different mallets are designed to produce specific characteristics and nuances, making them better suited for certain types of keyboard percussion instruments.

Here's why the selection of mallets is important for each type of keyboard percussion instrument:

Glockenspiel and Xylophone:

  • Glockenspiels and xylophones typically have metal or wooden bars that produce bright and clear tones.

  • Mallets for these instruments have a hard plastic or rubber head with little to no wrapping.

  • Importance: Hard mallets allow for precise articulation and produce a bright and sharp tone when striking the bars. This helps to bring out the characteristic sound of these instruments.


  • Marimbas have larger wooden bars compared to xylophones, producing warmer and mellower tones.

  • Mallets for marimbas often have a yarn-wrapped head or a combination of rubber and yarn.

  • Importance: Yarn-wrapped mallets soften the attack and produce a more resonant and sustained sound on the wooden bars of the marimba. They are ideal for creating expressive and lyrical melodies.


  • Vibraphones have metal bars like a glockenspiel but also have a motor-driven mechanism that creates vibrato.

  • Mallets for vibraphones can have varying degrees of hardness and wrapping.

  • Importance: Mallet choice on a vibraphone depends on the desired level of sustain and vibrato. Softer mallets with some wrapping may be used for a smoother, sustained sound, while harder mallets can emphasize the instrument's natural metallic quality.

With this introductory guide, you've taken your first steps into the fascinating world of percussion instruments. Remember to explore additional resources for note identification and sheet music reading. Happy playing, and stay tuned for more exciting musical adventures!

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