Best Xylophone for Beginners

As we mentioned in our percussion overview, whilst the heavy focus was on the best drums around, we would be looking at some other percussive instruments. We are sure by now some of you had started to doubt us but here we are. The xylophone. Possibly the most well-known word beginning with X in the English language. It’s there when you learn the alphabet, and there to haunt you on your first spelling test. Apart from plaguing children since the dawn of time, it is also a wonderful percussive instrument from the struck key family. Other instruments from this group are the marimba and the crowd favorite, glockenspiel (mainly for the name as most don’t have a clue what it is).

There is much debate as to whether the piano should fall into this category given that there are tiny mallets inside the frame that are striking strings. It really depends who you ask – a percussionist will claim it as their own, whilst a string player might do the same. As such we have given it and the keyboard their own category, mainly to avoid the wrath of the two groups just mentioned. If you want more information about the xylophone’s origin, be sure to scroll to the bottom.

What Should I Be Looking For?

This entirely depends on you and your budget. For young kids, you will see that metal bars are used as opposed to wood and so we will include these in our write up. They tend to be fairly inexpensive so the reviews should be enough to guide you. Slightly older kids looking at the instrument as more of a hobby and a passion will want something that covers more than one octave.

For maturing kids and young adults looking to play at school, a band or just want to train to a professional level then there are four things to take into consideration which are material, range, frame and tuning. We don’t want to bog you down with too much detail as the reviews will rate each instrument on these but here is an overview.

Material

What makes the best keys? Traditional xylophones are made from Honduran rosewood as you will see in concert halls and their quality is incredible. Other popular woods are padauk wood due to it being cheaper than the former. It does not compromise too much on sound quality, although it creates a slightly harsher tone. Another wood is Karinwood, similar to Padauk but with a higher density. Both are much more inexpensive than rosewood and so popular for practicing at home or at junior and middle schools.

Another option are synthetic keys know as Kelon, Zelon, Xelon, Accusations and many more. They are louder and more durable than wood. They are useful if playing in a marching band or outdoor gigs, being synthetic they are weather resistant. Price-wise they fall between rosewood and padauk.

Frame

Whilst often the last thing on people’s minds, the frame is integral and often the most overlooked. A poor frame could affect the resonance and ultimately the sound. They are also important for your sanity. If you plan to disassemble and reassemble the xylophone in order to move it around then some, such as the Musser frame, could leave you tearing your hair out and not just because of their high price tag. They can be a nightmare to take apart.

As well as this, the frame is the thing that will be holding up your xylophone for years to come. You wouldn’t put your brand new Mercedes on half worn tires would you?

If you plan to play outdoors then you should consider a rolling frame with attachments. Also, no matter where you play don’t forget to buy a cover to stop it getting scratched dented or a friend spilling a beer on it!

Range

As you get to a more professional level you will head towards the 3.5 – 4 octaves range which is considered full size. For a beginner it is perfectly fine to learn on a 2.5 – 3-octave set as this gives you a great range of sound and will more than adequately prepare you for the switch to 4. There is, of course, a direct correlation between the number of octaves and cost.

Some would say that anything below 3 octaves is too small and a waste of time. This is not the case. In fact, for example, the compact 2.5-octave xylophone from Concord is a great little instrument for beginners and even for more advanced players with limited room. They are still of great quality and starting out more than capable pieces.

Tuning

There are two styles of tuning which are octave and quint. Octave gives you a more specific sound and allows you to accentuate the desired tone although it can produce a very jarring tone that sounds wrong. That’s why many instruments lean towards the more modern quint tuning which initially came into place to allow overtone tuning. This video is a great lesson to start you off.

 

Top 3 Best Xylophones for Beginners:

With all that being said we have split the review categories up and delve into the pros and cons of each model taking into the account all of the above. We will be sure to include how many octaves each one has. As a beginner set though, they will most likely have 3 or less and will be made from Padauk wood. Just be warned that full-size xylophones are not cheap, so the best is to have access to one at school or elsewhere to practice on. An alternative is to learn on a glockenspiel and then progress to a xylophone, as a cheaper compromise. However, if your heart is set on a xylophone, don’t be disheartened, there are still options for good xylophones that are reasonably priced!

ModelName/ RatingSummaryCheck Price

Stagg XYLO-SET 37

Score:    (4.65 / 5)

Incredibly warm 3-octave set with stand and padded bag. Best value beginner set
AMAZON
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND

 

Sound Percussion Labs 2-2/3 Octave

   Score:    (4.70 / 5)

Beautifully constructed 2-2/3-octave set with 2 sets of resonators. Best quality and sound in the category

 

AMAZON
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND

Suzuki Soprano

   Score:    (4.40 / 5)

16-bars of gorgeous rosewood. Small, portable practice set, perfect for kids and adults alike. 
 
GUITAR CENTER

 

Stagg XYLO-SET 37, 37-Key Xylophone

 

Best Xylophone for Beginners

Bars and Frame:   
Range   
Sound    
Value:   

At under $400 you get this wonderful entry-level, 37 key, 3-octave xylophone set from Stagg complete with a padded nylon gig bag, double x-shaped adjustable heavy duty stand and mallets. The first thing we would say is to change the hard mallets, they aren’t good enough and they could damage the wood. It is constructed well from Padauk wood (the cheaper wood) but that does not stop it sounding good. It will not have the same warmth as the more advanced sets but you are getting a 3 octave  ((C5~C8).A=442Hz) set for under $400 so you have to tailor your expectations. It is well constructed and the stand seems sturdy. The only downside is that each bar is attached by one screw which means if traveling with it or when first setting up, many will have fallen out of place, but it is very easy to put them back in. It also means that the bars will shift slightly so their positions won’t be completely consistent.

Overall this is the perfect xylophone for a beginner looking to get some serious practice done.

 

Sound Percussion Labs 2-2/3 Octave

Sound Percussion Labs 2- Wood Bars with Resonators
Bars and Frame:  
Range  
Sound :  
Value:  

This wonderful set comes in at just under $500 from Sound Percussion who are renowned for producing budget percussive instruments with good quality, that allow first-time players a more affordable way into the market. $500 may not seem ‘affordable’ but for a quality 2 ⅔ octave xylophone with two set of resonators and mallets, this is a bargain. It makes this product the perfect practice kit as it truly resembles the full-size models.

Whilst the wood is Padauk it sounds like good wood. Whereas others have a hollow, cheap sound to them, with the right mallets, this set has a warm ring to it and sounds more expensive than it is. Where the Stagg xylophone above uses a single pin to hold the key to the frame, this set uses a method with spring tension connectors which is a classic and more effective method as it allows precise positioning and prevents movement when the bars are struck or when transporting. As a rookie, learning the exact position of the bars is instrumental to development which is one of the reasons this kit really shines through, as single pins move side-to-side and so give an inconsistent understanding of the position of the bars. Also utilizing this technique really helps the tonal quality of the instrument as it is struck and not being held in place by a pin. Whilst the Stagg represents great value for money, the Sound Percussion Labs represent incredible construction and sound quality at only a slightly higher price.

The two sets of resonators really make this set stand out as they improve the sound quality drastically and this is another place in which they set themselves apart from other practice sets. The heavy-duty stand with interlocking positioners also prevents the xylophone moving when played and so enhances the playing experience.

Overall this is the best practice set you will find for under $500 and it is worth every extra penny if you are serious about playing the xylophones. Whilst getting a cheaper glockenspiel or vibraphone or even the Stagg above are perfectly good options, if you want something that is a close to a full-size concert xylophone as possible then this is it.

Specs

  • 2 ⅔  octaves (F5-C8)
  • Custom stand height 29”
  • Two sets of resonators (one for each set of keys)
  • Includes mallets

Suzuki Soprano

 

Suzuki Musical Instrument Sporano

Bars and Frame:   
Range   
Sound    
Value:   

This set is a small one and can be used by kids and older learners alike. For a little over $250, you get a 16 bar set made from incredibly crafted and the highest quality rosewood and this beautifully crafted instrument has a built-in chromatic bar storage and mallet storage. The bottom positioned bar holding pins prevent bending from improper bar removal and the note names are labeled on the bars and inside the resonator chambers.

This is a quality product, it looks and sounds beautiful. With a wonderfully warm timber tone and a sweet resonance, this xylophone is perfect for a beginner. The only problem is its size and limited range, which, not covering much more than 1 octave, means that you won’t get as full a range of playing as the bigger instruments. Whilst practicing this will be enough to give you an understanding of the xylophone and acclimatize you to playing it. On the other hand, it feels and responds like a professional piece which is a big plus. One thing we would say is to change the hard mallets straight away, it will affect the sound and could damage the bars.

 

Best Xylophone Mallets

Available in different levels of hardness it is important to take into account the material of your instrument as aggressive playing with plastic mallets can cause damage to the keys. Usually buying a hard plastic pair and medium and soft rubbers will be great for all situations. Most companies will offer packages including all of these and a mallet bag which is invaluable for those overwhelmed by the number of choices. Try a few out in local stores or at school before buying.

 

Best Xylophone for Kids

Without going into too much detail here are some great real instruments you can pick up for kids as a way to get them into music, especially if they have shown an interest in rhythm and sound.

 

ProKussion School Series, 27 Key

ProKussion School Series 27 Key Green Glockenspiel Xylophone

This little kit is perfect for a future key striker who isn’t quite ready for a full-size xylophone. At under $35, you get a lot of instrument for a very little amount. You get:

  • Green 27 Key Glockenspiel with strong plastic frame, metal keys and cover
  • Notes from G up to A including all sharps and flats
  • Notes are engraved into each key, along with Do-Re-Me etc..
  • 2 Plastic Beaters included and a Deluxe black soft cover carry case
  • Length: 37cm Breath: 22cm Height: 4cm

 

 

 

Suzuki Soprano

 

Suzuki Musical Instrument SporanoWe reviewed this set in the category above and we mentioned it can be for older beginners or kids. It is pricier and it is a serious instrument with good quality and not a toy. If you want this for your kid, it is good to know that they are serious about playing first. Here is the review for those who missed it the first time.

This set is a small one and can be used by kids and older learners alike. For a little over $250 you get a 16 bar set made from incredibly crafted and the highest quality rosewood and this beautifully crafted instrument has a built-in chromatic bar storage and mallet storage. The bottom positioned bar holding pins prevent bending from improper bar removal and the note names are labeled on the bars and inside the resonator chambers.

This is a quality product, it looks and sounds beautiful. With a wonderfully warm timber tone and a sweet resonance, this xylophone is perfect for a beginner. The only problem is its size and limited range, which, not covering much more than 1 octave, means that you won’t get as full a range of playing as the bigger instruments. Whilst practicing this will be enough to give you an understanding of the xylophone and acclimatize you to playing it. On the other hand, it feels and responds like a professional piece which is a big plus. One thing we would say is to change the hard mallets straight away, it will affect the sound and could damage the bars.

 

 

Playme Wooden Xylophone, 8 Key

Last up is a mini kit with real wood bars that comes in somewhere between the first two reviews. Each bar on this compact and portable instrument is crafted from a particular wood that produces incredible resonance with surprising tonal clarity. It has a compact design without the need of a bulky resonator box. 8 keys model features 5.5 – 7 x 1-inch bars

Playme Wooden Xylophone 8 Keys

 with precise notes producing the diatonic scale from C’ to C”.  An elegantly designed base is made of immaculate beech wood with and it includes two wooden mallets which can be stored underneath the set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Baby Xylophone and Best for Toddlers

So you may have found yourself here after casually searching the web for nice baby toys, and you are now faced with the entire history of the xylophone to date. Well, it is never too young to start taking these things seriously! Children are like sponges and never more so than the first 24 months of their little lives. That being said we are not going to throw your baby head first into a 4-octave monster. These are the best xylophones for 1-year-olds, so essentially toys but still good enough to help get those tiny synapses firing in their brains and help connect sound, placement and rhythm.

Where Does it Come From?

The xylophone has one of the most ancient and obscure origins that reach throughout Asia, Africa and Europe. The earliest evidence was its use in what is now China, but most places have developed their own over time such as the African Marimba. In modern terms, however, these two instruments shouldn’t be confused as a classical orchestral xylophone refers to a chromatic instrument of a higher pitch range.

What is the Xylophone?

The xylophone is a Greek word which in English literally means wooden sound, consists of wooden bars called idiophones (which means each bar vibrates as a whole to produce a sound) that rest over resonators and are struck by a mallet on certain parts of the bar to produce the particular tone it has been tuned to. The keys (or bars) are arranged in to two rows. The elevated row is equivalent to the black keys on a piano.

When you think of this instrument you may not think of wooden bars, but instead metal well in fact professional xylophone bars will be constructed from wood. 

To decide which you want to buy is up to you as it is very subjective. The xylophone produces a crisper note, while metallophones which may have sustain pedal would produce a more mellow sound. The former is used for classical concerts while the latter you would see pop up in Jazz or other styles of music.

Why the Xylophone?

The xylophone is a percussion instrument that is perfectly fitting for this site given how effortless an instrument it is to pick up and play. That is not to say it is easy to master, but whilst we would not necessarily recommend buying a drum kit or a djembe for an infant, we will be looking at the best Xylophone for a 1-year-old! It is one of the best percussion instruments for a kid to be able to visualize and understand musical concepts such as scales and tone. Some of the models will even label the bars so that the kid can read the notes that they are hitting.

Learning scales on a keyboard or guitar is much more involved whereas the learning curve on the xylophone is much less steep.

Also unlike say a pair of bongos which a decent cheap pair would still cost you at least $50, you can pick up a suitable xylophone for toddlers for no more than $20! Even you aren’t ready to buy one yet or are just waiting for yours in the mail you can practice your scales for free online with this online simulator.