6+

Rock Xylophone

Two young boys each with a metal mallet and rubber mallet are hitting semi-vertical stones notes arranged in a keyboard arrangement.
A series of stone bars with letters printed on the top of each bar. They are arranged in a semi circule arrangement on a stand. From this structre are two blue cords which each have a metal mallet attached. The structure sits in a concrete and garden area.

Percussion instruments generate vibration and sound when they are struck with a mallet.

How it works

Gently tap each limestone bar to hear a different pitched sound and play your tunes of choice.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • Why is this called a lithophone instead of a xylophone?
  • Which bars generate the deepest-pitched notes and the highest-pitched notes?

Background

This Lithophone is a type of xylophone. Xylophones are percussion instruments that you strike or hit like a drum: ‘xylo-’ means wooden; ‘litho-’ means stone and ‘-phone’ means sound. So, a lithophone is a stone percussion instrument!

When the longer Lithophone bars are struck, they produce slower vibrations and deeper or lower pitched sounds. The shorter Lithophone bars produce faster vibrations that can be heard as higher pitched sounds. Each bar's length must be shaped to generate a particular musical note on the scale.

Finding the science in your world

If you have played xylophones made from wood, metal or stone, you may have noticed that they sound different, or they have a different 'timbre'. When you hit a xylophone, it vibrates and produces sound. Different materials vibrate in different ways, so each xylophone’s timbre sounds ‘warm’, ‘tinny’, ‘clunky’ or ‘clear’.