This article is about the musical instrument. For the game, see Bunnock. For the clock, see Rathaus-Glockenspiel.
Percussion instrument
Other names concert bells, orchestral bells, bells

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

A glockenspiel (German pronunciation: [ˈɡlɔkənˌʃpiːl] or [ˈɡlɔkŋ̍ˌʃpiːl], 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.


A Mardi Gras musician playing a glockenspiel.

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 glockenspiel may be contrived by adding a keyboard to the instrument to facilitate playing chords. Another method of playing chords is to use 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 Jimi Hendrix's classic ballad "Little Wing", Avenged Sevenfold's song "Nightmare" during the intro, as well as in indie folk music by artists such as Paul Duncan of Warm Ghost.[3] George Martin, 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" as well as on "The Tourist", "Lull", "Morning Bell/Amnesiac", "Sit Down/Stand Up", and "All I Need".[5]

Jethro Tull drummer Barriemore Barlow used glockenspiel on many of Jethro Tull's classic albums Thick as a Brick, A Passion Play (namely on "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles"), War Child (namely on "Skating Away On the Thin Ice of a New Day"), Minstrel in the Gallery (namely on "Baker St. Muse"), Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die!, Songs From the Wood, Heavy Horses and Stormwatch.

Two well-known classical pieces that use the keyboard 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.) Solo glockenspiel can be heard briefly, but notably at the beginning of Shostakovich's 15th Symphony, and reappears in harmonic support with short interjections throughout the first movement (originally subtitled by the composer "The Toyshop," in part for its use of the toy-like instrument).[7] A modern example of the glockenspiel can be heard in Steve Reich's 1970–71 composition Drumming, in which the glockenspiel plays a major role in the third and fourth movements.[8]

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 its sound is made by hammers striking tuning forks. The dulcitone uses soft hammers which damp the forks, compared to the hard hammers of the glockenspiel, creating a more gentle sound.[9]

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

Bell lyre

Two bell lyres in use

In the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada, there is a form of glockenspiel called a bell lyre, bell lyra, or lyra-glockenspiel.[10] 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. Funk, Peter (19 January 2006). "Paul Duncan: Be Careful What You Call Home". PopMatters. Retrieved 2011-05-08.
  4. Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-57066-1.
  5. Jonny Greenwood's Rig, The King of Gear, 2014
  6. Luttrell, Guy L. (1979). The Instruments of Music, p.165. Taylor & Francis.
  7. Cummings, Robert. "Dmitry Shostakovich – Symphony No. 15 in A major, Op. 141". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  8. "The Vibraphone and Glockenspiel". All About Mallet Percussion. Archived from the original on July 6, 2010. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
  9. Campbell, Murray; Greated, Clive (1994). The Musician's Guide to Acoustics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 436. ISBN 019159167X. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  10. James Blades. "Bell-lyra". In L. Root, Deane. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
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