There are nine common types of xylophones. None of these types of xylophones originated in the United States. The names of these types of xylophones are the amadinda, akadinda, emaire, balfon, kulintang a kayo, gangingan a kayo, luntangs, t’rungs, and timbela. Each of these types of xylophones produces a distinct sound, has different numbers of keys, and can be played by different numbers of people.
The amadinda type of xylophone is normally played in groups. It typically has drum accompaniment. This type of xylophone has 12 keys. Although it has fewer keys than the akadinda type of xylophone, the amadinda is larger. Each of the 12 keys is larger than the keys of the akadinda.
The next type of xylophone is the akadinda. This type of xylophone has 10 to 20 keys. The akadinda with 10 keys is played by two people. The akadinda with 20 keys is played by four people. This type of xylophone was made in Uganda first. It is usually made of banana stems.
The embaire type of xylophone is a large xylophone. It typically has 21 keys, and can be up to twelve feet long. It was made in Eastern Africa. Six players are needed for this type of xylophone. Three players stand on each side and hit the keys on the end with wooden sticks instead of in the middle of the bar (as is typical with other types of xylophones).
The 18-21 key balafon is the next type of xylophone. It was originally made in Western Africa. Typically, rosewood is used to make the keys and they are set on a bamboo frame. There are two ways to use the keys on this type of xylophone. The keys can be fixed’rosewood keys, bamboo frame, all attached with leather straps’or free’keys placed on padded surface to be played.
The kulintang a kayo type of xylophone is from the Philippines. There are 8 keys on this type of xylophone, and they are attached to a rack called an ‘antangan’. Normally the keys are made of metal or extremely soft woods.
The next type of xylophone is the gangingan a kayo. It consists of only four keys. These four keys try to imitate the sounds of the gangingan’a series of gongs suspended and played.
The lungtang type of xylophone is also from the Philippines. There are 5 keys. The keys of this type of xylophone are logs that are suspended horizontally in ascending pitch. This type of xylophone was used for communicating over long distances. The lungtang is played by one or two players at the same time.
The t’rung type of xylophone has three rows of pipes. The pipes are hung on slanted racks. Unlike most types of xylophones, the lowest keys are on the top rack instead of on the lowest rack. Lower keys are typically larger in size, so they are normally on the lower racks. This type of xylophone has the keys reversed.
The final type of xylophone is the timbela. It is a set of keys that are propped on the ground. This type of xylophone is played with wooden sticks.
There are nine types of xylophones that come to us from all over the world. Each has a distinct sound based on the number of keys, what it is made of, and the number of players.