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Making Xylophones

Our modern xylophone is a complex assemble of various natural and industrious materials:

Redwood is used in constructing the frame. This is insect resistant. Cowhide and other skins  are cut into stripes and used in tying the frame or wooden structure together. Some are also used to decorate the frame. For stabilising  the frame is nailed.

A number of gourds  are tested and those which resonate the pitched bars are hang onto the frame.

Hardwood (and most often dead Sheanuts trees or Mahogany) is used for the bars or keys. It is kiln dried or seasoned and then cut to sizes of the bars. After suspending it over an open pit, which serves as a resonator for tuning the back of the ends. The axe is used to cut out from the centre  to lower the pitch. Cutting from the end of the key is raising the pitch.

The scale it is tuned to traditionally is PENTATONIC, and here a hemi pentatonic (= nasal pentatonic). The xylophone tuning is a rather relative one (not getting the perfect C or other key) but rather it equalises the intervals.

The intervals can be named G - A - C - D - E.

The keys are assembled on the frame with the gourds by a rope from  twisted goatskin, or better (because it can not cut) by twisted antelope skin.

The wood for the keys is rare and can only been found in the Savannah and grassland zones of Northern Ghana and some areas that extend to Burkina Faso.

The beaters or mallets had traditionally heads from thin stripes of Latex wound round the ends of a moulded piece of rounded wood, which is 30 cm long and 2-3 cm diameter thick to have a strong hold in the hand.  The modern version has a circle cut from a car tyre,  as this head is more durable.

 

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