ALIVE 0816 Pages 3-30.p12

Alive_Aug2016

Mallet Instruments DR. LAWRENCE E. ANDERSON Founding Director and Conductor Emeritus Danville Community Band Some of the most unique and varied sounds of a percussion section in bands and orchestras come from the melodic mallet instruments. These instruments add exciting sounds and rhythms to the ensemble. They include the popular Xylophone, Marimba, Vibraphone and Glockenspiel. I would venture to say that not too many people know the difference between these instruments. If you think all musicians in bands and orchestras just sit quietly and play their instruments, watch the percussion section in the back of the band or orchestra. There you will find a beehive of activity. Here are the movers, beaters and shakers of the ensemble. A percussionist must be versatile with the ability to play many percussion instruments: Mallet instruments; Snare Drum; Bass Drum; Timpani; Cymbals and more, all while being able to move quickly. Audience members frequently comment that it is so much fun to watch the percussion players as they are very animated and move around so much. They must be careful not to get in each other’s way while quickly moving to other instruments. “My favorite instruments are the mallets,” said Christine Calara, the very talented principal mallet player in the Danville Community Band. “I enjoy playing these instruments because they are unique and also for their soloistic nature.” Calara started out playing piano and that experience transferred well to the mallet instruments, as the two rows on mallet instruments resemble the white and black keys on the piano. Mallet Instruments The Xylophone is a percussion instrument consisting of two rows of graduated, tuned bars of hardwood, usually rosewood, that are struck with a stick or mallet that may be either hard or soft. Early instruments were known in Southeast Asia in the 14th Century. They are also used in many non-western cultures, particularly in Africa. They have attained a high degree of perfection in Javanese orchestras. Xylophones have a range of three and one half octaves with a tone quality that is dry and wooden without lasting resonance. In the 1830s the instrument became better known and was admitted into Musica Regularis; accepted by symphony orchestras as well as rhythm bands. The Marimba is a xylophone-like mallet instrument from Africa, primarily the Congo, and also Central and South America. It was introduced to America in the early 16th Century through the slave trade. It has a number of wooden bars, also usually rosewood, of different sizes and thickness. Located under the bars are tuned, tubular, metal resonators encompassing up to six or seven octaves in larger instruments. The most common instrument is probably four and one half octaves. It is not unusual for the larger Marimbas to be played by several musicians at the same time. It has a warm, mellow tone and is played with rubber or felt-headed mallets. The instrument is considered the national instrument of Guatemala and is quite popular in Central America. The Vibraphone is a percussion instrument that originated in the United States around 1920. It is similar to the Marimba but has tuned and graduated metal bars arranged in two rows, again, like a piano keyboard. It is played with padded beaters. It is fitted with electrically driven rotating propellers suspended below the bars causing a vibrato sound—hence the name Vibraphone. A sustaining or damper pedal is part of the instrument. These instruments are usually built with a three octave range, although some are larger. The Vibraphone is used frequently in jazz music. The Glockenspiel is a percussion instrument made up of tuned metal bars, rectangular in shape and arranged in two rows like a piano keyboard. It is played with mallets and has a range of two and one half octaves. This instrument has been used in orchestras since the A L I V E E A S T 14 B A Y a u g u s t 2 0 1 6


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