Whether you’re listening to jazz music, it’s quite likely that you’ll come across some tuned from time to time., pop or
In this article we’ll take a look at the key distinctions and, most importantly, check out some great recordings you can hear them on!
Like brass, woodwind and strings, the label ‘tuned ‘ is a pretty accurate name for this family of .
The ‘ ‘ part comes from the fact that the player hits them (like you would a or cymbal) and the tuned part comes from the fact that each bar of the has a different pitch (so that you can play tunes!).
Sounds easy enough, but once you scratch the surface, you’ll find all sorts of subtle differences between the members of this group of instruments, from the materials of the tuned metals , to the mallets used to hit them – and a few things in between.
As always, it’s probably best to start at the beginning…
We can trace the history of the early 16th Century. in European music back into the
But that’s only half the story…
It’s believed that early forms of this date back much further than that, at least to 10th Century Asia and Africa, before making their way West.
Of course, the materials and uses would have changed over time, but the basics remain the same:
The ) allowing the player to choose between hitting single notes (melodies) or multiple notes (chords). is a series of tuned chromatically (ie following the same structure as a
As a basis, that’s a good start to understanding the as the predecessor of instruments like the , and …
With its aluminium , the rose to popularity in the early 20th Century.
It’s tuned the same as a and looks pretty similar, except for the material of its .
This difference in material (metal instead of ) makes a big impact on the , with the ‘s warm, mellow tone in contrast to the more direct and ‘clean’ of a .
In fact, there’s a rich history of jazz which we covered in more detail here.
The , given its modern design, also benefits from a more complex array of features including a sustain , long and a motor which creates a .
The is played with hard, and it’s not uncommon to see performers with four (or even more) sticks in their hands to create a thick wall of .
It’s worth noting that, whilst it’s much rarer to find jazz players, several high-profile players (including and Joel Ross) started out on this before switching.
With its the might seem, at first glance, not a million miles away from a . and hard mallets,
However, the and are not at all the same thing!
Its smaller size and simpler in design mean it’s more commonly found in a school music room than a concert hall.
Lacking the more advanced features of a the , the is, in fact, more closely related to the ; material aside, they are both a simple series of chromatically- for hitting.
Given it’s simple ‘bell-like’ and lack of advanced technical set up, the ‘s contribution to popular music of the 20th Century is usually relegated to the sidelines, with the taking centre-stage for the tuned .
With thick and resonators, the is technically labelled, along with the , a ‘ ‘ .
But whilst the material is the same, the ‘s larger size (4-5 octaves compared to the xylophones 3-4) gives it a deeper .
Played with a , its rich baritone timbre is used sparingly in modern music, perhaps given the low register of the notes.
In much the same way a tenor saxophone player might also bring out a big baritone saxophone on occasion, many vibraphonists have used the on recordings and concerts, including early tuned pioneer Red Norvo.
Thanks for reading and hope this has answered your question about the differences between the vs vs !
Of course, there are a whole host of less-common tuned out there to be discovered, including the balafon, xylorimba, celesta and even .
The label ‘Discover Jazz’ is attached to articles which have been edited and published by Jazzfuel host Matt Fripp, but have been written in collaboration with various different jazz musicians and industry contributors. When appropriate, these musicians are quoted and name-checked inside the article itself!