Make time for music - the xylophone (used for page turns in the recording)

The audio recordings for 'We remember: Australia's story', feature a wooden xylophone which is round in shape as you can see in the image below.

Wooden stir xylophone

The word 'Xylophone' comes by joining two Greek words together. 'Xylo' means 'wood' and 'phone' means voice. Another word you might know is 'telephone'. That comes from the Greek words 'tele' meaning 'far' and 'phone' meaning 'voice'. So 'telephone' means 'far voice' or a voice that you can hear from far away.

A xylophone is a percussion instrument. The word 'percussion' comes from the word 'percuss', an Old French word that means 'to strike' or hit. So, percussion instruments are normally played by someone hitting them, or making something hit something else.

The xylophone can be played using a wooden stick, mallet, rubber or cloth-covered wooden mallet, or a plastic mallet. In the video below, I am using a round xylophone and only one wooden mallet.

You can also use a stick to hit some xylophones as this player is doing. (Again, this is a youtube video).

To see another very good xylophone player, you can watch a performance below which shows a player using four mallets at once. He also sometimes switches to a glockenspiel. The word 'glockenspiel' is made up of two German words. 'Glock' means 'bell' and 'spiel' means 'speak' so it means 'bell speak', or the bells are speaking. Glockenspiels are made from wooden bars, like bells. (Be aware that this is a youtube video, so the videos that load after this video may be based on the browsing history on your computer and we have no control over that).

Marimba's use xylophone bars, but add tubes or guords underneath to make the sound louder (or amplify the sound) You can see some pictures of guords here. These tubes can be made out of wood, metal or plastic. To see some photos of marimbas, click here. To see some marimba's being played, watch a duet (a piece played by two musicians) in the video below. (Again, this is a youtube video).


  1. Find a wooden object (e.g. wooden block, wooden chopping board, timber beams), you are allowed to hit with a mallet, wooden spoon or other piece of wood to make a sound. Experiment with different ways to position the wood so it makes the best sound.
  2. Find other sized pieces of wood and compare the sounds.
  3. Put the pieces of wood in order, starting from the biggest pieces (that should have the lowest sounds), up to the smallest piece of wood, (or the highest sound).
  4. Take a photo of your 'instrument'.
  5. Experiment with your instrument and create a piece of music that you like.
  6. Record your performance and send it to a parent who is away and/or a relative.
  7. Find some different styles of xylophones by doing an internet search.
  8. Find some different styles of outdoor xylophones for parks, playgrounds, early childhood services and schools.
  9. Print out your photo and some of the examples of the xylophones you find on the internet and paste them on some recycled cardboard. Ask an adult or older sibling or friend to help you put together some labels and information for the display.
  10. Alternatively, make an electronic version of activity number 9 using a word document, slides, and an app (e.g. Explain everything).
  11. Adapt your instrument to make it a marimba and repeat the activities above.

If you enjoyed these activities and lessons, there is a similar lesson about glockenspiels in Module 7 of the Educator Program.

You can see someone making a xylophone below.

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Last modified: Saturday, 7 May 2022, 9:26 PM