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Xylophone vs. Vibraphone: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 31, 2024
A xylophone is a percussion instrument with wooden bars, while a vibraphone has metal bars and motor-driven resonators for sustained tones.

Key Differences

The xylophone consists of tuned wooden bars struck with mallets, producing a crisp and staccato sound. The vibraphone, however, has metal bars and is equipped with motor-driven resonators under each bar, allowing for sustained, vibrato sounds.
Xylophones are known for their bright, sharp tones and are often used in classical and folk music. Vibraphones offer a softer, more mellow tone with a distinctive vibrato effect, making them popular in jazz and contemporary music.
A distinguishing feature of the vibraphone is its pedal system, which allows the player to sustain notes like on a piano. The xylophone lacks this feature, resulting in a more percussive and rhythm-focused sound.
The range of a xylophone is generally higher than that of a vibraphone, with xylophones often having shorter bars. Vibraphones have larger, longer bars, contributing to their deeper and more resonant tones.
In terms of construction, xylophones are often more lightweight and portable due to their wooden structure. Vibraphones are heavier and more complex, with additional mechanisms for vibrato and sustain.

Comparison Chart


Wooden bars
Metal bars

Sound Characteristic

Crisp, staccato sound
Mellow tone with vibrato

Use in Music

Classical, folk
Jazz, contemporary

Special Features

Motor-driven resonators, sustain pedal

Range and Tone

Higher range, sharp tone
Lower range, softer tone

Xylophone and Vibraphone Definitions


Played by striking bars with mallets to produce notes.
She skillfully played a melody on the xylophone.


Equipped with a sustain pedal and motor for vibrato.
He used the vibraphone's sustain pedal for a prolonged note.


Known for its sharp, percussive sound.
The xylophone's crisp notes were prominent in the folk song.


A percussion instrument with metal bars and resonators.
The jazz band's vibraphone player mesmerized the audience.


A percussion instrument with tuned wooden bars.
The xylophone added a bright sound to the orchestral piece.


A heavier instrument with a lower pitch range than xylophone.
The vibraphone's deep resonant sound enriched the ensemble's performance.


A lightweight instrument with a higher pitch range.
The xylophone solo was a highlight of the school performance.


Popular in jazz and contemporary music genres.
Her vibraphone improvisations were a staple in the jazz club.


Often used in classical and folk music for rhythm.
The xylophone provided a rhythmic backdrop to the concerto.


Produces a soft, mellow tone with a distinctive vibrato.
The vibraphone's mellow tones added depth to 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 percussion instrument similar to a marimba but having metal bars and rotating disks in the resonators to produce a vibrato. Also called vibraharp.


(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.


A percussion instrument with a double row of tuned metal bars, each above the tubular resonator containing a motor-driven rotating vane, giving a vibrato effect.


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


A percussion instrument similar to a xylophone but having metal bars and rotating disks in the resonators that produce a vibrato sound


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


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 is a xylophone?

A percussion instrument with wooden bars, played with mallets.

How is a vibraphone different from a xylophone?

It has metal bars and features like motor-driven resonators for sustained tones.

Are xylophones portable?

Generally, they are more portable than vibraphones due to their lighter wooden construction.

Is the xylophone played with a pedal?

No, it doesn't have a pedal system like the vibraphone.

Can the vibraphone produce a vibrato effect?

Yes, the vibraphone can create a vibrato effect using its motor-driven resonators.

Do xylophones have a wider range than vibraphones?

Xylophones typically have a higher range, but vibraphones have a wider and lower range.

Is the xylophone's sound sharp or mellow?

It produces a sharper, more percussive sound.

What genres use the vibraphone frequently?

The vibraphone is popular in jazz and contemporary music.

What kind of music typically features a xylophone?

Classical and folk music often incorporate xylophones.

What makes the vibraphone sound mellow?

Its metal bars and the ability to sustain notes contribute to its mellow sound.

What is the main feature of a vibraphone?

Its sustain pedal and resonators are distinctive features.

Are xylophones used in modern music?

They are used, but more commonly in classical and folk music.

Is tuning necessary for vibraphones?

Yes, they need to be tuned, especially due to their metal bars.

How do you maintain a vibraphone?

Regular cleaning and occasional tuning are important for maintenance.

Can a vibraphone play chords?

Yes, its ability to sustain notes allows for chordal playing.

Do vibraphones require electricity?

Yes, for the motor that drives the vibrato mechanism.

How does the material of the bars affect the instrument's sound?

Wooden bars in xylophones create a bright sound, while metal bars in vibraphones produce a mellower tone.

What is the typical size of a xylophone?

They vary, but concert xylophones are larger than children’s models.

What are the mallets for a xylophone made of?

They are often made of hard materials like wood or rubber.

Can beginners play the vibraphone?

Yes, but it may require more practice due to its complex features.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
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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