Xylophone

While a centuries-old folk instrument in Africa, the xylophone found in a modern percussion section didn't enter the orchestra until the 1860s.

This instrument consists of wooden bars underpinned by tuned resonators that are laid out like a piano keyboard and can reach a length of four octaves. The basic sound is a hard, scintillating clatter. Mahler's Sixth introduced the xylophone into the realm of the consequential symphony. In the "Dance of Katchei Retinue" excerpt from Stravinsky's The Firebird, the xylophone might be the ghoulish rattling of a skeleton's bones.

Fact File

Did you know?

The first major orchestral appearance of the xylophone was in Camille Saint-Saƫns' La Danse Macabre in 1874.

Frequency Range

261 Hz - 4.2 kHz