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Xylophone vs. Marimba: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 20, 2023
Xylophones have smaller, higher-pitched wooden bars and no resonators, while marimbas have larger, lower-pitched bars with resonators for deeper tones.

Key Differences

Xylophones, known for their bright, sharp sound, consist of wooden bars arranged like a piano's keys, played with mallets. Marimbas, while similar in appearance, have larger wooden bars and resonators, producing a warmer, deeper sound.
In the xylophone, the bars are typically made of hardwood, giving it a distinct, crisp sound quality. The marimba's bars, often made of softer wood like rosewood, and the addition of tube resonators, result in a richer, more resonant tone.
Xylophones are used widely in classical and orchestral music for their clear, piercing tones. Marimbas, with their deeper, mellower sound, are more prevalent in Latin American music and modern compositions.
The size of the xylophone is generally smaller than the marimba, making it more portable. The marimba, due to its larger size and resonators, is less mobile and requires more space.
Xylophones are often found in educational settings due to their simplicity and ease of play for beginners. Marimbas, offering a broader range of musical expression, are typically used by more advanced musicians.

Comparison Chart

Sound Quality

Bright, sharp sound.
Warmer, deeper sound.

Bar Material

Typically made of hardwood.
Often made of softer woods like rosewood.


Generally smaller.
Larger, with longer bars.


Usually lacks resonators.
Equipped with tube resonators for each bar.


Common in orchestral and educational settings.
Used in Latin American music and modern compositions.

Xylophone and Marimba Definitions


A percussion instrument often used in orchestras for bright tones.
The xylophone added a unique texture to the symphony.


A large wooden percussion instrument with resonators.
The marimba's deep tones echoed through the concert hall.


A portable instrument used in various musical genres.
The band's use of the xylophone gave their music a distinctive sound.


A musical instrument originating from Africa and popular in Latin America.
Marimba bands are a key feature of traditional Latin American festivals.


A tuned instrument with bars arranged in the pattern of a keyboard.
Learning the xylophone can improve one's sense of rhythm.


An instrument with a wide range of notes, suitable for complex melodies.
Composers often write challenging pieces for the marimba.


A musical instrument with wooden bars struck by mallets.
She played a lively melody on the xylophone.


A staple in modern percussion ensembles for its versatile sound.
The marimba solo captivated the audience with its complexity.


An educational tool in music classes for its simplicity.
Children enjoy experimenting with sounds on the xylophone.


An instrument similar to a xylophone but with a richer, mellower sound.
He switched from the xylophone to the marimba for the jazz piece.


A percussion instrument consisting of a mounted row of wooden bars that are graduated in length to sound a chromatic scale, played with two small mallets.


A large wooden percussion instrument with resonators, resembling a xylophone.


(musical instrument) Any musical instrument (percussion idiophone) made of wooden slats graduated so as to make the sounds of the scale when struck with a small drumstick-like mallet; the standard Western concert xylophone or one of its derivatives.


(musical instrument) A musical instrument similar to a xylophone but clearer in pitch.


To play a xylophone or to play something else as though it was a xylophone.


A musical istrument of percussion, consisting of bars yielding musical tones when struck.


To move above a ridged surface so as to hit every ridge, in a manner similar to playing quickly and sequentially on a xylophone.


A percussion instrument with wooden bars tuned to produce a chromatic scale and with resonators; played with small mallets


An instrument common among the Russians, Poles, and Tartars, consisting of a series of strips of wood or glass graduated in length to the musical scale, resting on belts of straw, and struck with two small hammers. Called in Germany strohfiedel, or straw fiddle.


An instrument to determine the vibrative properties of different kinds of wood.


A percussion instrument with wooden bars tuned to produce a chromatic scale and with resonators; played with small mallets


What differentiates a marimba from a xylophone?

Marimbas have larger bars and resonators, producing deeper sounds.

Can a beginner play a xylophone?

Yes, it's often used for basic musical education.

Are xylophones always made of wood?

Typically, yes, though some modern versions use synthetic materials.

What genres use the marimba?

It's popular in Latin American music and contemporary compositions.

Are xylophones expensive?

They vary in price, but are generally less expensive than marimbas.

Do xylophones have a limited range?

They have a narrower range compared to marimbas.

What's the role of resonators in a marimba?

They amplify and enrich the sound of each bar.

What is a xylophone?

A percussion instrument with wooden bars hit by mallets.

What materials are marimba bars made of?

Often rosewood or similar soft woods.

What's the historical origin of the marimba?

It has African origins and was popularized in Latin America.

Are marimbas common in school music programs?

Less common due to their size and cost.

Is the marimba a solo instrument?

It can be, but it's also used in ensembles and orchestras.

How is the marimba played?

By striking the wooden bars with mallets.

Can xylophones be used in orchestras?

Yes, they're common in orchestral music for their bright sound.

Can xylophones be electronic?

Yes, there are electronic versions available.

Do marimbas have a fixed number of bars?

No, the number of bars can vary depending on the model.

Are xylophones suitable for professional performances?

Absolutely, they're used by professionals in various settings.

What's the learning curve for playing a xylophone?

It's relatively easy to start but mastering it requires skill.

What's the size comparison between xylophones and marimbas?

Marimbas are typically larger with longer bars.

Is the marimba difficult to transport?

Due to its size, it's less portable than the xylophone.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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