Difference Between Xylophone and Glockenspiel (With Table)

Both Xylophone and Glockenspiel are percussion instruments containing tuned bars or keys. Many times they are considered to be the same thing by the common people. But as professionals will notice, they are vastly different from each other. Both of the instruments can be played with a pair of hard, unwrapped mallets, commonly with heads made of metals or plastic.

Xylophone vs Glockenspiel

The difference between Xylophone and Glockenspiel is that the bars of the Xylophone is made up of wood. In contrast, the bars of the Glockenspiel are made up of steel. Their names also indicate this difference.In the case of Xylophone, ‘Xylo’ means Wood, and in the case of Glockenspiel, in German, ‘Glock’ means Bells.

It is seen that the Xylophone has a high pitch sound. The sound is both short and sharp. The xylophone can be anywhere within three octaves to four octaves. The most popular and common one is the xylophone which is the version having 3.5 octaves. It is observed that a xylophone sounds one octave higher than that of the ones written.

The Glockenspiel is examined and observed that due to its metallic nature, it has a higher pitch than that of the xylophone. The Glockenspiel generally has an octave ranging between 2.5-3 octave. The Glockenspiel, when played, sounds two-pitch higher than the written music notes. This is the reason why all the music notes are written two octaves lower than the original one.

Comparison Table Between Xylophone and Glockenspiel

Parameters of ComparisonXylophoneGlockenspiel
Place of OriginAfricaGermany
Made ofWoodMetal
Range of Octaves 3-42.5-3
SizeNormal (neither too big nor too small)Smaller than Xylophone
Estimated time of origin9th Century17th Century

What is Xylophone?

The root of the xylophone can be traced back to ancient Africa around the 9th century. The earliest recorded description of the xylophone can be traced back to the 14th century in Mali, Africa. It is estimated that there were several kinds of this instrument.

As the name suggests, the source word of the name is Xylo, and the latter means wood. Some of the xylophones have simple bars of woods that do not have any resonators, while a few have highly complex xylophones that are confined and it also may have hollowed gourds that operate as resonators. There are two types of Xylophone. One being the Asian Type and the other being the African one.

The wooden bars of the Xylophone is made up of Rosewoods. The rosewoods which are used to manufacture the latter also have several types. It can be either padauk, light rosewood, or rosewood from Honduras. The xylophone, which is made up of rosewood from Honduras, is considered to have the best quality sound. Though nowadays, the latter is also sometimes made up of numerous polymerized or synthetic substances like fiberglass or fiberglass-reinforced plastic, which yields a more resonant and louder tone or pitch.

The sound which a xylophone produces is a high-pitched one, which is short and sharp. The instrument can have any range between the 3-4 octave. The most type is the one that has an octave of 3.5. 

Because of the nature of the sound, the instrument produces a pitch one octave higher than that of the written music notes.

A person who plays this instrument is known as a xylophonist.

What is Glockenspiel?

The glockenspiel is a percussion instrument comprising of a synchronized set of harmonized keys orchestrated in the manner of the keyboard of a piano. It is sometimes also referred to as Metallophone as the instrument is made up of metal.

As the name suggests, Glockenspiel means “a set of bells” as “Glocken” means “Bells” and “Spiel” means “Set.” The other names of the instrument are Carillon, Concert bells, and orchestral bells.

The sound produced by the instrument is very high-pitched. This depends on the factors like the small size and the material used to manufacture the latter, i.e., metal.

The glockenspiel was first made and used in the churches of Germany and was used as a set of fixed bells by hand. In or around the 17th century, the bells were then replaced by steel or metal bars. Eventually, with the advancement of time, the steel or metal bars became an indispensable part of the glockenspiel.

The glockenspiel has an octave ranging between 2.5-3. Because of the nature of materials used for the production of the instrument, the sound which is produced by it is two-pitch higher than that of the ones the original pitch level. This is the reason why the music notes of the Glockenspiel are written two octaves lower than the normal ones.

Main Differences Between Xylophone and Glockenspiel

  1. The place of origin of the Xylophone is Africa, whereas the place of origin of Glockenspiel can be traced back to Germany.
  2. The xylophone is made up of wood, whereas Glockenspiel is made up of Metal.
  3. The range of octaves of Xylophone is between 3-4 octaves. But in the case of Glockenspiel, the octaves range between 2.5-3
  4. The size of the Xylophone is neither too big nor too small, and when Glockenspiel is compared to the latter, it is a smaller-sized instrument.
  5. The estimated time of origin of the Xylophone can be traced back to 14th Century, whereas the time of origin of the Glockenspiel is the 17th Century.


Both the xylophone and glockenspiel are instruments that belong to the group of percussion musical instruments. They both have a very different origin story. The xylophone has its roots in Africa, and glockenspiel originated in Germany.

Though they are very closely related to each other and share few common similarities, they are vastly different. The main difference being between them is the material which is used to make them. The xylophone is made up of wood, whereas the glockenspiel is made up of Metal or steel bars.

Notwithstanding these differences and reasonably owing to the differences, both of them have achieved an honorable and distinguished status in orchestral symphonies.


  1. https://asa.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1121/1.418117
  2. https://search.proquest.com/openview/df3715958fc77da8/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=2558
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