I just did a google search for building a xylophone and got several
potential links. Just curious if any of you had ever constructed any
percussion musical instruments from wood. I have been intrigued by
the sounds made by the various tropical woods I've worked with and
though about whipping one up from the scraps. It does not need to be
tonally correct (Not Ruth Underwood approved) but if anyone has any
suggestions or hands on experience I'd appreciate your feedback.
Hi Marc, I build drums, but I know they are a much different animal than
mallet instruments. From my experience, I will offer a couple bits of
In order to get the most resonance from a percussion instrument, two
basic principles play out.
- the harder the material, the better.
- one solid piece is better than segmented or plied
Hard materials will resonate (vibrate) longer. There's a reason bells
are made of brass and not lead. :-)
One piece of wood will resonate longer (and in phase) than two or more
pieces glued together. Especially when the grains are polarized, as with
This holds true for a xylophone or drum shell.
As mallet instruments go, don't reinvent the wheel. Lets the hundreds of
years of experience of our predecessors work for you. There's a reason
professional Marimba are made of Rosewood bars.
Rosewood is one of the hardest woods on earth and it has a very tight,
and long grain pattern. These properties allow it to vibrate for a long
time. Long is relative, of course, but those same properties help
produce volume, too. Rosewood will be louder than maple or beech, etc.
There are other physical traits which contribute to achieving a nice
musical tone, other than just hardness and straight grain. After all,
Hickory is a little harder than Rosewood, and it's certainly cheaper.
So, why don't you see Marimba made from Hickory?
I'm left to presume there are other physical traits in the woods that
allow one to produce a more musical tone than the other. That's where
I'll trust the experience of those who've made xylophones and marimba
for decades and decades. :-)
"Playing is not something I do at night, it's my function in life"
Do marimbas count? I used to live in Veracruz and marimbas were all over
I never examined one closely but the "keys" appeared to be mahogany. Might
have been cedro (Spanish cedar) though...mahogany seemed to be used more
like we use Home Depot 2x4s, cedro for doors etc.
Aside from the resonant frequencies as they vary from wood to wood
given an equal amount of mass, shape and length, there is another
factor that comes into play. The 'Q' of the resonating material.
Assume the following, for argument's sake: three pieces of wood from
different species can be cut to generate the same fundamental
note...say a MiddleA (440). Yet, when struck, will sound very
different from each other. On a spectrum analyzer one can see the
shape of the 'spike' at the fundamental frequency at 440 and a whole
bunch of related and unrelated harmonics. The narrower the spike, at
the same amplitude, the higher the 'Q'
It is that 'Q' that would make one wood more suitable to one's taste
than another. Some would have more second order harmonics than another
making the sound 'warmer'.
Besides, rosewood is pretty, durable and finishes beautifully.
(Then there's the dozens and dozens of different kinds of
On Sun, 18 Apr 2010 08:41:01 -0700 (PDT), marc rosen
You might consider asking at www.mimf.com. The folks over there seem
to know everything there is to know about all sorts of musical
instruments and the materials they are made from.
Definition of a teenager: God's punishment for enjoying sex.
Thank you for those links (new ones to me) and suggestions. The woods
I was thinking of using (that I have scraps of) are a couple of
Rosewood species, Cocobolo (if you don't think of that as a Rosewood),
African Black wood and Pau Rosa.
This is a low priority project but I'll try to do a little bit of it
between the bigger ones. Thanks again,
It usually seems that way, but you can give them a call and they'll find
whatever you need. If you are in the area, they are worth seeking out. They
normally have wood to drool over. Look at their slabs. Even if they are out
of date, they are representative of what they have in stock. See:
On Sun, 18 Apr 2010 20:49:34 -0600, the infamous Dave Balderstone
Try the little guys in Carlsbad, CA. I lived 12 miles away but never
did get over there, damnit. (Then again, my many crowbars can get LOUD
in chorus, knowwhatImean,Vern?) http://www.anexotichardwood.com/
Tropical Exotic Hardwoods
http://fwd4.me/9ry padauk or bubinga surfboards, anyone?
A book burrows into your life in a very profound way
because the experience of reading is not passive.
On Tue, 20 Apr 2010 19:10:59 -0700, the infamous "LDosser"
So get crowbars who can harmonize, eh, Lob?
"I think you very well may see a revolution in this country and
it will not be a revolution to overthrow the government," he said.
"It would be a revolution to restore government to its constitutional
basis." --Rob Weaver on VoA, 4/19/10
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