Vibraphone History
The vibraphone is a descendant of the African xylophone, of the marimba found in Guatemala and Mexico, and of instruments of the gamelan orchestra found in Bali and Java. It was invented in the United States toward the beginning of the 1900's and was popularized by jazz musicians Lionel Hampton (with clarinetist Benny Goodman) and Milt Jackson of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Some other notable vibraphonists are Gary Burton (who popularized the use of playing with four mallets), Cal Tjader (known for playing Latin music), and Bobby Hutcherson.

The bars of the instrument are struck by mallets of varying hardnesses. The vibraphone looks similar to a xylophone and a marimba. The difference is that the bars of both the xylophone and marimba are made of wood. In general terms, the xylophone is a soprano or high register marimba (the difference being in the tuning and timbre). The bars of a vibraphone are made of metal. The vibraphone also has a sustain pedal like a piano that when depressed allows the notes to ring until the pedal is lifted again. The vibraphone originally got its name because it has a motor that turns metal discs, called pulsators, located under the bars at the openings of the resonators or tubes. The rotation of the pulsators gives a "vibrato" (more accurately tremolo) sound to the instrument. Without this motor the vibraphone could just as easily be called a metalophone because of it's metal bars.

Mike Freeman

Vibraphone Special Effects:

Bending notes on the vibraphone
Developed by Gary Burton in the early 70’s

Audio examples:
(After Listening use the back arrow to return here)

1. Vibe Bend

2. Vibe Bend2

3. Vibe Bend Music

4. Vibe Wah Wah

Bowing the vibraphone:
Done by bowing the end of a bar, similar in effect to rubbing your finger on the edge of a wine glass.

Mouth and hand vibrato (tremolo)
Done by opening and closing your mouth directly over a bar that is ringing or pulsating your hand up and down over a bar.

Marimba Special Effects:

The use of special mallets such as mallets rapped in cellophane.