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All About the Glockenspiel

Musical instruments are available in a huge variety of shapes, sounds, purposes, materials, and sizes.  It would be a difficult task to name all the instruments of the world, much less learn the history of them.  One instrument that is interesting to learn about is called the Glockenspiel.

Glockenspiel is just a fun word to say aloud, and it is also a fun-sounding musical instrument.  Similar to a xylophone in appearance, the glockenspiel is a percussion instrument that has a set of bars that are usually played with a small rubber mallet.  The glockenspiel falls into the metallophone category because its bars are made of metal; unlike a xylophone’s bars that are made of wood.  The glockenspiel is usually smaller in size than a xylophone, and creates musical sounds that are higher in pitch.

The glockenspiel originated as an instrument consisting of bells in multiple sizes in the early 14th century.  The translation of the word “glockenspiel” literally means “bell-play”.  There were large glockenspiels that were initially used in church towers to create the unique bell sound, and smaller ones that people had in their homes.

Around the early 1700’s. the glockenspiel became an orchestra instrument.  The famous composer, Georg Friedrich Handel, created a piece of music in 1739 where the glockenspiel was used to create the sound of metal hammers.  In 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart also used the glockenspiel in a piece of his music in order to create the sound of “magic bells”.

Eventually, in the early 19th century, the Dutch replaced the bells of the glockenspiel with metal bars.  This evolved instrument was simpler to create and to play.  It proved to be a wonderful advancement of the glockenspiel.

The next stage of the glockenspiel was to make the instrument a portable one.  Marching bands wanted to incorporate the glockenspiel in their musical instrument repertoire, so the bell lyre was created.  The glockenspiel is a very lightweight instrument, and could be placed in a lyre quite easily, and carried by a musician without much physical strain.

The glockenspiel is still very popular today and is used with elementary aged musicians up through professional orchestra members.  Its sound is quite characteristic for its high pitch and wide range of musical notes.  It is an instrument that can be played horizontally or vertically.  It can also be played with one rubber mallet or several simultaneously.  Remarkably, it can also be used in almost any genre of music, too.  It is an instrument that has countless possibilities.  Also, it is a fun word to pronounce.

Look for a glockenspiel next time you are out and about, and see what fun tunes you can create.