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Resonators or pipes are suspended underneath the bars to amplify their sound. The bars of a chromatic marimba are arranged like the keys of a piano, with the groups of two and three accidentals raised vertically, overlapping the natural bars to aid the performer both visually and physically. This instrument is a type of idiophone , but with a more resonant and lower-pitched tessitura than the xylophone.

A person who plays the marimba is called a marimbist or a marimba player. Modern uses of the marimba include solo performances, woodwind and brass ensembles, marimba concertos , jazz ensembles , marching band front ensembles , drum and bugle corps , indoor percussion ensembles , and orchestral compositions.

Xylophones are widely used in music of Asia and west and central Africa. In Latin America, enslaved Africans recreated them in the 16th and 17th centuries. The name marimba stems from Bantu marimba or malimba , ‘xylophone’. The word marimba and derivative words is used widely in East, Central and Southern Africa. Other sources credit the creation of the marimba and the kalimba to Queen Marimba of the Wakambi people, who lived south of Lake Victoria.

Kuimba is to sing. Mama means mother in Kiswahili, so it makes perfect sense that the word mother would be combined with the word “imba” which is the unconjugated verb for ‘sing’. Diatonic xylophones were introduced to Central America in the 16th or 17th century. The first historical record of Mayan musicians using gourd resonator marimbas in Guatemala was made in , by the historian Domingo Juarros [ es ].

It became more widespread during the 18th and 19th centuries, as Mayan and Ladino ensembles started using it on festivals. In , the marimba was proclaimed the national instrument of Guatemala in its independence proclamation. The name marimba was later applied to the orchestra instrument inspired by the Latin American model.

In the United States, companies like J. Deagan and the Leedy Manufacturing Company company adapted the Latin American instruments for use in western music. Metal tubes were used as resonators, fine-tuned by rotating metal discs at the bottom; lowest note tubes were U-shaped. The marimbas were first used for light music and dance, such as Vaudeville theater and comedy shows. French composer Darius Milhaud introduced marimbas into Western classical music with his Concerto for Marimba and Vibraphone.

Four-mallet grip was employed to play chords , enhancing interest for the instrument. Marimba bars are typically made of either wood or synthetic material. Rosewood is the most desirable, while Padauk is a popular affordable alternative.

Bars made from synthetic materials generally fall short in sound quality in comparison to wooden bars, but are less expensive and yield added durability and weather resistance, [9] making them suitable for outdoor use; marimbas with wooden bars are usually played inside because the bars are susceptible to pitch change due to weather.

Bubinga Guibourtia demeusei and mahogany have also been cited as comparable to rosewood in quality for use as marimba bars. The bars are wider and longer at the lowest pitched notes, and gradually get narrower and shorter as the notes get higher. During the tuning, wood is taken from the middle underside of the bar to lower the pitch.

Because of this, the bars are also thinner in the lowest pitch register and thicker in the highest pitch register. Marimba bars produce their fullest sound when struck just off center, while striking the bar in the center produces a more articulate tone. On chromatic marimbas, the accidentals black keys can also be played on the extreme front edge of the bar, away from the node the place where the string goes through the bar if necessary.

Playing on the node produces a sonically weak tone, and the technique is only used when the player or composer is looking for a muted sound from the instrument.

There is no standard range of the marimba, but the most common ranges are 4. The range of the marimba has been gradually expanding, with companies like Marimba One adding notes up to F above the normal high C C 7 on their 5.

Adding lower notes is somewhat impractical; as the bars become bigger and the resonators become longer, the instrument must be taller and the mallets must be softer in order to produce a tone rather than just a percussive attack.

Adding higher notes is also impractical because the hardness of the mallets required to produce the characteristic tone of a marimba are much too hard to play with in almost any other, lower range on the instrument. The marimba is a non-transposing instrument with no octave displacement, unlike the xylophone which sounds one octave higher than written and the glockenspiel which sounds two octaves higher than written.

Part of the key to the marimba’s rich sound is its resonators. These are tubes usually aluminum that hang below each bar. In the most traditional versions, various sizes of natural gourds are attached below the keys to act as resonators; in more sophisticated versions carved wooden resonators are substituted, allowing for more precise tuning of pitch. In Central America and Mexico, a hole is often carved into the bottom of each resonator and then covered with a delicate membrane taken from the intestine of a pig to add a characteristic “buzzing” or “rattling” sound known as charleo.

The holes in the bottoms of the tubes are covered with a thin layer of paper to produce the buzzing noise. The length of the resonators varies according to the frequency that the bar produces. Vibrations from the bars resonate as they pass through the tubes, which amplify the tone in a manner very similar to the way in which the body of a guitar or cello would.

Some manufacturers, such as DeMorrow and Malletech , compensate for this by bending the ends of the tubes. This involves soldering smaller straight sections of tubes to form “curved” tubes. Both DeMorrow and Malletech use brass rather than aluminium.

Others, such as Adams and Yamaha , expand the tubes into large box-shaped bottoms, resulting in the necessary amount of resonating space without having to extend the tubes. This result is achieved by the custom manufacturer Marimba One by widening the resonators into an oval shape, with the lowest ones reaching nearly a foot in width, and doubling the tube up inside the lowest resonators—a process known as “Haskelling” , originally used in pipe organ resonators, and named for its inventor, William E.

Resonator tuning involves adjusting “stops” in the tubes themselves to compensate for temperature and humidity conditions in the room where the instrument is stored. Some companies offer adjustment in the upper octaves only. Others do not have any adjustable stops. Still some companies Malletech and DeMorrow offer full range adjustable stops. On many marimbas, decorative resonators are added to fill the gaps in the accidental resonator bank.

In addition to this, the resonator lengths are sometimes altered to form a decorative arch, such as in the Musser M This does not affect the resonant properties, because the end plugs in the resonators are still placed at their respective lengths.

The mallet shaft is commonly made of wood, usually birch , but may also be rattan or fiberglass. Shafts made of rattan have a certain elasticity to them, while birch has almost no give. Professionals use both depending on their preferences, whether they are playing with two mallets or more, and which grip they use if they are using a four-mallet grip.

Appropriate mallets for the instrument depend on the range. The material at the end of the shaft is almost always a type of rubber, usually wrapped with yarn. Softer mallets are used at the lowest notes, and harder mallets are used at the highest notes.

Mallets that are too hard will damage the instrument, and mallets that might be appropriate for the upper range could damage the notes in the lower range especially on a padouk or rosewood instrument. On the lower notes, the bars are larger, and require a softer mallet to bring out a strong fundamental.

Because of the need to use varying hardnesses of mallets, some players, when playing with four or more mallets, might use graduated mallets to match the bars that they are playing softer on the left, harder on the right. Some mallets, called “two-toned” or “multi-tonal”, have a hard core, loosely wrapped with yarn. These are designed to sound articulate when playing at a loud dynamic, and broader at the quieter dynamics. Modern marimba music calls for simultaneous use of between two and four mallets sometimes up to six or eight , [13] granting the performer the ability to play chords or music with large interval skips more easily.

Multiple mallets are held in the same hand using any of a number of techniques or grips. For two mallets in each hand, the most common grips are the Burton grip made popular by Gary Burton , the Traditional Grip or “cross grip” and the Musser-Stevens grip made popular by Leigh Howard Stevens. Each grip is perceived to have its own benefits and drawbacks.

For example, some marimbists feel the Musser-Stevens grip is more suitable for quick interval changes and mallet independence, while the Burton grip is more suitable for stronger playing or switching between chords and single-note melody lines.

The Traditional Grip gives a greater dynamic range and freedom of playing. The choice of grip varies by region the Musser-Stevens grip and the Burton grip are more popular in the United States, while the traditional grip is more popular in Japan , by instrument the Burton grip is less likely to be used on marimba than on a vibraphone and by the preference of the individual performer.

Six-mallet grips consist of variations on these three grips. Six mallet marimba grips have been used for years by Mexican and Central American marimbists, but they are generally considered non-standard in the Western classical canon. Keiko Abe has written a number of compositions for six mallets, including a section in her concerto Prism Rhapsody.

Paterson’s grip is based on the Burton grip, and his grip and technique have been called the Paterson grip, and even the Wolverine grip. Paterson states that his technique differs from others in that there is less emphasis places on block chords on the lower bank of notes the naturals or white notes and more emphasis on independence, one-handed rolls, and alternations between mallets or in the left hand or or in the right hand, respectively , and so on.

In , Paterson released the world’s first all six-mallet marimba album entitled Six Mallet Marimba , demonstrating these techniques via works Paterson has written. He started playing this grip in Ludwig Albert published at first a work for 8 mallets and demonstrated the Ludwig Albert 8 mallet grip based on the traditional grip from This list represents an incomplete selection of Western classical compositions for the instrument:.

Traditional marimba bands are especially popular in Guatemala , where they are the national symbol of culture, but are also strongly established in the Mexican states of Chiapas , Tabasco , and Oaxaca.

There have been numerous jazz vibraphonists who also played the marimba. Marimbist and vibraphonist Julius Wechter was the leader of a popular s Latin-flavored band called Baja Marimba Band. Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass made frequent use of the marimba. Victor Feldman played a marimba on several of Steely Dan ‘s early albums. It is also featured on Toto ‘s hit song ” Africa “. Thompson Twins included a marimba in their many s works.

In , Marina Calzado Linage recorded an album bridging the gap between academic and popular music, Marimba de Buenos Aires , featuring music by Astor Piazzolla. The recording consists entirely of marimba, drums, and vocals and comprises many movements and recurring themes. Vincent Montana Jr. The song “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith features bass marimba as well, played by recording engineer Jay Messina. The marimba sound has also become recognizable through its role as the default ringtone in Apple’s iOS mobile operating system.

The flapamba is a musical instrument in the percussion family. It consists of tuned wooden bars pinched on one side over the node , and mounted over resonator boxes. Sliding the bars slightly forward or backward affects their tuning.