Xylophones require specific beaters to draw the correct sound out of the instrument. Most xylophone beaters are unwound mallets meaning that they are made from a non-porous and harder material. For softer effects, some hard yarn mallets can bring out some interesting timbres. Xylophone mallets can generally be used as glockenspiel beaters and vice versa.
The xylophone beater community has been split for some time over the optimum shaft and head combination and which it is that gives the best performance. For those that have been reading the other tuned percussion mallet posts, the shaft of most beaters are generally split into two camps, birch and rattan. Birch gives more rigidity whilst rattan offers a more flexible and whippy flippy feel. The heads for xylophone mallets are usually constructed from either hard plastic, polyball or acrylic whilst wooden headed mallets are generally available in ebony, birch gofawood or rosewood. In addition varying hardness’s of rubber are popular for practice.
Significant manufacturers of xylophone beaters are Chalklin in the UK, Balter in the USA and also Malletch in the USA.
Similar to glockenspiel mallets, the repertoire can dictate the head density that in turn generates the required sound to produce the volume and weight of sound for a specific piece. For example Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony will require a heavy mallet to produced loud and pronounced single notes whilst a George Hamilton Green rag, needs light and small headed mallets to enable a deftness of touch a hint of daintiness.