Monday, November 21, 2011

Keyboard Percussion 1: Marimba

In junior high, as beginners, we called them, "bells." Anything where you had to play actual pitches that wasn't timpani was bells, and only the weird kids played them.

Well, call me a weird kid. My favorite percussion instrument is marimba.

There are actually quite a few mallet instruments in the percussion family. Allow me to list the most common (and a few that aren't so common).

First, marimba. This is the largest of the keyboard instruments. The keys are usually made of rosewood, although some man-made materials (such as 'kelon' and 'acoustalon') and other woods (such as padouk) have been used to make the instrument a little more affordable.

Marimba is  played frequently with four or more mallets, and usually by soloists or in percussion-only groups. The amount of literature available for solo marimba has exploded in the last ten years, and it is considered to be one of the basic percussion instruments that every student must learn. It is also starting to be more commonly used in band and even orchestral music.

There is no way I can give even a cursory introduction to marimba in one blog post, so I'll just give you a little taste and let you explore away. And even if you're already familiar with the instrument, here are a couple of my favorite players.

And another, young marimbist and master percussionist, Casey Cangelosi, also a colleague of mine. He and I did our undergrad work together at Utah State University under the direction of Dr. Dennis D. Griffin.

As you can see, Casey has gone to other worlds. Enjoy!


  1. Whatever Keith...We all know you were the guy that only wanted to play drum set too!

  2. You're absolutely right, Seth! Glad I came to my senses enough to appreciate they keyboards, too.


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