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A glockenspiel made by Malletech
Percussion instrument
Other names
  • Concert bells
  • orchestral bells
  • carillon
Classification Keyboard percussion
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 111.212
(Sets of percussion plaques)
Playing range
Glockenspiel range.svg
Related instruments

The glockenspiel (German pronunciation: [ˈɡlɔkənˌʃpiːl] or [ˈɡlɔkŋ̍ˌʃpiːl] , Glocken: bells and Spiel: set) or bells is a percussion instrument consisting of pitched aluminum or steel bars arranged in a keyboard layout. This makes the glockenspiel a type of metallophone, similar to the vibraphone.


The glockenspiel is played by striking the bars with mallets, often made of a hard material such as metal or plastic. Its clear, high-pitched tone is often heard in orchestras, wind ensembles, marching bands, and in popular music.


In German, a carillon is also called a Glockenspiel, and in French, the glockenspiel is sometimes called a carillon. It may also be called a jeu de timbres (lit.'set of colors') in French, although this term may sometimes be specifically reserved for the keyboard glockenspiel. [1] In Italian, the term campanelli (lit.'little bells') is used. [2]

The glockenspiel is sometimes erroneously referred to as a xylophone. [3] The Pixiphone, a type of toy glockenspiel, was one such instrument sold as a xylophone.


The glockenspiel is limited to the upper register and usually covers about 2+12 to 3 octaves, although certain professional models may reach up to 3+12 octaves. [4] The glockenspiel is a often a transposing instrument and sounds two octaves above the written pitch, although this is sometimes remedied by using an octave clef.


A glockenspiel made around 1910 in Leipzig, Germany Glockenspiel (c. 1910).jpg
A glockenspiel made around 1910 in Leipzig, Germany

Early glockenspiels were percussion instruments that produced notes via small bronze bells that were tuned with a drumstick. The bells were replaced by metal sound plates in the 17th century. In the 18th century the instrument was played using a keyboard that struck the bottom of each plate with a hammer. [5] The use of mallets evolved during the 19th century, coinciding with Romanticism. [6]


A Mardi Gras musician playing a horizontal bell lyre GlockenspielSousaphone.jpg
A Mardi Gras musician playing a horizontal bell lyre

When used in a marching or military band, the bars are sometimes mounted in a portable case and held vertically, sometimes in a lyre-shaped frame. However, the bars may be held horizontally, using a harness similar to that found on a marching snare. In orchestral use, the bars are mounted horizontally.

Larger sets of glockenspiel (i.e. sets three octaves or larger) are often equipped with a sustain pedal, not unlike that of a vibraphone. [7]

From 1918 to 1932, J.C. Deagan, Inc. manufactured bells equipped with a resonator under the name Parsifal bells. [8] Both Adams and Yamaha model their professional-grade glockenspiels on the Deagan design. [9]


The glockenspiel is played with unwrapped mallets made of hard material, such as metal (usually brass or aluminum) or a type of polymer (usually lexan, acrylic, phenolic, or nylon). Non-metal mallets are used for general playing, while metal mallets produce a more brilliant sound. Rubber mallets may be used for a warmer sound, although rubber that is too soft may struggle to excite the metal bars. Playing chords on a glockenspiel can be done with four mallets using a grip such as Stevens technique.


A vertical bell lyre in use by the National Marching Band of the RAF Air Cadets "Lord Mayor's Show" London 2006 (295240726).jpg
A vertical bell lyre in use by the National Marching Band of the RAF Air Cadets

In the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada, a form of glockenspiel is called a bell lyre, bell lyra, or lyra-glockenspiel. [10] The bell lyre is a form of glockenspiel commonly used in marching bands. [11]

One variation is played vertically and has an extendable spike that is held on a strap. The player marches with the strap over one's shoulder and plays the instrument upright with a mallet. Another variation of the bell lyre exists that is supported by a strap around the shoulders and back. This variation is played horizontally with two mallets. Since the middle of the 19th century this form has been used in military and civil bands in Germany, where it is called a Stahlspiel or Militär-Glockenspiel.

The all-percussion drum and lyre corps in the Philippines uses this as a main instrument. This form of glockenspiel is also popular in Colombian marching band music. [12]

Many marching bands stopped using bell lyres with the introduction of the front ensemble. One of the few college marching bands with a glockenspiel section is UC Berkeley's University of California Marching Band, where they are affectionately referred to as "glocks". [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cymbal</span> Unpitched percussion instrument

A cymbal is a common percussion instrument. Often used in pairs, cymbals consist of thin, normally round plates of various alloys. The majority of cymbals are of indefinite pitch, although small disc-shaped cymbals based on ancient designs sound a definite note. Cymbals are used in many ensembles ranging from the orchestra, percussion ensembles, jazz bands, heavy metal bands, and marching groups. Drum kits usually incorporate at least a crash, ride, or crash/ride, and a pair of hi-hat cymbals. A player of cymbals is known as a cymbalist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Percussion instrument</span> Type of musical instrument that produces a sound by being hit

A percussion instrument is a musical instrument that is sounded by being struck or scraped by a beater including attached or enclosed beaters or rattles struck, scraped or rubbed by hand or struck against another similar instrument. Excluding zoomusicological instruments and the human voice, the percussion family is believed to include the oldest musical instruments.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Xylophone</span> Wooden keyboard percussion instrument

The xylophone is a musical instrument in the percussion family that consists of wooden bars struck by mallets. Like the glockenspiel, the xylophone essentially consists of a set of tuned wooden keys arranged in the fashion of the keyboard of a piano. Each bar is an idiophone tuned to a pitch of a musical scale, whether pentatonic or heptatonic in the case of many African and Asian instruments, diatonic in many western children's instruments, or chromatic for orchestral use.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marimba</span> Wooden keyboard percussion instrument

The marimba is a musical instrument in the percussion family that consists of wooden bars that are struck by mallets. Below each bar is a resonator pipe that amplifies particular harmonics of its sound. Compared to the xylophone, the timbre of the marimba is warmer, deeper, more resonant, and more pure. It also tends to have a lower range than that of a xylophone. Typically, the bars of a marimba are arranged chromatically, like the keys of a piano. The marimba is a type of idiophone.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vibraphone</span> Mallet percussion instrument

The vibraphone is a percussion instrument in the metallophone family. It consists of tuned metal bars and is typically played by using mallets to strike the bars. A person who plays the vibraphone is called a vibraphonist,vibraharpist, or vibist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Xylorimba</span>

The xylorimba is a pitched percussion instrument similar to an extended-range xylophone with a range identical to some 5-octave celestas or 5-octave marimbas, though typically an octave higher than the latter. Despite its name, it is not a combination of a xylophone and a marimba; its name has been a source of confusion, as many composers have called for a 'xylorimba', including Alban Berg, Pierre Boulez and Olivier Messiaen, but for parts requiring only a four-octave xylophone(Blades and Holland n.d.). However, Pierre Boulez wrote for two five-octave xylorimbas in Pli selon pli(Blades and Holland n.d.).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Metallophone</span>

A metallophone is any musical instrument in which the sound-producing body is a piece of metal, consisting of tuned metal bars, tubes, rods, bowls, or plates. Most frequently the metal body is struck to produce sound, usually with a mallet, but may also be activated by friction, keyboard action, or other means.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marching percussion</span> Percussion instruments in a drumline

Marching percussion instruments are instruments specially designed to be played while moving. This is achieved by attaching the drum(s) to a special harness worn by the drummer, although not all marching bands use such harnesses and instead use traditional baldrics to sling their drums.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Front ensemble</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ranat ek</span> Musical instrument

The ranat ek is a Thai musical instrument in the percussion family that consists of 21 wooden bars suspended by cords over a boat-shaped trough resonator and struck by two mallets. It is used as a leading instrument in the piphat ensemble.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tubaphone</span>

A tubaphone is a type of metallophone constructed from a series of metal tubes arranged in a keyboard configuration. The tubes are similar in length to that of a xylophone, and sound vaguely like a glockenspiel.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Keyboard percussion instrument</span>

A keyboard percussion instrument, also known as a bar or mallet percussion instrument, is a pitched percussion instrument arranged in a similar pattern to a piano keyboard and played with hands or percussion mallets. While most keyboard percussion instruments are fully chromatic, keyboard instruments for children, such as ones used in the Orff Schulwerk, may be diatonic or pentatonic.

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The keyboard glockenspiel or organ glockenspiel is an instrument consisting of a glockenspiel operated by a piano keyboard. It was first used by George Frideric Handel in the oratorio Saul (1739). It was also used in the 1739 revivals of his Il Trionfo del Tempo and Acis and Galatea, and the next year in L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. Half a century later, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart employed a strumento d’acciaio in The Magic Flute (1791) to represent Papageno's magic bells, and this instrument is believed to have been a keyboard glockenspiel. This part is nowadays sometimes taken by a celesta. Maurice Ravel preferred the keyboard version of the instrument because it can play a true ff dynamic for brilliance and iridescence in orchestral climaxes. In the late 20th century, the firm of Bergerault began manufacturing a three-octave (F2–E4) mallet instrument with a damping mechanism operated by a foot pedal, which is capable of dealing with the wide range called for in contemporary scores.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Song bells</span>

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J.C. Deagan, Inc. is a former musical instrument manufacturing company that developed and produced instruments from the late 19th- to mid-20th century. It was founded in 1880 by John Calhoun Deagan and initially manufactured glockenspiels. It was noted for its development of the xylophone, vibraharp, organ chimes, aluminum chimes, aluminum harp, Swiss handbells, the marimba, orchestra bells, and marimbaphone. Church bells were revolutionized by Deagan through his design of tubular bells, and the NBC chimes were his creation.


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  12. "Banda de Guerra". Fuerza Aérea Colombiana (in Spanish). Retrieved 16 July 2020.
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