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How Do I Make a Xylophone?

Steven Symes
Steven Symes

You can make a xylophone out of various common materials that you might have lying around your house or that you can easily find at a hardware store. A basic xylophone has keys that are different lengths. They are attached to a base that might also work to resonate the sounds coming from the keys. Your xylophone also must have a mallet or small hammer that you use to strike the keys. To make a xylophone, you will need to choose the materials that you want to use for the keys, the base and the mallet, and you will need to make each piece the proper size and construct the xylophone in such a way that it makes the sounds that you want it to produce.

When you make a xylophone, you can use either hollow objects or solid objects for the keys. For example, they could be small metal pipes, such as those that are used for electrical wiring, or plastic plumbing pipes. They also could be wooden blocks or solid metal plates.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

How long you make a xylophone's keys depends on the type of material that you use and your personal preference. If the keys are hollow, leave them longer than you think you might ultimately like, and then trim the pipes after you attach them to the base. Changing the length will change how the keys sound when they are struck, so you can trim them until they produce the correct notes. With solid keys, trimming or sanding away portions of the middle of the keys, on the underside, will change the notes that they produce.

You can attach the keys to your xylophone’s base using one of a variety of methods, depending on the material used to make the keys and base. Fox example, you can wrap string around the base and the xylophone’s keys to hold them in place, drive screws or bolts through the keys and into the base or glue the keys to the base. When you make a xylophone, you will discover that how you attach the keys to the base can affect how the keys sound.

The type of material that you make a xylophone’s base out of also affects the xylophone’s sound. Hard materials such as wood or metal allow the sound from the keys to resonate, and softer materials such as a towel will muffle the noise to an extent. A softer material, though, might allow you to roll up the xylophone, making it easier to transport.

Your xylophone’s base needs to be large enough to accommodate all of the keys without the keys touching each other. This will allow them to vibrate independently. Cutting the base so that the xylophone’s keys hang off the edge, including the shortest keys, also affects how the xylophone sounds.

For your xylophone’s mallet or hammer, you can either use a pre-made mallet, such as the ones for sale at hardware stores, or make one of your own. You can make a xylophone mallet by filling a small balloon with sand. Twist the open end of the balloon closed and attach the open end to a wood dowel, wrapping a rubber band around the open end of the balloon. You also can use common objects such as sticks or pencils to strike the xylophone’s keys, instead of using a mallet.

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