Xylophone Care Guide inc. How to Clean a Xylophone


Frequent cleaning of your Xylophone is important as any surface dust or dirt present at the point of any striking of mallets will slowly grind the dust into the bars. This will build up over time and affect the quality of the instrument and more importantly the sound. A regular xylophone cleaning routine and be quick and effective.

How to Care for Your Xylophone

Cleaning your xylophone bars require that you remove them from the framework. Here is the process for cleaning them once removed, and a guide to removing the bars prior to the maintenance.

Xylophone Bar Cleaning Steps

  1. After having removed the bars according to the steps given above, do not roll the bars up for storage. Instead, leave them flat on the cloth.
  2. If your xylophone is made of wood, you will need wood polish. If your xylophone is made of synthetic material, you will need some mild soap and warm water. Goo Gone can be used if there is any sticky residue on the bars.
  3. For wooden bars, take a soft washcloth and rub the wood polish gently into the bars in a circular motion. Synthetic bars can be cleaned using a washcloth dampened with water and soap. Make vertical strokes along the bar. Then completely dry them.
  4. Use Howard finish restoration or tongue oil to finish your wooden bars after they are cleaned. Howard’s finish restoration comes in different colors. You can also use Old English polish. Use dark Old English polish for rosewood and lighter colors for light-colored bars.
  5. If you are refinishing the bars because of severe problems with the original finish, use a lighter color and then the tongue oil. Otherwise, the dark red works well. You can buy it in good hardware stores that carry wood finishing products.

Step by Step Guide to Removing Bars

  1. A soft towel or blanket should be placed on the ground near your xylophone. Make sure that your cloth has the same length and width as the bars.
  2. Unhook the bar string gently from the body.
  3. Lift the bars one at a time making sure that they are lifted directly upwards. You shouldn’t pull them at an angle because the bars may drag against the screws.
  4. Put all the bars on the cloth.
  5. Separate the bars with your fingers making sure that there is enough distance between each other.
  6. If you are going to store your bars, gently fold the cloth over and slowly roll the bars up. You can also use bar bags which are highly recommended. These bags are made specifically for xylophone bars. Putting them in bags will help prevent sliding or shifting that can happen with blankets and soft towels.

Xylophone Body Cleaning

If your xylophone is a larger type based in a stand, rather than a tabletop variety, here are some cleaning tips for the frame stand for your instrument

  1. When the bars are removed according to the steps given above, have both wood polish and warm water with soap ready. You need these for both wood and metal parts.
  2. Near the instrument, place a soft towel or blanket on the ground. Make sure your cloth has the same length and width as the body of your xylophone.
  3. Lift the resonator pipes directly out of their slots. Make sure you lift them upwards without pulling them at an angle because this can damage the pipes.
  4. With smooth strokes, wipe the pipes gently with a damp cloth with water and soap.
  5. Use the cloth and the cleaning solution to clean the wood or metal parts of the body as needed.

After cleaning the xylophone bars, resonators, and frame, you can now return the bars with the following steps.

  1. Place the cloth with the bars over their original place on the xylophone, with the cloth between the bars and the body.
  2. Gently pull the cloth past a single bar, and place the bar in its proper slot. The bar should be placed directly downwards and not at an angle.
  3. Repeat step 2 for each individual bar.
  4. When the bars are all secured and in their correct places, restring the bars into the hooks on the body.

More Xylophone Care Tips

  • Make sure you use yarn mallets on your rosewood xylophone. Don’t use anything harder than the wood. If a mallet dents the bar, then you should change it.
  • The practice of exaggerated high arm movement and hard mallets for front ensemble playing should be avoided. This is a bad technique that can damage your xylophone bars.
  • Make sure to cover your xylophone after use and when moving it. This will give it protection from dust which can get into the wood and deaden the sound. You can use flannel for a soft inner lining. A durable material like denim can be used for the outer covering.
  • Never touch your rosewood bars with your bare hands. You have oils in your skin that can transfer to the bars and deaden the sound of the bar.
  • Lemon oil or a mild wood cleaning product should be used to clean the bars once a year. you will see how dirty these bars get over time.
  • Don’t put anything, books, instruments, etc., on top of the xylophone bars.
  • When you hit your xylophone bars with mallets, it grinds dust into the surface. Thus, you need to dust your instrument thoroughly regularly.
  • If you want to preserve the finish of old xylophones apply wax to the bars.
  • Resonance chambers should be stored away from heat or direct sunlight.
  • To ensure the integrity of your xylophone make sure it is kept under some form of supervision. You should store it indoors in a cool dry place so that extreme heat or cold can be avoided when stored. Your xylophone can get damaged with improper winter storage.
  • Your xylophone bars should not be cleaned with chemicals.
  • If there are missing or corroded parts that need to be replaced, you should take note of them. Replace any cord that is worn or frayed.
  • Strings that run through the bars can break. If they do, make sure to go to your local hardware stores and find a replacement cord. Make sure you don’t buy something synthetic that is hard. It will rattle against the bars.
  • If your resonator rattles, check for paper clips, pencils or other objects in the resonator. You can put a piece of duct tape where the resonator pieces fit together and are bare metal to metal.
  • If your xylophone is out of tune, bring it to people who do repair or replacement. It is a lot cheaper than buying a new instrument.
  • If you are cleaning any part of your xylophone, avoid petroleum-based products.
  • The resonators can be cleaned with any type of spray-on or car wax.
  • To clean the frame parts, use mild dish soap and warm water on a damp cloth. Make sure that water does not come in contact with the bars at any time.
  • Make sure your xylophone is away from air-conditioning vents or in places where it comes in contact with direct sunlight on a regular basis. Your xylophone’s life span can be shortened if it is exposed to drastic temperature changes.
  • Once every two to four years, retune your xylophone bars. Padauk bars require more frequent retuning and checking than rosewood bars.

The Benefits of Maintaining Your Xylophone

Save the Rosewood.

We already learned that rosewood is the single best choice for xylophones since the early days. It has the ability to produce full and lush musical tones which is unmatched. The sad reality is that we might lose this wood completely in the future. If you don’t care for your rosewood xylophone, the instrument can get damaged and it will use up wood that is already limited and in high demand.

You need to understand the importance of caring for your rosewood xylophone. This will preserve the rosewood and eliminate wasting the diminishing supply of this amazing wood. Properly caring for your xylophone can help save this unique, rare, and amazing wood.

It makes you look cool.

If you maintain your xylophone so that it is in top condition, then you will look cool playing it. You cannot expect to reach perfection with a sub-par instrument.

It helps you improve your practice.

Your xylophone was designed to be played in a clean and pristine state. Using it regularly will make foreign substances build upon it. It can accumulate oils from your fingers, moisture, food particles, and more. There are also environmental factors that affect your instrument like temperature and humidity. This can have a negative impact on the sound the instrument produces. Your instrument can become out of tune. This is a big problem especially if you are just a beginner at playing the instrument. And your playing will ultimately suffer if your ears are not yet trained to hear when you are out of tune.

If you keep a regular maintenance schedule; your instrument can consistently create sounds that it is meant to make. This is easy and inexpensive. With regular maintenance, it will be easier to tune your instrument. It will make your practice sessions more effective and give you better results for your work.

Gives your instrument a longer life.

If you want to give your devices a longer life, then it is important to maintain its moving parts. This is true also for musical instruments. Even if you don’t use your instrument as often as you want to, you still need to keep it clean and play them at least once in a while. You simply need to regularly do the most basic maintenance which is simply wiping your instrument with a clean, soft cloth. This will help prevent dust build-up, fingerprint oils, and environmental residue.

These elements can cause problems when you are making music. But not only that, these elements can have a negative impact on the instrument itself. If you do basic maintenance regularly, your instrument will be in good working order. The structure of your instruments can be in good working order as well. Just free your instrument of dust, dirt, and oils will help give it a long life. It will both look and sound great. If you neglect basic maintenance, however, your instrument will soon be a useless piece of junk.

It helps you avoid unexpected expenses.

You only have 2 options when it comes to maintaining your xylophone. The first option is to do all the necessary maintenance work on it. this will help make your xylophone maintain a good working condition. If your xylophone is working well, then you are assured that you will not meet any unexpected expenses. Although it may have occasional problems, if your xylophone is well cared for, the issues it encounters will be fairly mild and, in most cases, expected.

If, on the other hand, you choose to neglect the care of your xylophone, it can end up with two results. The first is that your uncared-for instrument will not be able to perform well and its appearance will not be the best. To bring the instrument back into good working order, it will need to undergo extensive, expensive repairs. Another result would be a damaged instrument. When this happens, you will need to have it entirely replaced. This will mean a great expense for you. This could have easily been avoided with basic maintenance. routines.

Make your instrument look and sound great.

Regardless of the brand of the materials used for your xylophone, it will always look and sound great if it is a well-maintained instrument. You should look at your xylophone as an investment. If you properly care for it, you can soon pass it on and bring the joy of music to others. Otherwise, you will be passing a useless piece of wood or metal. Investments like your car or your house are always kept in good condition. An effort is given to keep your investment safe.

This is the same for your instrument. If you put effort to maintain it, you can play better, and it will last longer. It can help you avoid unexpected costs and stay looking and sounding good for a very long time.

Keeps you from hygienic issues.

If your instrument is always clean and you wash your hands before and after use, then you are assured that any hygienic issues can be solved.

Xylophone Bar Material Types

Every instrument requires maintenance. It is important to know what goes into the care of your xylophone. You should commit yourself to a maintenance routine just as you would commit yourself to a practice routine.

Rosewood

The professional choice for xylophones is the Honduran Rosewood (Dalbergia stevensonii). The reason for this is that xylophone bars made from rosewood are of very good quality which produces very good sound. Rosewood is grown in Belize. It is a dense hardwood that takes time to grow. It has, however, been over-harvested through the decades.

The diminishing supply of this wood may someday make it an endangered species. And because it is somehow becoming very scarce, it drives the price of rosewood very high.

Because rosewood is a very dense kind of wood, it is able to withstand the strikes of a mallet. However, care must still be taken that the mallet is not harder than the wood. Otherwise, the bars will get dented and splintered.

If your xylophone is made with rosewood bars, then you should not expose it to too much sunlight or humidity. These elements will affect your instrument’s bars negatively. It can make the instrument go out of tune with the possibility of getting completely damaged.

Synthetic materials

Synthetic xylophone bars are made of composite materials that are man-made. What is great about using synthetic materials for your xylophone is that it can withstand any kind of weather. This is not like natural wood since they don’t really care if they are exposed to much sunlight or get drenched in the rain when the marching season comes. They will still stay in tune unless physical damage is done to them.

Xylophones with bars made of synthetic material are a lot cheaper than xylophones with rosewood bars. This makes them ideal for use in budget-conscious schools. Each manufacturer has its own synthetic materials for xylophone bars. Musser uses kelon, Yamaha uses acoustalon, Adams uses zelon, and Ross (acquired by Majestic) uses prolon. Whatever the name they give to the synthetic material, it is basically fiberglass mixed with some other chemicals.

Synthetics are ideal for those who cannot afford the expensive rosewood xylophones. It is also ideal for those who will use their xylophones outdoors. These instruments offer a good alternative to rosewood xylophones. However, the quality of their sound cannot be compared to that of rosewood. Their tone is glassy and they ring for a very long time. Not that the sound is bad compared to rosewood but it is definitely different. Most professional percussionists and college percussion programs almost exclusively purchase rosewood xylophones.

Another good thing about synthetic bars is that they are more durable than wooden bars. They can withstand harder mallets and louder volumes. However, they are not invulnerable. They can also splinter and crack under extreme hardness and volume.

Padauk

A more inferior kind of wood to those of rosewood is Padauk (Pterocarpus soyauxii). Although its sound quality is the same as rosewood, it is not as rich, deep, or resonant. Padauk is grown in Africa and it is an easy wood to work with since it is softer than rosewood. This is the reason why its price is low.

Padauk is slowly becoming popular as a material for musical instruments for practice. It sounds good for playing at your house. However, you wouldn’t want to use this for professional performances. It can just be good for learning the music.

Padauk is also less dense and it can easily dent if the mallet used is very hard. And it is not good to expose to the elements. You need to keep padauk bars dry.

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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