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What Are the Different Types of Marimba Music?

By Lee Johnson
Updated May 23, 2024
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The different types of marimba music include classical music, pop music, jazz music, and both classic and modern rock. Many different genres of music can be played using the marimba, meaning that most other types of music could be added to the list. The most popular genre of music for use of the marimba is classical, and it is often part of instrumental songs. The marimba is traditionally used in smaller ensembles, which also makes it suitable for jazz. Rock and pop acts can use the marimba, but often do so sparingly.

Classical music is the most common type of marimba music. The marimba is somewhat similar to a piano, in that it has the same arrangement of keys and percussive sound production. This means that any classical song that can be played on a piano can also be played on a marimba, depending on the skill of the performer and the transposition of the music. Bach’s works are often played on the marimba, as part of a group or solo. Many marimba performers have composed classical-style music on the instrument.

Jazz music is another type of marimba music. This owes to the mellow sound produced by the instrument — compared to the biting quality of the xylophone — and its similarity to the piano. Small jazz ensembles can make use of the marimba, but the degree to which it is used can differ. Some players are famous for using the marimba in jazz music. Other jazz groups make subtler use of the marimba.

Pop musicians don’t often use the marimba, but it can be another type of marimba music. The song “Mamma Mia” by ABBA famously makes use of the marimba, and the instrument actually brought together the introduction. It is infrequently used in pop music, but can add a different edge to an otherwise banal piano opening.

Rock music can also be classed as a type of marimba music. Musicians in rock bands often use additional instruments to add variety to their music and to spice up introductory or instrumental sections. Marimba is sometimes used because of its mellow and laid back sound.

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