Keyboard percussion

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The Keyboard Percussion are instruments arranged like a keyboard that are struck with mallets. This includes the Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Marimba, Vibraphone and Crotales as well as other ethnic instruments such as the Hammered Dulcimer.

Scoring for Keyboard Percussion

All keyboard percussion can be played with a varying number of beaters, normally either two or four. Six mallets may be occasionally employed.

As with other percussion, the keyboard percussion are often used to add accents to a melodic line. This not only brings out the melodic contours, but also often creates technically straightforward parts, allowing them to be learned quickly, so examples in the literature abound (such as Bartok Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste).

Two-Mallet Technique

In two mallet technique each note is often played by alternate hands. Consideration of this often creates idiomatic writing (see for example Messian Chronochromie and Oiseaux Exotiques). Scalic passages, especially on just white notes or black notes, are also effective.

Four-Mallet Technique

This technique, more commonplace on the more sustaining instruments such as the marimba and vibraphone, allows not on chords but more complex figurations to be played. This type of writing is particularly prevalent in solos or concertos for Marimba (e.g. Rosauro's Marimba Concerto No. 1).

Works for Further Listening/Study

Works in this section apply to all keyboard percussion; specific examples can be found on the individual pages.

  • Takemitsu, T.: From Me Flows What You Call Time

Instruments and Voices
Woodwinds Flute (Piccolo/Alto/Bass)RecorderOboe (Cor Anglais/Oboe D'amore/Heckelphone)Clarinet (E♭/Bass/Contrabass)

Bassoon (Contrabassoon)SaxophoneBagpipes

Brass HornCornetTrumpetTromboneEuphoniumTubaSaxhorns
Keyboards PianoOrganHarmoniumHarpsichordClavichordCelestaAccordion
Percussion Tuned: TimpaniGlockenspielChimesVibraphoneXylophoneMarimbaCrotalesMusical sawHammered Dulcimer

Untuned: Snare drumBass drumTriangleCymbalsGongsTom-tomsShakersDrumset

Electronic ThereminOndes MartenotSynthesizerElectronic Wind Instrument
Stringed Bowed: ViolinViolaVioloncelloContrabass

Plucked: HarpGuitarMandolinBanjo

Voices Female: SopranoMezzo-soprano (often mistaken with Alto)Contralto (often mistaken with Alto)

Male: TrebleCountertenorTenorBaritoneBass-baritoneBass