What is the difference between an xylophone and a marimba? What about a glockenspiel and a xylophone? Is it just the material and size of glockenspiel?

  • I have seen glockenspielen played in marching bands (carried), but never any of the other instruments. Naturally, the marching band version of the glockenspiel is small (for portability). – user19346 Mar 10 '15 at 7:58

There are actually quite major differences:

  • The Xylophone has a series of wooden bars, tuned to the relevant notes

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  • The marimba has similar wooden bars with resonators (originally gourds, now tubes) underneath

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  • The Vibraphone is a variant of the marimba, often with metal bars, but with a spinning butterfly at the top of the resonator giving a tremolo effect

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  • The Glockenspiel has metal bars, again tuned to the relevant notes

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There are also a range of other similar instruments, and all of the above have variants in terms of materials, tuning, shape etc.

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  • 1
    Xylo is Greek, glocken is German, but you're probably aware of those facts, anyhow.Don't know if that is a nod to where they were 'invented'. – Tim Oct 13 '14 at 11:39
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    I would also like to point out that xylophones and glockenspiels are almost exclusively played with hard mallets, whereas marimbas and vibraphones are usually played with soft mallets. – TylerH Oct 13 '14 at 15:31
  • Also, the marimba and vibraphone sound as written, the xylo 1 octave higher, and the glock 2 octaves higher. – thepocketwade Jun 28 '16 at 21:01

Xylo means wood. Metallo is metal.

|                   |       Xylo(phone)     |    Metallophone    |
| Bars Only         | Xylophone F4-C8       | Glockenspiel G5-C8 |
|                   | Xylorimba C3-C8       |                    |
| Bars + Resonators | Marimba (C2 to A2)-C7 | Vibraphone F3-F6   |

Xylophone and metallophone may both signify their group of instruments (wooden or metal bars).

When you type "xylorimba" or "xylophone" in google image search, you'll see that they often like to sell them with resonators. Thus what really differentiates them is their range:

  • Xylophones have a range of two-and-a-half to four octaves.
  • Marimbas have a larger range, usually between three and five octaves.
  • Xylorimba (sometimes referred to as xylo-marimba or marimba-xylophone) is a xylophone with an extended range downwards to include those pitches normally in the range of the marimba.

The written staff notes also differ from their actual pitch. E.g. for convenience Xylophone is written F3-C7, but it sounds an octave higher: F4-C8. Glockenspiel is written G3-C6, but sounds two octaves higher. (C4 is the "middle C", the sound/pitch that the middle C key of piano makes)

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Since xylorimba wasn't touched on in the other answer, the xylorimba is a bit more of a student instrument, typically referring to an instrument with a 4 octave range and bars of constant xylophone width. The sound it typically much more marimba-like than xylophonic, especially in the low octave.

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