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Percussion instrument
Other namesConcert bells, orchestral bells, carillon
Classification Keyboard percussion
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 111.212
(Concussive idiophone or set of percussion sticks whose sound is generated by way of being struck by a mallet)
Playing range
written like F3–C6, sounds like F5–C8
Related instruments
xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, tubular bell

The glockenspiel (German pronunciation: [ˈɡlɔkənˌʃpiːl] or [ˈɡlɔkŋ̍ˌʃpiːl] , Glocken: bells and Spiel: Play) [1] is a percussion instrument composed of a set of tuned keys arranged in the fashion of the keyboard of a piano. In this way, it is similar to the xylophone, although the xylophone's bars are made of wood, while the glockenspiel's are metal plates or tubes, thus making it a metallophone. The glockenspiel, additionally, is usually smaller and, because of both its material and smaller size, higher in pitch. [2]


In German, a carillon is also called a glockenspiel, while in French, the glockenspiel is often called a carillon. In music scores the glockenspiel is sometimes designated by the Italian term campanelli .


The glockenspiel is limited to the upper register, and usually covers about two and a half to three octaves, but can also reach up to three and a half octaves. The C8 fundamental frequency of 4186 Hz makes this one of the highest pitches in common use. The glockenspiel is a transposing instrument; its parts are written two octaves below the sounding notes. When struck, the bars give a very pure, bell-like sound.


The history of the glockenspiel is very old. In Europe, the bell is closely related to the type, and the name Glockenspiel also means 'playing the bell'. Early glockenspiel was made to have a carillon effect, and was played by striking a small bell made of bronze and tuned with a drumstick. It was from the 17th century onwards that sound plates were used as they are today.

The earliest used glockenspiele in the art music of the modern Europe is a keyboard type, In French, it is known as glockenspiele, which refers to a keyboard type iron metal. In the 19th century, the glockenspiel became obsolete in orchestra. When it reappeared in the late 19th century, the use of drumchae came to be used instead of the keyboard type. In the keyboard type, the sound board is struck with a hammer from the bottom by the action of a simple action. The toy piano used by children today is a type of keyboard-type iron metal with a steel rod as the pronunciation body instead of a sound board. This is also the instrument called the xylophone in school. Gamulan, a traditional ensemble in Indonesia, also uses iron metal called gampan.


A Mayfield Glockenspiel Mayfield Glockenspiel.jpg
A Mayfield Glockenspiel
A Mardi Gras musician playing a glockenspiel GlockenspielSousaphone.jpg
A Mardi Gras musician playing a glockenspiel

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, sometimes the bars are 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. [3]


A pair of hard, unwrapped mallets, generally with heads made of plastic or metal, are used to strike the bars, although mallet heads can also be made of rubber (though using too-soft rubber can result in a dull sound). If laid out horizontally, a keyboard glockenspiel may be contrived by adding a keyboard to the instrument to facilitate playing chords. Another method of playing chords is to use four mallets, two per hand.

Glockenspiels are quite popular and appear in almost all genres of music. Percussionist Neil Peart of the rock band Rush used the glockenspiel in several of the band's arrangements, most notably in "The Spirit of Radio" and "Closer to the Heart", and also in album tracks "Xanadu" and "Circumstances". A keyboard-operated glockenspiel, as played by Danny Federici on such hit songs as "Born to Run" and "Hungry Heart", is considered part of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's signature style. [4] Glockenspiel appears presented in its own section at the end of the first side of Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield.

The glockenspiel was also featured in Sloop John B as recorded by The Beach Boys,[ citation needed ] Jimi Hendrix's classic ballad "Little Wing", [5] Avenged Sevenfold's song "Nightmare" during the intro,[ citation needed ] as well as in indie folk music by artists such as Paul Duncan of Warm Ghost. [6] George Martin, The Beatles' producer, plays glockenspiel on the band's song "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" to help create the atmosphere of the Pablo Fanque circus performance that inspired the song. [7] John Lennon also plays it on "Only a Northern Song". Panic! at the Disco have used glockenspiel in several of their songs, including their hits "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" and "Build God, Then We'll Talk". Radiohead have used glockenspiel on their single "No Surprises" as well as on "The Tourist", "Lull", "Morning Bell/Amnesiac", "Sit Down/Stand Up", and "All I Need". [8] "Redbone" by Childish Gambino also incorporates a glockenspiel, played by producer Ludwig Göransson. [9] The Jurassic Park main theme composed by John Williams, which plays when the T-rex crashes into the visitor centre at the movie's climax, also has a glockenspiel solo accompanied by trumpets. Weezer's "The Good Life," (Pinkerton) "Heart Songs" (Red Album), and "California Kids" (White Album) all feature glockenspiel.

Famous orchestral excerpts

Other instruments that work on the same struck-bar principle as the glockenspiel include the marimba and the vibraphone.

The Dulcitone has a similar sound to the glockenspiel since its sound is made by hammers striking tuning forks. The dulcitone uses soft hammers which damp the forks, compared to the hard hammers of the glockenspiel, creating a more gentle sound. [10]

There are also many glockenspiel-like instruments in Indonesian gamelan ensembles.[ citation needed ]

Bell lyre

Two bell lyres in use SF Chinese new year p1060738.jpg
Two bell lyres in use

In the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada, there is a form of glockenspiel called a bell lyre, bell lyra, or lyra-glockenspiel. [11] The bell lyre is a form of glockenspiel commonly used in marching bands. It is played upright and has an extendable spike which is held on a strap. The player marches with the strap over his shoulder and plays the instrument upright with a beater. Another variation of the bell lyre exists which is held by a strap round the shoulders and back. This variation is played horizontally with two beaters as it does not need to be held upright. Since the middle of the 19th century this form of the instrument has also 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]

One of the few US college marching bands with a glockenspiel section is UC Berkeley's University of California Marching Band, where glockenspiels are affectionately referred to as "Glocks." [13]

Related Research Articles

Musical keyboard Musical instrument component

A musical keyboard is the set of adjacent depressible levers or keys on a musical instrument. Keyboards typically contain keys for playing the twelve notes of the Western musical scale, with a combination of larger, longer keys and smaller, shorter keys that repeats at the interval of an octave. Depressing a key on the keyboard makes the instrument produce sounds—either by mechanically striking a string or tine, plucking a string (harpsichord), causing air to flow through a pipe organ, striking a bell (carillon), or, on electric and electronic keyboards, completing a circuit. Since the most commonly encountered keyboard instrument is the piano, the keyboard layout is often referred to as the piano keyboard.

Percussion instrument 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.

Xylophone musical instrument of the family of mallets

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 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.

Marimba Wooden percussion instrument struck with mallets

The marimba is a percussion instrument consisting of a set of wooden bars struck with yarn or rubber mallets to produce musical tones. Resonators or pipes are suspended underneath the bars to amplify the sound of the wooden bars. The bars of a chromatic marimba are arranged like the keys of a piano, with the groups of two and three accidentals raised vertically, overlapping the natural bars to aid the performer both visually and physically. This instrument is a type of idiophone, but with a more resonant and lower-pitched tessitura than the xylophone. A person who plays the marimba is called a marimbist or a marimba player.

Vibraphone Musical instrument

The vibraphone is a musical instrument in the struck idiophone subfamily of the percussion family. It consists of tuned metal bars and is usually played by holding two or four soft mallets and striking the bars. A person who plays the vibraphone is called a vibraphonist,vibraharpist, or vibist.

Celesta Struck idiophone operated by a keyboard

The celesta or celeste, also called a bell-piano, is a struck idiophone operated by a keyboard. It looks similar to an upright piano, albeit with smaller keys and a much smaller cabinet, or a large wooden music box (three-octave). The keys connect to hammers that strike a graduated set of metal plates or bars suspended over wooden resonators. Four- or five-octave models usually have a damper pedal that sustains or damps the sound. The three-octave instruments do not have a pedal because of their small "table-top" design. One of the best-known works that uses the celesta is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from The Nutcracker.

Carillon Musical instrument of bells in the percussion family

A carillon is a pitched percussion instrument that is played with a keyboard and consists of at least 23 cast bronze bells in fixed suspension and tuned in chromatic order so that they can be sounded harmoniously together. Housed in bell towers, carillons are usually owned by churches, universities, or municipalities. The bells are struck with clappers connected to a keyboard of wooden batons played with the hands and pedals played with the feet. Often, carillons include an automatic system through which the time is announced and simple tunes are played throughout the day.

Campanology is the study of bells. It encompasses the technology of bells – how they are cast, tuned, rung, and sounded – as well as the history, methods, and traditions of bell-ringing as an art.


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.

Mallet percussion

A mallet percussion instrument is a melodic percussion instrument played in a particular fashion, with mallets. Mallet percussion includes:

Percussion mallet Object used to strike or beat a percussion instrument

A percussion mallet or beater is an object used to strike or beat a percussion instrument in order to produce its sound.

Marching percussion Specially designed percussion instruments

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.

Front ensemble

In a marching band or a drum and bugle corps, the front ensemble or pit is the stationary percussion ensemble. This ensemble is typically placed in front of the football field, though some groups will work the front ensemble into a tight pod onto the marching field. Some high school marching bands opt not to march any percussion instruments, but instead have a "full" front ensemble.

Orchestral percussion are percussion instruments used in orchestras and concert bands mainly in classical music and related styles. The term can also refer to the department or study of performance on said instruments at a music school or conservatory. Generally within such a department, students are required to study all aspects of orchestral playing; with marimba, snare drum, and timpani being the three most basic areas of study. Certain core texts are studied and mastered. In timpani, for example, students are often assigned Saul Goodman's Modern Method for Timpani. Orchestral percussion usually does not include a drum set, but some compositions do require one.

Traditional Thai musical instruments are the musical instruments used in the traditional and classical music of Thailand. They comprise a wide range of wind, string, and percussion instruments played by both the Thai majority as well as the nation's ethnic minorities.

Ranat ek

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.

Musical instrument Device created or adapted to make musical sounds

A musical instrument is a device created or adapted to make musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can be considered a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. A person who plays a musical instrument is known as an instrumentalist. The history of musical instruments dates to the beginnings of human culture. Early musical instruments may have been used for rituals, such as a horn to signal success on the hunt, or a drum in a religious ceremony. Cultures eventually developed composition and performance of melodies for entertainment. Musical instruments evolved in step with changing applications and technologies.

Melodic percussion instrument

A melodic percussion instrument is a percussion instrument used to produce several different notes of different pitches. Melodic percussion instruments are examples of pitched percussion and include mallet percussion and keyboard percussion.

Music technology

Music technology is the study or the use of any device, mechanism, machine or tool by a musician or composer to make or perform music; to compose, notate, play back or record songs or pieces; or to analyze or edit music.

Music technology (mechanical)

Mechanical music technology is the use of any device, mechanism, machine or tool by a musician or composer to make or perform music; to compose, notate, play back or record songs or pieces; or to analyze or edit music. The earliest known applications of technology to music was prehistoric peoples' use of a tool to hand-drill holes in bones to make simple flutes. Ancient Egyptians developed stringed instruments, such as harps, lyres and lutes, which required making thin strings and some type of peg system for adjusting the pitch of the strings. Ancient Egyptians also used wind instruments such as double clarinets and percussion instruments such as cymbals. In Ancient Greece, instruments included the double-reed aulos and the lyre. Numerous instruments are referred to in the Bible, including the horn, pipe, lyre, harp, and bagpipe. During Biblical times, the cornet, flute, horn, organ, pipe, and trumpet were also used. During the Middle Ages, hand-written music notation was developed to write down the notes of religious Plainchant melodies; this notation enabled the Catholic church to disseminate the same chant melodies across its entire empire.


  1.–25; G, equiv. to Glocken bells + Spiel play]
  2. George Grove (ed.), A Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 4 vols. (London: Macmillan and Co., 1878–1889).[ failed verification ]
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  5. weird instrument glockenspiel, Wouter Adriaensen, 2010
  6. Funk, Peter (19 January 2006). "Paul Duncan: Be Careful What You Call Home". PopMatters. Retrieved 2011-05-08.
  7. Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN   0-517-57066-1.
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  9. Nostro, Lauren (2017), The Making Of Childish Gambino's "Redbone" With Ludwig Göransson, Genius
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