Quick guide to popular Glockenspiels

The Glockenspiel

The glockenspiel, also known as glock, is a kind of xylophone except that its bars or keys are made of metal plates or tubings making it therefore a kind of metallophone.  It evolved alongside the metallophone and has been evolving for the past 300 years. Glockenspiel is german for “bell-play” because the original instruments used bells to create sound.

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Orchestra Instruments

The Glockenspiel: a loved orchestra instrument

Unlike the xylophone, it is very much loved by Indie musicians and avant-garde auteurs. Thus it has become part of the pop songs category. Famous pop song musicians who have used the glock are Radiohead, E Street Band, and Bruce Springsteen plus more.  The glock is a great musical instrument for primary school such as when they do demos in a class project or in movies that illustrate childhood wonderment. This feeling of awe seems to have been carried over to adulthood thus creating interest for more adult sounding music such as popular indie music.

The tubes of the glock are made of tiny strips of metal that can create sound that can relax or shatter the brain. The sound of the glock comes from its own substance when it is vibrated. Furthermore, the Glockenspiel pitch is of the higher brighter range.  Now since it is a percussion instrument. Played simply by striking the bars with a mallet.  In one glockenspiel, sometimes 4 mallets are used – two in each hand. The mallet, designed to strike a metal plate, must comprise of a hard head made of metal or plastic or sometimes hard rubber that creates sound that is crisp and bell-like. If the mallet is soft, expect the sound to be flat or dry. The Glockenspiel frame is similar to the lyre except that the bars are horizontal. Sometimes, the bars are mounted in a horizontal manner to make playing chords easy.


How to Play the Glockenspiel

The Glock’s keys are arranged in a piano keyboard layout. By using the thumb to support the outside of the mallet, wrap fingers over the other side.  The fingers should not be on top of the mallet.  When striking the bar, try to hit the middle to get the fullest brightest high-pitched sound. The edges when struck create a dull, unexciting sound. Gentle striking is the secret; let the mallet hit the middle of the bar and allow it to bounce back to about 3 inches above the keys that is the right position to make rapid gentle strikes. A forceful strike will create too much vibration which will make the sound muted. With two mallets per hand, the way to strike is alternate each hand. Never hit two notes with one hand – keep switching hands, even if you have to cross arms when playing.


The Glockenspiel: Perfect for Writing Music

The sharp bright tones that the glock elicits and the arrangement of keys on the board, make it a great instrument for writing loud, weird sounding babels as well as clear, treble-pitched serious orchestra music. The sound it creates is like those of bells although the glock no longer has bells unlike the first glockenspiels of the 300 or more years ago. World instruments similar to the glock include the fangxiang, gangsa, gendér, jegogan, jublag, saron, slenthem, ugal, and steel marimbaphone.


Purchasing the Glockenspiel

When purchasing a glockenspiel, you must consider the tuning, keys, sound range and frame as well as the materials used. The frame needless to say, despite the many designs, ought to have been created to promote portability and protection for the instrument. Many metals can form part of the glock so you must strike the keys to determine if they produce good sound. Different materials for different preferences and budgets are available. The glock range is wide but to get the best range, get a professional, expert or teacher to accompany you when looking for a good one.

The glock sells at an average of less than a hundred dollars. It ranges from $20 dollars for kiddie instruments to over $100. If you are a beginner, be careful about labels. As some manufacturers say glockenspiel-xylophone that can be confusing. Avoid products labeled as such. Check the material of the glock to determine if it is a xylophone or a real glock.

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