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What Are the Different Types of Xylophones?

By Jay Leone
Updated May 23, 2024
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Many different variations of the xylophone have emerged since the creation of the very first xylophones. Amadindas, akadindas, embaires, luntangs, and balafons are just a few of the different types of xylophones available. These xylophones can be made out of different materials, played by a different number of players, constructed to various lengths, and feature a different number of keys. Keys on most of these instruments are oriented horizontally, similar to a piano keyboard. Most of the different types of xylophones offer a relatively wide range of pitches.

Xylophones are one of the many types of percussion instruments. These instruments feature steel or wooden bars that produce sounds when struck by a mallet or stick. Many modern bars or keys are constructed out of plastics, fiberglass, or other synthetic materials. A lot of the different types of these instruments employ gourds or tubes below the bars. These gourds and tubes can greatly increase the volume produced when the keys are struck.

Drums usually accompany amadindas. These xylophones are traditionally played in groups and feature 15 keys. Akadindas employ anywhere between 10 and 20 keys. Two people can play the ten-key akadinda models while four people can play on one 20-key model. The keys on the akadinda xylophone are traditionally a little smaller than the ones found on the amadinda xylophone.

Six players can use wooden sticks to play the embaire xylophone. These are unlike many of the other different types of xylophones available. They can measure up to 12 feet in length and feature 21 keys. Balafons consist of between 18 and 21 keys traditionally made out of rosewood. These keys usually get mounted onto frames made out of bamboo.

The kulintang a kayo xylophone features eight keys made out of any number of different soft woods. The gandingan a kayo xylophone consist of four keys, opposed to eight. These xylophones are engineered to create similar sounds to a gandingan, an instrument that consists of a series of hanging gongs.

Five logs hanging in ascending pitch from a rock make up a luntang xylophone. They can be played by either one or two players. A T'rung xylophone consist of three rows of pipes suspended from a series of slanted racks. The lowest keys on T'rungs are located on the tops of the rack systems. Timbelas are designed to be propped on the ground and struck with wooden sticks.

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Discussion Comments
By Rundocuri — On Feb 12, 2015

@ocelot60- I played the xylophone when I was in the band in college, and I had the opportunity to play several different types. In my opinion, xylophones with keys made of rosewood make a rich, melodious sound. Each person has a different sound preference though, so you might want to ask your relative what she prefers before you buy a xylophone for her.

By Ocelot60 — On Feb 11, 2015

I'm looking for some advise about which type of xylophone makes the best sound. I have a relative who is going to be playing percussion in the band, and I'm planning to buy a xylophone for her to play during concerts.

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