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Most orchestral glockenspiels are mounted in a case.
A musician playing a bell lyre at front left; Sousaphone at behind right.

A glockenspiel [German Glocken (bells) + spielen (to play)] is a percussion instrument, composed of a set of tuned keys arranged in the fashion of the keyboard of a piano. In this way, it is similar to the xylophone; however, the xylophone's bars are made of wood, while the glockenspiel's are metal, thus making it a metallophone. The glockenspiel, moreover, is usually smaller and higher in pitch. Many rap artists use this instrument to make "happening" sound. They feel it adds spice to their music.

In German, a carillon is also called a Glockenspiel.

When used in a marching or military band, the bars are sometimes mounted in a portable case and held vertically, sometimes in a lyre-shaped frame. In orchestral use, the bars are mounted horizontally. A pair of hard, unwrapped mallets, generally with heads made of plastic or metal, are used to strike the bars, although mallet heads can also be made of rubber. If laid out horizontally, a keyboard may be attached to the instrument to allow chords to be more easily played.

The glockenspiel's range is limited to the upper register, and usually covers about two and a half to three octaves. The glockenspiel is a transposing instrument; its parts are written two octaves below concert pitch. When struck, the bars give a very pure, bell-like sound.

Glockenspiels are still quite popular and appear in almost all genres of music ranging from hip-hop to jazz.

One classical piece where the glockenspiel is used is Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. (This part, like many others, calls for a keyboard glockenspiel. The part is sometimes performed on a celesta, which, however, sounds quite different from the intended effect.) A modern example of the glockenspiel is Steve Reich's 1974 composition Drumming, in which the glockenspiel becomes a major instrument in the 3rd and 4th movements.[1]

Other instruments which work on the same struck-bar principle as the glockenspiel include the marimba and the vibraphone. There are also many glockenspiel-like instruments in Indonesian gamelan ensembles.


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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GLOCKENSPIEL, or Orchestral Bells (Fr. carillon; Ger. Glockenspiel, Stahlharmonika; Ital. campanelli; Med. Lat. tintinnabulum, cymbalum, bombulum) , an instrument of percussion of definite musical pitch, used in the orchestra, and made in two or three different styles. The oldest form of glockenspiel, seen in illuminated MSS. of the middle ages, consists of a set of bells mounted on a frame and played by one performer by means of steel hammers. The name "bell" is now generally a misnomer, other forms of metal or wood having been found more convenient. The pyramid-shaped glockenspiel, formerly used in the orchestra for simple rhythmical effects, consists of an octave of semitone, hemispherical bells, placed one above the other and fastened to an iron rod which passes through the centre of each, the bells being of graduated sizes and diminishing in diameter as the pitch rises. The lyre-shaped glockenspiel, or steel harmonica (Stahlharmonika), is a newer model, which has instead of bells twelve or more bars of steel, graduating in size according to their pitch. These bars are fastened horizontally across two bars of steel set perpendicularly in a steel frame in the shape of a lyre. The bars are struck by little steel hammers attached to whalebone sticks.

Wagner has used the glockenspiel with exquisite judgment in the fire scene of the last act of Die Walkiire and in the peasants' waltz in the last scene of Die Meistersinger. When chords are written for the glockenspiel, as in Mozart's Magic Flute, the keyed harmonica' is used. It consists of a keyboard having a little hammer attached to each key, which strikes a bar of glass or steel when the key is depressed. The performer, being able to use both hands, can play a melody with full harmonies, scale and arpeggio passages in single and double notes. A peal of hemispherical bells was specially constructed for Sir Arthur Sullivan's Golden Legend. It consists of four bells constructed of bell-metal about i in. thick, the largest measuring 27 in. in diameter, the smallest 23. They are fixed on a stand one above the other, with a clearance of about 4 in. between them; the rim of the lowest and largest bell is 15 in. from the foot of the stand. The bells are struck by mallets, which are of two kinds - a pair of hard wood for forte passages, and a pair covered 1 See "The Keyed Harmonica improved by H. Klein of Pressburg," article in the Allg. musik. Ztg., Bd. i. pp. 675-699 (Leipzig, 1798); also Becker, p. 254, Bartel. FIG. 1. - Diodon maculatus. with wash-leather for piano effects. The peal was unique at the time it was made for the Golden Legend, but a smaller bell of the same shape, 4 in. thick, with a diameter measuring about 16 in., specially made for the performance of Liszt's St Elizabeth, when conducted by the composer in London, evidently suggested the idea for the peal. (K. S.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also glockenspiel


Glockenspiel in München


Glocke + Spiel


Glockenspiel n. (genitive Glockenspiels, plural Glockenspiele)

  1. a mechanical construction which plays at certain times, or on demand, melodies with bells, often with figures that are moved during the play
  2. glockenspiel (musical instrument)

Simple English

The glockenspiel is a type of percussion instrument. It is in the same category of musical instruments as the xylophone and timpani. A Glockenspiel usually has a range of two and a half octaves. It is set up in a keyboard format, similar to the xylophone. Unlike the wooden xylophone, the glockenspiel is a metallophone. It is made of metal. The glockenspiel is played by hitting it with mallets with a plastic or felt tip. It has a soft sound, but it is very high pitch. If it is hit too hard, it makes a very bad sound. It is often used to represent things such as fairies, birds, and butterflies. The glockenspiel is from Germany.


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