Learning about Xylophones, Glockenspiels and Marimbas at school

Want some music lesson plans about percussion instruments? here is a few ideas

To help students understand how timpani can be tuned, demonstrate the effect of membrane tension on pitch. With a simple home made drum, pull on the edges of the drumhead to put varying degrees of tension on it, while a student plays a steady drumbeat on it. If the students have their own drums, pair them off and let them take turns repeating the experiment you just demonstrated.

Have a look at the keyboard percussion instruments, the xylophone, marimba and Glockenspiel, and show the students how they are laid out just like a piano. Students may enjoy making a “paperphone.” Students can cut out rectangular bars of continually smaller sizes out of paper and glue them to thick cardboard or a large sheet of paper. You can then put labels on the bars.

Demonstrate how resonance can amplify the sound of an instrument. With a xylophone or marimba you can remove one bar and try and play it with no resonator (pipe or box) underneath. Then compare the difference with placing it over the resonating chamber. It may necessary to have a go first with the instruments around the school first to make sure you can clearly demonstrate this using your instruments.

Recommended listening: Camille Saint-Saëns, Danse Macabre. The composer gives the xylophone a prominent part at 1:45 and 3:45 (may vary slightly depending on the tempo of your recording). It is meant to convey the rattling bones of a dancing skeleton.

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