Bars[ edit ] Marimba bars are typically made of either wood or synthetic material. Rosewood is the most desirable, while Padauk is a popular affordable alternative. Bars made from synthetic materials generally fall short in sound quality in comparison to wooden bars, but are less expensive and yield added durability and weather resistance, [8] making them suitable for outdoor use; marimbas with wooden bars are usually played inside because the bars are susceptible to pitch change due to weather. Bubinga Guibourtia demeusei and mahogany have also been cited as comparable to rosewood in quality for use as marimba bars. The bars are wider and longer at the lowest pitched notes, and gradually get narrower and shorter as the notes get higher.

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In many African languages the term ma-rimba is therefore used to describe instruments with several bars. But the cultural backgrounds of the two instruments are vastly different; the marimba originated in central Africa but developed independently, gaining its own identity and significance, as the following paragraphs show. Origins in Africa Xylophones are not found everywhere in Africa.

Various types can be found from central Africa down to South Africa, and the instrument is particularly common on both the west and east coasts Angola, Mozambique. The first evidence of historical xylophones in Africa seems to show that they originated in what is now Mali in about the 13th century.

It is generally accepted that xylophones with calabashes as resonators, which became the model for Latin American marimbas and gave them the name, were first widespread in central Africa Tanzania, Congo.

In Africa, calabashes are still made out of the dried gourds of the calabash tree; they are the same size as a pumpkin. Suitable calabashes are rare and consequently valuable. The pitch of the calabash must correspond exactly with that of the bar. This membrane vibrates in sympathy when the corresponding bar is struck and produces a buzzing noise which has the effect of amplifying the sound.

Independent development in Latin America Africans sold as slaves to Central and South America in the 16th and 17th centuries continued to make their native instruments there. The xylophones known as marimbas underwent further development on the American continent, especially in Mexico, Guatemala and Brazil.

In these countries the calabashes were replaced by precisely tuned wood resonator chambers. Mirlitons were still fitted to the resonators which gave these Central American marimbas their distinctive character. Chiapas In Mexico the marimba is still a very common folk instrument and a wide variety of different versions of it are made. The Chiapas marimba has the form of a table.

There are two kinds: the diatonic marimba sencilla and the chromatic marimba doble. Such large instruments are usually played by several marimbists, each player responsible for a particular register, within the confines of which he is obliged to stay. In addition, instruments with three or four octaves are also used. The resonators are often made of bamboo. Marimba ensembles with several instruments are a notable tradition which is still followed today, especially in Mexico City and Chiapas; a group of musicians plays on one marimba or several.

Adaptation for the symphony orchestra The name marimba was eventually applied to the concert and orchestra instrument that had been inspired by the Latin American model. In the U. Tuned metal tubes replaced the wood resonators, those for the lowest notes being bent into a U shape.

The resonators were tuned by rotating metal discs at the bottom end of the tube, mirlitons were abandoned. These new marimbas were first used to accompany Vaudeville theater and comedy shows. Although the marimba was in constant use in dance bands and light music, it was some time before it was given important parts to play in the orchestra. It was not until that the marimba suddenly burst on the scene as a serious instrument in the Concerto for Marimba and Vibraphone by the French composer Darius Milhaud.

A new playing technique had been introduced, namely the use of four mallets, which made it possible to play chords, and this innovation received a correspondingly enthusiastic reception.


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Rain Dance (solo marimba)



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