How do you make a xylophone?

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โˆ™ 2013-05-20 16:22:55

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Basically, a xylophone is a percussion instrument where sound is produced by striking wooden bars of graduated length, mounted upon a resonator. Therefore, the best plan for making a xylophone is as follows.

Notice, the following is my own method which requires some woodworking skill. For other, easier methods, Google "making a xylophone" or something to that effect.

Make a number of bars of some sort of hardwood, preferably rosewood. If you are a fairly skilled musician, maybe 13 or 25 bars will be best (1 or 2 chromatic octaves). These bars should be maybe a quarter of an inch (1cm) thick, 1 inch wide, and all of them should be initially cut off to 1 foot. If you are a starving concert artist or a highly gifted amateur, you should have the full range of 1/2' C to very high C (37 bars).

Now it is time to tune these bars. Place a bar on a piece of foam or insulation or a thick carpet. Use an electrical tuner for the tuning, unless your ear is so good that you can do it with pitch pipes or a fork by counting the beats (if you do not understand the beating concept, you need not learn it now). Tune the longest bar to the note you wish the longest bar to sound at, and tune the others at the pitches you want them to sound. I will come back to this at the end.

Let us assume that all the bars are tuned, and are at their proper length. You must now place the bars on a board that will hold them steady as they are struck. To determine the dimensions of this board, align the "naturals" (C D E F G A B etc) on the ground so they lie like this, so that there is a quarter inch between the bars.


Measure from the lowest to the highest natural. The length of the board is the distance between the lowest and the highest naturals, plus five inches or so. The width, we can assume as twice the length of the longest bar, plus five inches or so. It can be about half an inch thick.

Drill two holes through each bar, one at each end, about a half an inch from the ends. If you split a bar, make and tune another identical one.

Place a piece of foam over the board, completely covering the board. Staple it down at the corners, after making sure that it is moderately taught, but not as much as to rip it.

Place the naturals on the board as you placed them on the ground earlier. Make sure the ends closest to the player are aligned. The aligned ends must be about one inch or so from the long edge of the board. After ensuring that they are all of equal distance from each other, drive nails through the two holes in the bars that you drilled earlier, as to keep the bars from moving except up and down.

Place the sharps and flats as you would see on a piano, between the ends of the two naturals. Let the near ends of the sharps and flats be a half inch from the far end of the naturals. When they are in position, nail them in place.

On the topic of mallets, you really should have two types so you can preform both aggressive toned and milder music. For the hard mallets, you can use plain wooden sticks (dowels). For soft sticks, wind rubber bands or highly compressed layers of felt around a plain drumstick. You should make 4 of each kind if you are serious about the orchestral and chamber repertoire. Otherwise, two will suffice.

On the subject of tuning:

Making the bar shorter will raise the pitch. At first, cut each bar about a fifth higher than desired. Then, smack in the center of the back of the bar, make a gouge, which will lower the pitch. This will improve the tone, especially in the lowest register.

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โˆ™ 2013-05-20 16:22:55
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