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Where Did the Xylophone Originate?

A xylophone is a great musical instrument to start your child on because it teaches your little one about different tones and pitches. It also stimulates a toddler’s mind on a completely different level as opposed to an ordinary toy. The xylophone belongs to a class of percussion that was often played in an orchestra over a century ago. It is made of hardwood bars in graduated lengths set horizontally on a metal frame. It is an ancient instrument developed around the 9th century. But where did the xylophone originate from?

First Evidence of the Xylophone

It is difficult to pinpoint where the xylophone originated as it has been found separately in both Asia and Africa. Although historians have come to believe that the first xylophone appeared in Asia and then thought to have spread to Africa. The first evidence of the instrument is found in 9th century south-east Asia. But long before in around 2000 BC, a kind of wooden harmonica with 16 suspended wood bars is said to have existed in China. At the same time, a similar instrument called the ranat is said to exist in the Hindu regions. Proof that the xylophone first came to the fore in Asia is the numerous temple reliefs depicting people playing the pre-modern xylophone.

Popularity in the 14th century

When exactly the xylophone reached the shores of Africa is unknown. Although it most likely existed in Africa prior to the 14th century, it was during this tie that xylophones are found in Mali. Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century found xylophones with a resonator made of a calabash and a type of kazoo in Ethiopia that produces resonant buzzing noises. A similar type of xylophone, known as the ambira was also found in the area of Mozambique.

The Xylophone lands in Europe

The xylophone was thought to be brought to Europe during the time of the Crusades. It became very popular in Europe for its use in folk music. These early xylophones were simply made and did not come with any resonators. Later, different designs were created in Europe including the four-rowed xylophone by Michael Josef Gusikov using the same notes as the piano. Gusikov was a well-known virtuoso and exposed the xylophone to European audiences.

Albert Roth in 1886 introduced the idea of a two-rowed xylophone with a chromatic note pattern. This led to the development of the modern orchestra xylophone with its two-row chromatic bar arrangement and resonators. But the standard xylophone only came in the early 20th century in 1903, when John Calhoun Deagan became the first manufacturer of the modern orchestra xylophone, which became established as the standard instrument in theatre and symphony orchestras as well as in dance bands.

The xylophone belongs to a group of mallet instruments. Percussion instruments are varied with different sounds and pitches. It is more than just playing drums. Learn more about percussion music with us at Ritmo Music Studio.

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