Did you know that the marimba is the national instrument of Guatemala? Did you know that the population density of Guatemala is 134.51 per square mile and that the national dialling code is +502? Only two of these facts are relevant to this article but one can “never know too much stuff”… my gran used to say.
A marimba is the larger daddy of the xylophone. Longer, bigger and better looking, marimbas are manufactured in a wide number of variations from the enormous 6 octave model by Vancore to the smaller 2.5 octave pit variants with a reduced range. Similar to a xylophone, a marimba is a set of wooden bars suspended on a frame over a series of resonators, the resonators adding warmth, tonal quality and depth of sound. One critical difference between the tone bar of a xylophone and that of a marimba is the thickness
Marimba notes are constructed from differing woods or synthetic material. Like xylophones, Honduras rosewood has proven to be the best and most resonant of all. Unlike xylophones, marimba notes are longer, wider and thinner and give a more sonorous and evocative timbre. Synthetic bars are generally louder and ring longer than it’s organic opposition. If one were to use the term ‘standard’, the range of a standard marimba is 4.3 octaves - low A2 to C7 4.3 octaves above. A significant amount of contemporary music is now written to the extreme of the instrument so in general terms, a 5 octave C2-C7 instrument.