South African Marimba

Interested in the South African marimba? Learn more about the marimba wav from South Africa and the wonderful music…

The South African marimba is considered one of the most beautiful percussion instruments. The simple musical instrument is crafted out of different wooden bars or keys that are struck on with the mallet, which creates its musical tones. The keys are similar to the arrangement found on the piano, but the accidentals are vertically raised to overlap the natural keys. That aspect aids the user both physically and visually in striking the right note.

The South African marimba music is not very familiar to global audiences as it is played in the classical form and has Latin American folk overtones. The instrument was imported into South America from Africa in the 16th Century. Prior to that, they have were played in Africa hundreds of years ago. The music of the South African marimba wav has evolved and changed globally to be more compatible with other instruments.

Construction and Materials of the Marimba

The marimba bars are generally crafted out of rosewood, but the padouk has also been used along with other synthetic materials. For concertos it is better to use rosewood bars, but for the high intensity marching band, the synthetic bars are best. These are stronger and the pitch is not susceptible to alterations under different weather conditions.

Common Ranges for the Marimba

Common ranges for the marimba are 4, 4.3 and 5 octaves while it is also available in 4.5 and 5.5 octave sizes. The marimba range is slowly expanding as it gains popularity on a global level. There are lower and higher notes but if the resonators become too long then construction becomes challenging.

The lowest pitched notes are derived from the widest and longest bars, which become narrow as the notes become lower pitched. When tuning the South African marimba, the wood is picked from the middle of the underside of the bar in order to lower the pitch. This results in the bar being thick in the high pitch register and thin in the low pitch register. Local artisans use indigenous African materials to craft marimbas.

The best way to play the marimba is to strike it slightly off center or on the edge of the black keys to get a full tone. If you strike the bar in the centre a very articulate tone is acquired. Sonically, the weakest area to play is the location where the string runs through the bar, which is called the node. This point is used when a mute tone is required by the player.

Modern Concert Instrument

The South African Marimba has its origins in Mexico and Guatemala. The Germans, Japanese and Americans eventually modernized it. It is used in woodwind ensembles, solo performances, jazz ensembles and marimba concertos. It is used as a front ensemble instrument in marching bands, orchestral compositions and wind ensembles or in drum and bugle corps. Many modern day composers use the unique flow of sound from the marimba to create interesting musical pieces.



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