How to Play Quieter on the Xylophone?


The xylophone is a fun instrument to play as its sound can carry over a full ensemble of musicians. However, there are times where you may want or need to play softer. For those times, it’s essential to know how to play your xylophone more quietly so that you can showcase the mood of the music.

How do you play quieter on the xylophone? Xylophones have a high range, which can make it hard to get a good sound without being too loud. The best way to play more quietly on the xylophone is to use a pair of softer mallets, which will give a different sound than plastic ones. Another way to play quietly is to strike the xylophone more softly.

If people keep telling you to play the xylophone more quietly, you have a few options. While it can be hard to make the instrument super soft, you can do a few things to lower the volume. That way, you can expand your skills while fitting into the ensemble or other musicians.

Consider the Range

The right steps to playing quietly on any instrument can depend on the range of the instrument in question. When it comes to the xylophone, you usually have some higher pitches to play, and that can make playing quietly more difficult. Unless you have complete control over the range you play, you need to be able to make those high notes softer.

For better or worse, higher notes tend to sound louder than lower ones. That’s because the higher frequency causes the note to vibrate more quickly. When you play any note, but especially high ones, you must control the sound so that you get the note to speak without being too loud.

Being able to control pitches can be hard at first, but it’s important for anyone who plays music with others. That way, you can blend with the other musicians and not stick out like a sore thumb.

The range can also be useful to consider if you want to practice and not disturb others. Knowing that the higher notes tend to sound louder, you can practice your music an octave or two lower. While you may sometimes need to play up high, playing the same notes down low will allow you to hear what you’re playing, but you’ll get to play softer.

If you’re in a rehearsal and play too loud, there are a few things you can do to help. Of course, you should work at refining your playing technique. However, some tools can come in handy, even for professional musicians.

Mallets Matter

Soft Mallet for quiet xylophone play
Softer mallets allow you to play the xylophone more quietly

A common option for making your xylophone playing quieter is to choose a soft pair of mallets. Mallets come in a variety of hardness, which can affect how loud or soft you play. The right set of mallets can make it much easier to play at the volume level that you need to.

  • Hard plastic mallets are great for louder sections, but they can sound too harsh and forced. It can be hard to play quietly with them.
  • Softer mallets made of rubber are perfect for when you need to play quietly on the xylophone. They don’t strike as hard as plastic mallets and are ideal for softer sections.
  • If you find that soft mallets are too soft, you can choose mallets with a medium amount of hardness. They’re not as hard as plastic, but they have a bit more strength than the softest rubber mallets.
  • You can also experiment with mallets of different sizes. A mallet with a larger tip might be too loud, while a smaller tip could make it easy to play quietly.
  • If you do a lot of xylophone playing, make sure you have a variety of high-quality mallets on hand so that you can choose the right ones for the music.

When selecting your mallets for a particular piece or section of music, consider their hardness and size. The mallets you use can have a significant effect on how easy or hard it is to play quietly.

Take It Easy

Perhaps you have the softest mallets you can find, and you still have trouble playing quietly enough. In that case, you should evaluate how you are playing the xylophone. Specifically, analyze how you’re striking the xylophone as you play different notes.

As a percussion instrument, striking the xylophone is a big part of playing it. Sometimes, you want to use as much force as you can to get a clear sound. However, that’s the opposite of what you want to do when playing quietly.

To play quieter on the xylophone, try striking the instrument with less force. Merely touching the mallet to the xylophone won’t give you much sound at all. Instead, you have to find a happy medium to get the volume that you want.

Start striking the xylophone to get a loud sound. From there, strike it with slightly less force. Repeat that process until you get the sound you like at the volume you need. Then, practice striking the xylophone so that you get the right sound and volume consistently.

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Yamaha Table Xylophone is a great home instrument

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you determine the right mallets for your xylophone and how hard or soft you need to strike the instrument, you need to practice. That way, you can add that sound to your muscle memory. The more you practice playing xylophone quietly, the easier it will become, and the less you’ll have to work at it in the future.

  • Practice playing your xylophone quietly every day. Even if you don’t need to play quietly, you don’t want to forget how to do so.
  • When you need to play music quietly, you will have the skills and muscle memory you need to do so quickly.
  • It would help if you also practiced playing somewhat quietly as well as extremely so. That way, you can have a wider range of volumes that you can more easily play.
  • At first, you may need to spend a long time playing quietly. However, as you get better, you can practice for a shorter period.

Like any other musical skill, learning how to play quietly can take time. The more you work at it, the easier it will become, so don’t give up.

Is Playing Quietly Hard on the Xylophone?

As you start attempting to play quietly on the xylophone, you might begin to feel discouraged. However, if you can play the xylophone, you’re already on the right track. Now, you need to focus on playing quietly so that you can expand your musical skills.

If you’re struggling to play quietly on the xylophone, consider how the instrument works. You use a mallet, which is a type of stick, to strike the bars of the xylophone. Those bars have different lengths, and they have tubes underneath them that are also different lengths.

As you strike the bars, air goes through the tubes, which creates vibrations at various frequencies. That results in the different pitches you hear, and you can use that vibrating air to your advantage.   By striking the xylophone softer or harder, you can change how the air vibrates, and that can affect the volume. 

Final Thoughts

If you want to play quietly on the xylophone, you can use a softer set of mallets to help. You can also refine your technique and practice so that you can reinforce your new skill. Then, you can walk on stage and play quietly with ease and confidence.

SteveM

I enjoyed the unpitched appeal of percussion prior to discovering handpans in a 'moment' I was experiencing. I've been writing ever since.

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