The mallet percussion instruments are one of the oldest musical instruments invented, and probably the first pitched instruments made by man. The oldest surviving musical instruments is a stone marimba or lithophone discovered by the French ethnologist, George Condominas, in 1949, near the village of Ndut Lieng Krak, Vietnam1. Primitive man made mallet percussion instrument with other material, such as wood or gourd. It is the first type of "Xylophone". The Biblical reference to the "ugab" dates a fully developed wooden mallet percussion instrument from 3,500 B.C. 2. It is a "portable" instrument with bars of different lenght suspended on a frame over gourd or bamboo resonators. Different version of Primitive xylophones are found in different parts of the world, mainly among the African and the Orient culture.
The "Marimba Sencilla", developed from the decendent of African Xylophone, has about forty five keys, each with a gourd resonators.It was played by three to five players. According to Vida Chenowith, the first chromatic Marimba was made by Jose Chaequin and Manuel Lopez. It was presented to the public in Guatemala in 1874. The chromatic Marimba was refined by Sebastian Hurtado. He replaced the gourd resonators with wooden cones that has one end covered with mambrane. This six and a half octaves Marimba Grade is the national musical instrument of Guatemala 3.
The Marimba was first introduced to the America in 1908 by the Hurtado family marimba band. The group performed on a tour that lasted three years. Other Guatemala marimba groups follow suit and soon created a big trend in entertainment scene. Due to the extreme porpularity of Marimba playing, companies such as Deagan started to develop and manufacture different form of " xylophone". There is no standard form developed yet. Most of the instruments were custom made and some models were so different that it hardly classified as a "marimba" from the modern stand point. The most famous Deagan marimba is the King George model. It was built in 1934 for the marimbas orchestra of Clair Omar Musser, specifically for their 1935 European tour 4.
Marimba todays are far more standardized compare to those made in the earlier part of 20th century. Most marimbas has rose wood bars, with some form metalic resonators. The resonators are of different shapes, some are oval, some are round and some are square, depends of different manufacturer. The material of the resonators differ between manufacturer as well. The most common material used are alluminium, metal, and brass. All resonators are close with a cap at the far end and some has tunable resonators(resonator with movable caps). The range of the instruments varies depending on the model, and it is fairly standardized among manufacturers, mainly 4, 4.3, 4.5 and 5 octaves with the second C above treble staff as the highist note. The only non standardized element between different made marimbas is the lenght and the width of the bars. The distance between the lowest octave on a Malletech 5.0 is as wide as a tenth on the lowest keys on a Marimba One 5.0.
Foot notes and biography