The marimba is a percussion instrument consisting of a set of wooden bars struck with yarn or rubber mallets to produce musical tones. Resonators or pipes suspended underneath the bars amplify their sound; the bars of a chromatic marimba are arranged like the keys of a piano, with the groups of two and three accidentals raised vertically, overlapping the natural bars to aid the performer both visually and physically. This instrument is a type of idiophone, but with a more resonant and lower-pitched tessitura than the xylophone. A person who plays the marimba is called a marimba player. Modern uses of the marimba include solo performances and brass ensembles, marimba concertos, jazz ensembles, marching band and bugle corps, indoor percussion ensembles, orchestral compositions. Contemporary composers have used the unique sound of the marimba more in recent years. Xylophones are used in music of Asia and west and central Africa. In Latin America, enslaved Africans recreated them in the 17th centuries.
The name marimba stems from Bantu marimba or malimba,'xylophone'. According to some Western sources, the word'marimba' is formed from ma'many' and rimba'single-bar xylophone,' however the use of the term marimba and/or derivative terms is not present in any West African language; the instrument itself is present, but is called balafon or heri in Mali and/or Guinea, while it is known as gyil among the Gur peoples in and around northern Ghana and Burkina Faso. The word marimba and derivative words is used in East and Southern Africa. A survey of the literature on the African marimba and related instruments, like the Xylorimba and ilimba indicate a relationship between the word marimba and the various lamellaphones found all over Central and East Africa. Other sources credit the creation of the marimba and the kalimba to Queen Marimba of the Wakambi people, who live south of Lake Victoria. In the Shona language "imba" means song. Kuimba is to sing. Marimba, is said to be the "mother of song" and the creator of all the instruments, including the marimba.
Mama means mother in Kiswahili, so it makes perfect sense that the word mother would be combined with the word "imba", the unconjugated verb for'sing'. The karimba is said to have been created by Queen Marimba. In much of East & Central Africa the karimba is seen as a hand-held version of the marimba. Diatonic xylophones were introduced to Central America in the 17th century; the first historical record of Mayan musicians using gourd resonator marimbas in Guatemala was made in 1680, by the historian Domingo Juarros. It became more widespread during the 18th and 19th centuries, as Mayan and Ladino ensembles started using it on festivals. In 1821, the marimba was proclaimed the national instrument of Guatemala in its independence proclamation. In 1850, Mexican marimbist Manuel Bolán Cruz, modified the old bow marimba, by the wooden straight one, lengthening the legs so that the musicians could play in a standing mode, expanded the keyboard and replaced the gourd resonators by wooden boxes. In 1892, Mexican musician Corazón de Jesús Borras Moreno expanded marimba to include the chromatic scale by adding another row of sound bars, akin to black keys on the piano.
The name marimba was applied to the orchestra instrument inspired by the Latin American model. In the United States, companies like Deagan and Leedy company adapted the Latin American instruments for use in western music. Metal tubes were used as resonators, fine-tuned by rotating metal discs at the bottom; the marimbas were first used for light dance, such as Vaudeville theater and comedy shows. Clair Omar Musser was a chief proponent of marimba in the United States at the time. French composer Darius Milhaud made the ground-breaking introduction of marimbas into Western classical music in his 1947 Concerto for Marimba and Vibraphone. Four-mallet grip was employed enhancing interest for the instrument. In the late 20th century and contemporary composers found new ways to use marimba: notable examples include Leoš Janáček, Carl Orff, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Hans Werner Henze, Pierre Boulez, Steve Reich, Ney Rosauro, Akira Miyoshi; the Marimba sound has become recognizable through its role as the default ringtone in Apple's iOS mobile operating system.
Marimba bars are made of either wood or synthetic material. Rosewood is the most desirable. Bars made from synthetic materials fall short in sound quality in comparison to wooden bars, but are less expensive and yield added durability and weather resistance, making them suitable for outdoor use. Bubinga and mahogany have been cited as comparable to rosewood in quality for use as marimba bars; the specific rosewood, Dalbergia stevensonii, only grows in Southern Guatemala and Belize the British Honduras. This wood has a Janka rating of 2200, about three times harder than Silver Maple; the bars are wider and longer at the lowest pitched notes, get narrower and shorter as the notes get higher. During the tuning, wood is taken from the middle underside of the bar to lower the pitch; because of this, the bars are thinner in the lowest pitch register and thicker in the highest pitch register. In Africa, most marimbas are made by local artisans from locally available materials. Marimba bars produce their fullest sound when str
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