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Title: Glockenspiel  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Vibraphone, Percussion section, Carillon, Walk off the Earth, Marimba
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Percussion instrument
Other names concert bells, orchestral bells
Classification keyboard percussion
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 111.212
(Sets of percussion sticks)
Playing range
written like F3-C6, sounds like F5-C8
Related instruments
xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, tubular bell
Two bell lyres in use
A Mardi Gras musician playing a glockenspiel.

A glockenspiel (German pronunciation: , Glocken: bells and Spiel: play) is a percussion instrument composed of a set of tuned keys arranged in the fashion of the keyboard of a piano. In this way, it is similar to the xylophone; however, the xylophone's bars are made of wood, while the glockenspiel's are metal plates or tubes, thus making it a metallophone. The glockenspiel, moreover, is usually smaller and higher in pitch.[1]

In German, a carillon is also called a Glockenspiel, while in French, the glockenspiel is often called a carillon. In music scores the glockenspiel is sometimes designated by the Italian term campanelli.


When used in a marching or military band, the bars are sometimes mounted in a portable case and held vertically, sometimes in a lyre-shaped frame. However, sometimes the bars are held horizontally using a harness similar to a marching snare harness. In orchestral use, the bars are mounted horizontally. A pair of hard, unwrapped mallets, generally with heads made of plastic or metal, are used to strike the bars, although mallet heads can also be made of rubber (though using too-soft rubber can result in a dull sound). If laid out horizontally, a keyboard may be attached to the instrument to allow chords to be more easily played. Another method to playing chords is to play with four mallets, two per hand.


The glockenspiel is limited to the upper register, and usually covers about two and a half to three octaves, but can also reach up to three and a half octaves. The glockenspiel is a transposing instrument; its parts are written two octaves below the sounding notes. When struck, the bars give a very pure, bell-like sound.


Glockenspiels are quite popular and appear in almost all genres of music ranging from hip-hop to jazz. Percussionist Neil Peart of the rock band Rush uses the glockenspiel in several of the band's arrangements, most notably in the commercial hit songs "The Spirit of Radio" and "Closer to the Heart", and also in album tracks "Xanadu" and "Circumstances". A keyboard-operated glockenspiel, as played by Danny Federici on such hit songs as "Born to Run" and "Hungry Heart," is considered part of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's signature style.[2]

The glockenspiel was also featured in The Beatles' producer, plays glockenspiel on the band's song "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" to help create the atmosphere of the Pablo Fanque circus performance that inspired the song. [4] John Lennon also plays it on "Only a Northern Song". Panic! At The Disco have used glockenspiel in several of their songs, including their hits "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" and "Build God, Then We'll Talk". Radiohead have used glockenspiel on their single No Surprises, and also on The Tourist, Lull, Morning Bell/Amnesiac, Sit Down/Stand Up, and All I Need. [5]

Two well-known classical pieces that use the glockenspiel are Handel's Saul and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, both of which originally used instruments constructed using bells rather than bars to produce their sound.[6] (The part is sometimes performed on a celesta, however, which sounds quite different from the intended effect.)

A modern example of the glockenspiel can be heard in Steve Reich's 1970–71 composition Drumming, in which the glockenspiel becomes a major instrument in the 3rd and 4th movements.[7]

Related instruments

Other instruments that work on the same struck-bar principle as the glockenspiel include the marimba and the vibraphone.

The Dulcitone has a similar sound to the glockenspiel since it's sound is made by hammers striking tuning forks.

There are also many glockenspiel-like instruments in Indonesian gamelan ensembles.

Bell lyre

In the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada, there is a form of glockenspiel called a bell lyre, or bell lyra. The bell lyre is a form of glockenspiel commonly used in marching bands. It is played upright and has an extendable spike which is held on a strap. The player marches with the strap over his shoulder and plays the instrument upright with a beater. Another variation of the bell lyre exists which is held by a strap round the shoulders and back. This variation is played horizontally with two beaters as it does not need to be held upright. Since the middle of the 19th century this form of the instrument has also been used in military and civil bands in Germany, where it is called a Stahlspiel or Militär-Glockenspiel. The all-percussion Drum and lyre corps in the Philippines uses this as a main instrument.

See also



  1. ^ George Grove (ed.), A Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 4 vols. (London: Macmillan and Co., 1878–1889).
  2. ^ Cromelin, Richard, (19 April 2008). "E Street Band's keyboard player," Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  3. ^ Peter Funk (19 January 2006). "Paul Duncan: Be Careful What You Call Home". PopMatters. Retrieved 2011-05-08. 
  4. ^  
  5. ^ Jonny Greenwood's Rig, The King of Gear, 2014 
  6. ^ Luttrell, Guy L. (1979). The Instruments of Music, p.165. Taylor & Francis.
  7. ^ "The Vibraphone and Glockenspiel". All About Mallet Percussion. Retrieved 28 May 2011. 

External links

  • Glockenspiel at the Vienna Symphonic Library
  • Royalschoolsources Percussion Pages—Online sources for the prescribed music of the Royal Schools of Music practical exams
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