How Does a Xylophone Produce Sound?

The xylophone is part of the percussion family of instruments. Instead of making a dull thump or a ringing clash, however, the xylophone hews closer to the piano than the drums. It doesn't look a whole lot like either. It is comprised of a set of wooden bars, which are screwed into a frame.

Each of these bars are tuned to a separate pitch. In order to bring out the sounds, these bars are tapped with a stick.

Parts of a Xylophone

Though there are many types of xylophones, we'll focus on professional instruments in this section. Thus, xylophone keys or bars are almost always made from rosewood. Looking at a xylophone from above, the bars move from a shorter length to the left and gradually get longer as they move to the right. Unlike many other musical instruments, there is no standard when it comes to how many bars a xylophone has. The biggest ones can have up to fifty bars, giving the player a wide range of pitches from which to choose. Most xylophones have a small tube below each bar, which helps to project the sound and sustain it when the bar is struck.

How a Xylophone Produces Sound

Striking the metal bars of the xylophone with a stick produces a vibration. This vibration's sound is determined by the length of the bar. The longer ones produce a much deeper sound than the shorter ones. These sounds are enhanced by the resonator tubes below the bars. Air is pushed into these tubes, creating more vibration, but at the same pitch as the bar struck. A cord runs through the centre of the xylophone, lifting the bars slightly away from the frame of the instrument, letting them vibrate freely.