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The Wood That Sings by Molly Goins (Grade 6)

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The Wood That Sings by Molly Goins

A marimba is an instrument that has developed over time with the people, culture, and the customs in which it has been purposed for. The marimba is a member of the percussion family and is commonly misidentified as a xylophone.

Marimbas are idiophones which means that they vibrate and produce a sound when struck. The bars of this instrument are arranged as a two-level keyboard, frequently thought of like a piano, which gives a full chromatic scale effect. The bar’s pitch is formed by the length, thickness, and material- mainly made up of composite material, rosewood, or Padauk. Rosewood is the most desirable material for the bars because of the rich, warm sound it offers. Resonator pipes are located under the designated bars and help deliver a stronger sound to the instrument. Most resonator pipes are made of aluminum.

A marimba is played with mallets, which are made of a long wooden stick with a rubber ball wrapped with yarn or cord at the end. Depending on the type of mallets, the marimba can produce a variety of tones.

Marimba players may use two or more mallets when playing a piece. A solo marimbist generally plays with four mallets - two in each hand. There are different ways to hold mallets in your hands, but the most common for four-mallet marimba playing are known as Steven’s grip and Burton’s grip. This instrument is not only for solos but can be played by one or more musicians according to how many octaves are present.

Due to the unique sound of the marimba, it is a popular instrument in many modern concerts that feature orchestras, jazz ensembles, marching bands, solo performances, and Latin music. It is uncertain where the marimba and its special sound originated, but historians believe that they were created in Asia or Africa. It has been believed that during the sixteenth century was when the marimba was first brought to South America by African slaves or from African relations. In Guatemala, where the name marimba means “the wood that sings,” the instrument gained the title of their national instrument in the early 1800s.
From this knowledge and other research, experts have concluded that marimbas are one of the first forms of melodic instrumentation.

There are a few other names that the marimba is known as, most of them coming from a foreign country. Gyil- a name given from the Akan people in Ghana, Heri- a name used in Mali, and Balafon- what a marimba is referred to in Guinea.

It is obvious that the marimba has had a true adventure around the world and has rooted itself down into eastern and western culture. Music genres and styles continue to incorporate marimba into their works, outlining and maintaining a path for the instrument to be known and appreciated on.
What is the marimba commonly misidentified as?
  1. xylophone
  2. timpani
  3. bells
  4. drum
The bars of a marimba are arranged like a(n)
  1. organ
  2. piano
  3. guitar
  4. ukelele
What are marimbas played with?
  1. keys
  2. sticks
  3. fingers
  4. mallets
Historians believe that marimbas were created in
  1. Asia or Africa.
  2. Australia or Asia.
  3. Africa or America.
  4. America or Australia.
Marimbas have been concluded to be the first form of what type of instrumentation?
  1. melodic
  2. romantic
  3. chromatic
  4. pentatonic
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